Tue 04 Aug 2015

On Chilling Red Wines


A warmer temperature – which some of us in the UK are enjoying at least! – is conducive to a chilled glass of white or rosé, but don’t overlook red wine when the mercury modestly rises either.

Serving Beaujolais and red Burgundies at ‘cellar temperature’ is oft encouraged, and many local house reds come chilled when drunk on holiday.

But why not other reds?

Chilling red wine

Recent experiments in The Showroom (which is, essentially, a large cellar) have proved to me that, beyond gamay and pinot noir, many reds prove quite delicious at a lower temperature.

Though I feel I cannot dictate which wines you choose to chill, the ones that work best are those that are lighter in body, good acidity, prevalent in primary fruit and of a lower tannic structure.

Putting many reds through a fleeting stint in the fridge for around 30 minutes to an hour can add a vibrancy to their fruit and a lightness that I feel reveals a refreshingly different side to the wines.

This was certainly true of two cinsaults I tried: the members’ favourite Percheron Old Vine Cinsault, Western Cape 2014 (£5.75) and the Chilean De Martino Gallardía del Itata Cinsault 2013 (£8.75). Chilling brought out the young and lively sides of both of these wines.

The lower tannin of 3C, Cariñena 2014 (£5.25) and Fronton, Chateau Bouissel 2012 (£8.25) also lend themselves to cooler drinking.

For al fresco dining, try Ollieux Romanis Capucine, Pays de l’Aude 2014 (6.75) and Frappato di Sicilia, Nicosia 2014 (£7.95), which offer an abundance of fruit; not to mention the cherry freshness of Avaniel, Ribera del Duero 2013 (£6.95) and Valpolicella, Allegrini 2014 (£9.75), or indeed The Society’s California Old-Vine Zinfandel 2013 (£7.50).

Loire reds also work well at lower temperatures, as do the Greek Thymiopoulos Naoussa Jeunes Vignes 2013 (£10.50) and Kalecik Karasi, Vinkara 2012 (£9.50), which would both work well with Meze dishes.

Even outside of hot weather the freshness and vitality chilling some red wines, for me, introduces brightness that lifts a meal or the drink itself.

It’s all about personal preference and what wine and what temperature works for you. Do try it for yourself if you’ve yet to: the above ideas are only the tip of the ice bucket…

Conrad Braganza
The Cellar Showroom

Categories : Miscellaneous


  1. Helen Orkin says:

    Delighted to find someone voicing the above opinion – at last!

    I’ve been chilling certain red wines – yes, others than just Gamay – for quite a while now, only to be mocked for doing so. The usual comment is along the lines of ‘what, a wine connoisseur like you – chilling red wine?’

    I’ll now refer my dear friends to your article, coming from a most respected organization and website.

    If nothing else, it may get some of them to join….

    Helen O

    • Conrad Braganza says:

      Ah! Great minds…
      Glad this resonated with you and will help in your chilling conflict! Best wishes

  2. Peter Thomas says:

    Hear, hear! It is a truism that (in the UK at least) white wine is usually served too cold and red wine too warm. I frequently ask for an ice bucket for red wine (just to cool it down a bit, not to chill it) or ask for an ice cube if drinking it by the glass. I often get funny looks!
    Incidentally, another good tip is to give screw top bottles of any colour wine less than a year old a good shake. Such wines are invariably reductive and their taste improves hugely if you help dissolved carbon dioxide to escape and increase exposure to oxygen.

  3. Tony Bennett says:

    Well said. I first learnt this some years ago when served a chilled bottle of St Nicolas de Bourgeuil while on holiday in the Loire Valley. I’ve also had some accidental successes, as I always put an unfinished red wine in the fridge overnight – sometimes they get taken out a bit early and in a colder state than I would normally look for!

  4. Mike H says:

    My local pub (which charges £7+ for a glass of half decent red) often serves their red wine at a temperature that makes it taste a little like bath water. I have complained to no avail, but I have found (shock horror) that if you just put one ice cube in the glass (which quickly melts) you can drop the temperature of the wine quite considerably in a short space of time and it has no (or little) effect on the taste of the wine. (Other than making improving it that is. It certainly doesn’t taste diluted at all).
    Just another little gem that I have also (selflessly) conducted over the years.
    I hope it helps others.

  5. Jeff Jaycock says:

    All wines, whether red or white, differ and their best serving temperatures will differ quite significantly. Some whites should be served at a higher temperature than some reds and vice versa.

    Unfortunately, few people seem bothered about getting the best from their wine and this lack of interest is also shown in many restaurants. In my experience the most common error is serving reds far too warm. It kills them stone dead. And there is little appreciation or empathy shown when the problem is raised with the front-of-house staff.

    maybe I will do as others have done and ask for an ice bucket or an ice cube in future.

  6. Bob Macey says:

    Amen. I too am frequently mocked for cooling red wine at home or asking for an ice bucket at a restaurants. I’ve often been puzzled by the reticence of Wine Society advice on this issue. It is a matter of taste but if this was a barrier to offering advice then little could be said about the wines sold. How often have I failed to pick up the hint of blackberry identified as a characteristic?

    My simple default is about an hour in the fridge, or 15c rather than the 20+ that is a typical room temperature. If it’s a bit too cold it quickly warms up in a room, nursing it in your hand if necessary.

  7. Richard Price says:

    The habit of over cooling whites is well known. I drink mine from the cellar. The suggestion to slightly cool the lighter reds will be used here but not the over heating of the big ones. I am afraid I rejected a bottle of a very good red which was served in a top Belgian restaurant at a temperature above 80F.. I was not liked.

  8. Andrew Evans says:

    As the current canicule in the Valespir reminds me, chilled Languedoc reds work very well on a hot night whilst trying to spot shooting stars.

    • Bob Piggott says:

      Similarly Southern Rhone village wines are very good chilled if the temperatures are 35 plus as they were in the last couple of weeks. Interestingly one of the winemakers served us a quite warm red while we were tasting. I commented and he said that it was easier to tell if the wine had faults if it is warm. Not being an expert, I merely said “How interesting” but wonder whether anyone with more knowledge would comment.

  9. David Tomlinson says:

    I discovered chilled red wines in rural Spain 45 years ago. The (very young) red wine would arrive straight from the fridge to accompany our tortilla, salad and bread. It was always served in litre bottles with a row of stars around the neck (remember those?) It went down very well (and rather quickly) after a hard day in the field birdwatching.
    In Namibia, where the temperature might be well over 30degC, I’ve always used ice buckets to cool the excellent South African reds, though to the horror of some of my companions. I don’t hesitate to cool reds on hot days in the UK, either.

  10. John Macco says:

    Wine is to be enjoyed and that means drinking it as you like, for me it tastes better out of the fridge, I also prefer a cheaper wine, does that means its no good?

  11. Hugh Davis says:

    Many restaurant wines in Europe have a suggested serving temperature on the label. The maximum suggested is never more than 20C. When I am offered a wine I always hold the bottle to check the temperature . Most often for red wines it is ambient temperature which during my summer holidays is well over 25C – so I ask for an ice bucket. Usually only takes 15 mins.

    As a person who spends a lot of time campervanning in France in the summer it has been a challenge to find a red wine that can served at ambient temperature. My best suggestion so far a Bandol – the cheaper and younger ones seem to improve with excess temperature! Any other suggestions?

  12. David Tracey says:

    I have been chilling young New Zealand pinot noirs for years, much to my daughter’s disgust, and find it a superb refreshing light summer drink. It’s well worth a try.

  13. Paul Lemkes says:

    I am currently living in Madrid and almost without exception the bars and restaurants serve their reds lightly chilled (even in winter which can get surprisingly chilly). It took a while to get used to but I am completely convinced by the practice and always give my Riojas, Riberas et al a light chilling before drinking.

  14. Cliff Snelling says:

    In hot weather (if we ever get any again in the UK) just about all red wines benefit from being chilled, even some of the very heavier wines, such as the excellent Portuguese wines, are good chilled. Superb with grilled foods especially cooked on the barbeque as they give a good refreshing taste especially when food has been “carbonated”. But even with properly cooked good food chilled red goes down well. Just how chilled; well it is up to you, put it in the fridge for 3 – 4 hours before opening and try it at the various stages of the bottle emptying. You could put it in an ice bucket if that takes your fancy. At the end of the day all that really matters is if you like it.

  15. Sue White says:

    A northern Portuguese would say you were stating the obvious.

  16. Jeff Jaycock says:

    I guess I’m very lucky. I have a 100+ bottle wine cabinet that is supposed to be dual temperature. In reality it’s a graduated temperature cabinet with the temperature varying measurably between each shelf. I bought a good fridge thermometer so I know the temperature at each level.

    This means I can get wines reasonably close to their recommended drinking temperatures or experiment as I wish. Unfortunately, I still get odd looks and comments from people who think an undefined “room temperature” is best in all cases.

    Bottom line. If you believe you are enjoying something then you are. But maybe it could be enjoyed even more….

  17. David Brooks says:

    Having managed hotels with restaurants for over 40 years-until last year when I retired – I have to say that most of them store and serve their red wines far too warm and have no places cool enough anyway. I always ensured my team iced reds in the summer, if only for a few minutes- more for my professional satisfaction than anything else!
    In York, requesting an ice bucket in many of the ‘ethnic’ restaurants, to chill one’s chosen red wine, is met with looks of incredulity!
    The French have it right. Wines there are, in my experience, served “cold” by UK standards, and are all the better for it. A red should certainly be cooler than one’s mouth, don’t you think?

  18. Richard Meade says:

    Bordeaux reds should be served no warmer than 18C and most other reds at lower temperatures. However, as someone else commented, wine (even, great wine) is to be enjoyed and should be drunk (though, perhaps, not served to others) as you like it.

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