The question 'Can you chill red wine?' is one that pops up from time to time, especially when the sun's out!
... and the answer is YES.
There is serving red wine at the correct temperature.. and then there is chilling red wine. Executed properly the result is a crunchy, refreshing and moreish tipple that will help quench that summer afternoon thirst...
However, don't just run out to the closest wine shop and grab any bottle of red off the shelf, there are a few things you need to think about before you stick a bottle in the fridge.
Some reds like a sensible temperature whilst others enjoy it cooler, so here are a few pointers to get you started:
- avoid wines with lots of oak and tannin, they don't like being too chilled.
- focus on young, light and fresh wines with a more fruit forward style.
- Think about how the wine is produced, rather than where it is from - if a wine is fermented at lower temperatures in stainless steel vats, with no oak influence, they will be less structured and more likely to have a fresher, cleaner approach, allowing them to be more suited to chilling. Take Rioja for an example; a Gran Reserva that has been aged in new oak for a minimum of 2 years will suit being served at around 16-18C; whereas a Joven, so no oak aging, is suited to being chilled to around 12-14C depending on its extraction, which brings me on to the next point...
- Extraction. Generally speaking, the lighter the colour the lighter the extraction, meaning less tannin and an easier drinking style.
Red wine that’s too cold tastes dull and exposes structure, but when too warm, it’s flabby and alcoholic. A rule of thumb would be the lighter in style and structure the cooler it can be chilled (no lower than 12C for the lightest reds). If a red is chilled too much, within its style parameters, aromas and flavours become muted and tannins take on an astringent quality, making the wine a little rough around the edges.
You may have heard the term 'Serve at Room Temperature' - things have moved on since this recommendation was made, back before heating was invented. If your red wine gets above 20C you wont get the best out of it, so if you have time stick it in the fridge and allow it to chill a little. It is important not to allow reds with higher alcohol levels to be served too warm, this only accentuates the alcohol and makes the wine taste sloppy and jammy.
So, what is the best way to chill your wine:
The Fridge - this is self explanatory, however know where the 'icy' pockets are as this will over chill your bottle, potentially freezing it without you realising.
The Salty Ice Bath - give your bottle a salty ice bath - no, not Epsom. The salt changes the freezing point and will chill a rose in 15 minutes, so reds will only need a short bath depending on the style of the red.
The Freezer - stick the bottle in the freezer but DON'T forget as the bottle will either crack or the cork will be pushed out when the wine expands as it freezes. Once the wine is exposed to the air it will then oxidize. The End.
The above is a general guide to getting your head around how you should chill different styles of red wine. Good luck, and if in doubt experiment. Remember, if you chill a red too much, all you need do is let it come up to temperature a little and taste again. Once you like the way it tastes it is just right. Simples.
Here are a few of our favourite reds to chill at the moment: