Guide to Chilling Red Wines

Brooke Newberry
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Summer is a time for simplicity, comfort, and cold ones.  Reds wines are not often consumed under the “cold ones” umbrella – but they definitely can be.  A citrusy lager, a smooth Chablis – sure, these are perfect warm weather picks.  Sometimes those cold, zingy, Sauvignon Blancs that mascot quintessential summer wine drinking are just too perky for hot summer days – some days you just want to chill.  A smooth, earthy, light red can prove to be much more refreshing than a bracing white.

What happens when you’re grilling big, summertime steaks or serving some pulled pork?  If you want a red, drink it.  And have it chilled.  Thanks to the courageousness of young sommeliers and new restaurateurs, we are seeing more offerings for cooled reds. While many reds surprisingly cool down just fine, there are some things to remember when choosing the right reds for chilling.  Big, tannic reds served cold will just sharpen the juice’s tannins, making it astringent and unpleasant.  Choose lighter reds: both fruity-bursty wines and earth-dry reds work well with a chill.


It’s not a real summer until you’ve drank some of this.  It’s the prototypical picnic wine.  Beaujolais is a happy juice with plump red fruits, super light tannins, cool earth, and just enough acid to make these gamay varietals the chillest.

Try: Beaujolais Nouveau from Jean Foillard. 2012.  If you can find it – strawberries for days.  

Also, try a Bardolino from Italy – it’s like the Italian version of Beaujolais.


Native to the Emilia Romagna region in Italy, this cultish favorite is made in a frizzante (semi-sparkling) style.  The most industry-respected Lambrusco is the sharp, dry stuff – but Lambrusco isn’t really a wine produced to impress.  Love it for its uber-regional, offbeat artifact vibes.

Try: Mionetto Lambrusco $9.99.  Juicy, light yet complex, with just a touch of sweet.

Cabernet Franc

Earthy, vegetal, and flowery – Cabernet Franc, specifically from the Loire Valley (the most supreme for the stuff), boasts high acidity combined with light, just-budding tannins.  The gardeny element to so many Cab Francs is what makes them a unique choice for a colder pour.  Unexpected freshness.

Try: a young Franc from Anjou-Saumur or Chinon.


Yes, some Grenache can overwhelm taste buds as a stand-alone varietal.  However, the grape isn’t known to be overly tannic, and its roundness creates a silkiness on the palate.  Fleshy and soft, Sardinian Grenache is ideal for chilling because it tends to have a bit of a lighter touch than some of the more heady French varietals.  

Try: Sella and Mosca Cannonau (the Sardinian name for Grenache), Sardegna, 2009.

There are also some excellent, playful American Grenaches that would also be worth trying chilled.


Nebbiolos are known for their rustic tannins, so in theory they are not the best choices for cold serve. EXCEPT for this little treasure:

Try: Propreita Sperino Uvaggio, Costa della Sesia, Italy.  Flowery, dry, and unexpectedly so smooth – this is certainly a nebbiolo to try slightly chilled.


Drink the above wines around the normal “cellar temperature” of 55 degrees or a little cooler if you prefer – it’s all about what you enjoy.  Stick the above bottles in the fridge about 20 minutes before drinking.

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