Chilled Red Wine for Summer

Staff Writer
Cooler reds make the perfect antidote to sweltering summertime heat
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Some reds not only survive, but thrive at cooler temperatures.

Ah, summertime. Heading to the beach, lying out in the sun, coming home to a nice glass of… warm red wine? Not exactly the stuff of dreams. To combat the often-oppressive heat of July and August, chilled vino is practically required. So are red wine lovers forced to banish their preferred bottles until the leaves start to fall?

If it’s totally acceptable to drink whites and rosés year-round, it’s only fair that reds should get the same treatment. Last time I checked, the rules didn’t say “only” white until Labor Day. Once again, wine proves that it’s not remotely close to being black (or red) and white. Most reds benefit from being at least slightly chilled, and some of them downright thrive at cooler temperatures. Lighter reds, with lower tannins and softer, fruit-dominant flavor profiles, are delicious and easy-drinking when chilled. You might even be able to get away with putting a heavier wine in the fridge as well, so long as it isn’t too tannic — the lower temps will make the astringency and harsh texture dominate the palate.

We found four great reds for you to try chilled, though the possibilities are many. Some other options include mencía from northwestern Spain, zweigelt from Austria, and good ol’ beaujolais, which fits just as well on your summer patio as it does on the Thanksgiving table.

Schiava

Also known as trollinger or vernatsch, schiava served chilled is schiava at its best. This light red wine, which often appears rosé-like in the glass, likely hails from the region of Alto Adige in northern Italy, where it is still grown widely, but is also grown significantly in Germany. Not very tannic at all, schiava is dominated by refreshing acid and easy-drinking red fruit.

Try it: The 2012 San Pietro Schiava ($14.99) is a classic example from Alto Adige — light-bodied, with raspberry and cherry fruit, and just a bit of spice. You’ll probably drink the whole bottle without even realizing.

Poulsard and Trousseau

These two grapes dominate the red wines of France’s Jura region, where light reds abound. Though each can be bottled as a varietal wine, they complement one another in blends; poulsard (which can also be spelled ploussard) is the paler of the two, with light, bright fruit, while Trousseau brings in more color and earthy, savory flavors. If you want a chilled red with a healthy dose of savory funkiness, this is where to turn.

Try it: The 2012 Berthet-Bondet Côtes du Jura “Rubis” ($19.99) is a blend of poulsard and trousseau, with a splash of pinot noir as well. Just shy of medium-bodied, it’s very cherry-like and has a salty character. Excellent with cheese and cured meats!

Bardolino

Though the wines of Italy’s Bardolino appellation share the same grapes as the famous amarone wine produced nearby, the styles of the two could not be more different. Made in a lighter style than in neighboring regions, bardolino is bottled young and designed to be fresh and easy-drinking. The medium-bodied wines are delicious paired with lighter dishes of the local Veneto cuisine.

Try it: I could drink the 2011 Monte del Frá Bardolino ($13.99) all summer long. It’s so bright and pretty, with aromas of cherries and roses, plus just enough tart fruit and earth to bring everything together on the palate. This should be your go-to chilled red for summer dishes.

Zinfandel

No, that is not a typo. Though it’s a bit of a wild card, Zinfandel can make for a great chilled wine (though I, too, was a bit skeptical to try it). While it’s a bigger wine, it is usually fruit-driven, with moderate or lower tannins. When chilled, the alcohol takes a backseat, the fruit comes forward, and the oak acts as a subtle complement. It’s the perfect compromise for those who prefer big, bold reds but hope to keep from sweating through the next barbeque.

Try it: Newly released, the 2011 Philosophy Wine Zinfandel ($19.99) is one of two organic wines from lifestyle expert Danny Seo, and I was honestly surprised at how much I liked this chilled. The wine smells of red plums, cherries, and bright herbs, and the palate has just the right amount of texture and acid, with a bit of vanilla on the finish. Sweet, sticky barbeque sauce, meet your match!

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This article was originally published on July 8, 2014. 

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