Why is Chilled Red Wine a Trend Now?

The idea of chilling red wines has emerged as a popular trend across the globe, and it’s not just wine lovers that are getting stuck in. Bar and restaurant terraces are being filled with summer sippers enjoying the delights of aromatic and fresh reds served following a brief dalliance with an ice bucket. Chilling is, of course, traditionally reserved for whites and rosés, but red wines are now joining the “cool kids” party as it can highlight the wines’ refreshing and vibrant qualities.

The trend to chill red wines is particularly appealing during the warmer summer months, especially when looking for a crisp and invigorating alternative to room-temperature reds for lunchtime or afternoon drinking. In this article we’ll be covering why this trend is happening now, why it’s actually a very established way of serving red wines, and which red wines in particular work well (and which not so well) with a brief spell of chilling in fridges or ice buckets.

Red Wine Have Always Been Chilled

While it may seem like a modern trend, chilling red wine has been around for as far back as we can date the enjoyment of wine itself. Going back to ancient times, people didn’t have the technology we have today in order to get those perfect, desired serving temperatures with storage and consumption influenced pretty much entirely by the natural environment.  The ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, stored their wines in cellars or amphorae submerged in the ground (a winemaking technique making a comeback right now) or in cool water to maintain a refreshing temperature, especially in warm climates. This often led to the wines subsequently being serving at naturally cooler temperatures, especially at cooler times of the year.

In the Middle Ages, the monks and aristocrats of Europe who dominated winemaking stored wines in cold cellars or caves. The wines were often served directly from these cellars meaning the wines were served, almost inadvertently, at cooler temperatures.

It’s also worth remembering that whether in ancient times or modern, winemakers in the warmer regions of the world have always needed a refreshing drink at the end of a long day in the vineyards. If the climate is much more favourable to the production of red wines, it’s very common for these regions to have developed at least one or two local wines that are suitable, or even directly designed, for chilling before serving.

Why Is Chilling Red Wines Such a Trend Now?

There are a couple of main factors we can point to as to why chilling red wines has become a significant trend, and once again a perfectly acceptable way of enjoying a glass or two of wine.

Firstly, modern wine drinkers are increasingly open to experimentation with the wines they drink and how they drink them. Whether that be innovative or reimagined winemaking processes (e.g. natural wines, orange wines, pét nat) or even which glassware to use around the table, many are exploring new ways to enjoy their favourite wines. The idea of chilling red wines to enhance certain flavours and aromatics is very much part of that.

As an extension of that, we’ve got the brilliant explosion and evolution of the food and wine pairing landscape. Chefs and sommeliers are being drawn to the options that chilled red wines can give to a variety of dishes, from summer salads to grilled meats, and enhancing their appeal to the diners. Serving red wines chilled aligns with this broader trend of flexibility and innovation in culinary experiences.

And finally, from a much more general point of view, the idea of serving red wines at “room temperature” is no longer the ideal. The proliferation of central heating, radiators and far too much usage of thermostats mean that many households have their rooms at far above the old school idea of room temperature at 16oC -18oC. It is increasingly argued that all red wines can afford to be slightly chilled.

chilled red wines

Which Red Wines Can Be Chilled?

It is true that certain red wines are particularly well-suited for chilling. In order to decide which ones, we need to look at the flavour profiles and, even more importantly, the structure of the wine.

Light-bodied reds with lower tannin levels are ideal. Varietals like Pinot Noir, Gamay (including Beaujolais), and Grenache have naturally lower levels of tannins and respond well to cooler temperatures. These wines also typically have bright, fruity flavours that are enhanced when chilled, making them perfect for drinking at cooler temperatures on those warmer days. Wines to look out for from the Wanderlust selection include the fabulous James Rahn Old-Vine Gamay from Oregon or Niepoort Primata Natcool.

On the contrary, less suitable wines are those tannic, full-bodied reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. The cooler temperature accentuates the bitterness and drying nature of the tannins, making the wines taste astringent and closed.

Our recommendation on chilled red wines!

What Are the Best Ways to Enjoy Chilled Red Wines?

First and foremost, chilling the wine down properly is the most important thing. When we talk about chilling red wines, we’re not suggesting you put the bottles in the fridge for a couple of days and enjoy at a crisp 4°C. No wine is best served that way, but especially not red wines even if they are intended for cooling. All that does is put all those lovely smells and flavours to sleep and you won’t be able to taste anything. Try to aim for somewhere between 10°C to 15°C, either by placing the bottle in the refrigerator for about 30 to 45 minutes or using an ice bucket for quicker results.

In terms of what to eat with chilled reds, it’s a good idea to think “summer on the patio”. This can include the likes of fully loaded salads like this Bresaola salad from the BBC Good Food site, or simple plates of charcuterie, grilled vegetables, and light pasta dishes.

Chilled red wine pairing

This Blog post is written by Mike Turner
Freelance wine writer, presenter and judge

Mike is a regular contributor for The Buyer magazine and is a certified educator and ambassador for Bordeaux, Rioja, Ribera Del Duero, Barolo and Barbaresco, running trade and consumer events across the UK from his base in the East Midlands.

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