A wine teacher of mine once said that every wine would be a red wine if it could be. I don’t necessarily agree with him, but then again, I tend to like appetizers better than main courses, sunrises better than sunsets, and kissing better than, well, you get the drift.
However, for those of you saying hallelujah! to my teacher’s sentiment, spring and summer may represent a reluctant hibernation for the wine lover in you. Your turtleneck sweaters, short ribs and Gigondas snooze away while you impatiently await the first autumn leaf to change its hue and drop to the ground. But don’t wish these carefree days of summer away, and most importantly, don’t spend them without wine; rather, slip on some shorts, fire up the grill, and throw your red wine on ice!
Ideal chilled red temperature is between 55 and 60 degrees.
Ironically, there are still a few rules to this seemingly unruly idea, and the first relates to temperature. Ideal chilled red temperature is between 55 and 60 degrees. Too much above 60 degrees and you won’t be refreshed and too much below 55 degrees and you won’t taste a thing. Chilling wine hides a multitude of sins in a bad wine, but will, conversely, hide a multitude of graces in a good wine. Too cold and a red wine loses its fruit and flaunts its tannins, which is just not the point of this little experiment. Not sure you are in the zone? Plunge the red into an ice bucket for 15 minutes or keep it in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.
The next rule pertains to type. Not just any red is suitable for chilling—let’s start with what will work. France’s Loire Valley and Beaujolais regions are a good first stop. Loire’s Sancerre Rouge (made from Pinot Noir grapes), Chinon (made from Cabernet Franc grapes), and Côtes Roannaise (made from Gamay grapes); and Beaujolais’ Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages, or Beaujolais crus (made from Gamay grapes) all benefit from a dip in the ice bucket. Italy boasts chill-worthy reds from all over its sunny peninsula. My favorites include Piedmont’s Grignolino, Veneto’s Bardolino, and Sicily’s Frappato. The key is a young, fruit-forward wine with light structure and lower alcohol. Chilled reds are like cranberry juice with a sprig of mint and a cocktail umbrella.
Four ways to chill out:
Domaine Robert Sérol Les Vieilles Vignes Côtes Roannaise 2008. Wine Warehouse, $14.99
Vincent Pinard Sancerre Rouge 2006. Tastings of Charlottesville, $36.99
Corte Gardoni Bardolino 2007. Market Street Wineshop, $15.99
Crivelli Grignolino 2008. Special order from your favorite local wine retailer, $14.99
Wondering if any of your beloved Cabs, Syrahs and Nebbiolos can wake from their long summer’s rest? I would let these sleeping bears lie—their big, brawny tannins are liable to clobber you in the mouth. Besides, what will you have to look forward to during the doldrums of winter when you haven’t seen sunlight in 12 days straight?
Other candidates with chilling potential (and conveniently all perfect pairings with summer’s grilled goodies) are Oregon Pinot Noirs, Spanish Grenaches, and California Zinfandels, though remember that cold temperatures also mask alcohol. Bear that in mind before slurping down that whole water-beaded bottle of 15.5 percent alcohol Zin with your organic beef hotdog (or three). I don’t want to be to blame when you suggest naked slip-n-slide or wake up face down in the kid’s turtle-shaped sandbox.
Not that I would judge you if did either though, because that’s what summer is for—having fun and keeping cool with minimal clothing, cheap thrills, and a cold beverage in your Bordeaux glass.