Everyone knows that white wines should spend an hour or so in the fridge before serving, and on a hot day there is nothing to beat an ice bucket for keeping your chosen tipple at a perfectly chilled temperature.
A chill on the wine makes the flavours stand out and provides a more refreshing experience, but when it comes to red wines everyone sticks to the same old rule of serving it at room temperature. The trouble with this is that room temperature in summer is decidedly warmer than in winter and if you take red wine out into the garden on a hot day it can quickly turn into the vinous equivalent of pea soup. Warm reds are dull, overblown, alcoholic and lacking the aromas that make them special in the first place, but that is no reason to keep them hidden on hot days. I love to drink red wine in hot weather, especially if there is a good piece of meat on the plate. The answer to this problem is simple – put red wines in the fridge alongside the whites.
An hour or so of chilling works wonders for many red wines. It means that the aromas stay in the glass instead of wafting away as soon as the cork is pulled and a lightly chilled red on the palate is a good deal more refreshing than a warm one.
Not all wines respond well to chilling, but there are enough available to make chilled reds an enjoyable experience this summer.
First of all choose a red wine that isn’t too tannic. Avoid Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo and Syrah where tannin is a virtue and head for lighter, fruitier grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, and even a fresh-tasting Marzemino. Some wines from the Loire, made from Cabernet Franc grapes, are perfect with a few degrees of chill on them.
Pinot Noir is the soft, strawberry-style grape that is the king of Burgundy, although your top-flight Burgundies should go nowhere near the fridge. Other Pinots, from Chile, Romania and New Zealand, are less fussy, and respond well to a quick chill.
Morrisons has the Surprisingly Good Pinot Noir 2014 from Romania (£4.99) which is packed with juicy raspberry and cherry fruit. As its name suggests it is surprisingly good and exceedingly simple, but with a chill on the bottle the flavours become crunchier, almost leafy with lively fruit. Try this with a freshly cooked burger straight from the barbecue. Trade up to Waitrose Romanian Pinot Noir 2013 (£6.99) from the Dealu Mare region of Romania. It has a touch more fruit and flavour to cope with bigger flavours.
Chile’s good value Pinots such as Cono Sur’s Bicicleta 2014 can also cope with an hour or so in the fridge. Widely available from Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco and Morrisons, its proper price is around £7 but at any particular time at least one supermarket will have it reduced to around £5.50. Tesco currently has the best price, down to £5 until July 14 so buy enough to last from one offer to the next. With bags of light flavoursome, strawberry fruit, backed by a touch of summer pudding, there is no tannin clouding the palate. This one can go in the fridge for at least two hours and emerge bright, bursting with fruit and suitable for serving as an aperitif or just matching with a buffet of cold meats, salads, salmon and even a barbecue.
If you prefer your Pinot to come from New Zealand then steer clear of the ones that are heading towards an oaked Burgundian style and instead head for simple, clear fruit flavours such as Mud House Pinot 2014, from Central Otago, currently down from £14.99 to £9.99 on multi-buy at Majestic until August 3. It is stacked with bright cherry and bramble fruit and can cope with being chilled for an hour, but it won’t let you down if you end up eating indoors after all.
Beaujolais also tastes good straight from the fridge. The grape here is Gamay and this has almost no tannin so its flavours shine through even when chilled. You could head for a simple style of Beaujolais such as the redcurrant and light cherry fruit in Morrisons’ Alliance 2013 (£4.99) but I would select Waitrose Beaujolais Villages 2013 (£7.49) which gathers more depth of flavour without complicated tannins. This is a serious wine which needs good food on a plate to accompany it, but with a little chilling it will see you through the evening with glorious ripe, cherry and raspberry flavours and enough weight to make you want another glassful.
The Loire is home to Cabernet Franc and there is something about the green pepper and ripe black fruit flavours of this grape that make it perfect for chilling. Head straight to Sainsbury’s and Domaine du Colombier Chinon 2012 (£7) for the taste of fresh-picked ripe blackberries and the scent you get when you brush past a blackcurrant bush. This is a real bargain and it will drink well all summer and into autumn, chilled or not. Waitrose has the more serious Les Complices de Loire Les Graviers 2013 Chinon (£10.99), which is full of black cherry fruit with length and elegance, but if there are herb-crusted cold lamb cutlets on the menu then Domaine de la Croix de Chaintres 2014 Saumur-Champigny (£12.79, Waitrose) fits the bill perfectly. Packed with bright, red fruit flavours, the raspberry notes are balanced by a touch of grip that won’t get in the way of a half-hour chill but will accompany richer foods.
Northern Italy is another source of reds to chill and Asda has recently introduced Marzemino from Trentino (£5.97). Part of its Wine Atlas range, it still hasn’t reached all stores, but this is a sheer delight of lively red berry fruit with a crisp, juicy finish.
As always when drinking in sunshine, only part-fill glasses and have plenty of ice on hand to keep bottles cool. And if a glass gets too warm then, for sunshine drinking only, an ice cube will bring it back to drinking temperature.