‘Tis the season to be chilling your red wines

Posted 3 weeks ago in Food & Drink Features


Collectively, we think of red wine as a room temperature ‘dahling’, but chilled reds are a trend that just won’t quit. The first time I came across the concept of chilling red wines was at one of the hipster wine bars I frequented in NYC during my J1. It was revelatory to me; and to many of  the people I have inducted into my cult it still is.

Nothing ruins a perfectly good glass of red wine more than serving it too warm. Most people think that red wine should be served at room temperature. However, that’s not entirely true. When red wine is too warm, the wine’s balance goes out of whack. The alcohol will be overly pronounced, and the wine will feel heavy and taste jammy, like an overcooked fruit tart. While it may feel like breaking the laws of wine, drinking red wine chilled is fun. Maybe in part because it feels a little transgressive.

We can partly blame this evolution on the increasingly hot Irish summers (cheers, climate change) and a loosening of traditional wine etiquette. In the same way that cold-brew coffee and slushies explode in the summertime, nobody wants to drink warm wine when it’s scorching. Chilling red wines also brings out a wine’s acidity and heightens fruity, fresh aromas.

With the wine world expanding, we’re embracing diverse styles and rethinking how we enjoy our vino. Plus, lighter reds are in vogue with the new wave of winemakers all over the world, so it makes sense that we would also look to diversify the makers and the juice, but also how we drink.

This is not the trend to hop onto if you have a 2015 claret you’ve been lovingly ageing. In general, the more tannic and structured the wine, the warmer it should be served (around 16-19°C). Chilling too much can emphasise the astringency of tannins.

If you want to board the chilled red train this year of our lord Bacchus 2024, start chilling down lighter styles of red that have good primary fruit, a light body, and low levels of tannin and alcohol. Half an hour in the fridge will do the trick for most chill-curious reds. You can bang ’em in the freezer for fifteen minutes, but just don’t forget the bottle. If it freezes, the cork could pop out, or even worse, the bottle may burst.

Wines like Beaujolais are archetypal chillable reds. Snobbery and social mores aside, Beaujolais wines are all about primary fruit aromas and flavours, at least at the pluggable Beaujolais-Villages level. The wines usually undergo a special fermentation technique – carbonic maceration – to emphasise the fruity nature and keep tannins soft. The grapes are left whole and undergo fermentation within their cells. Another feature of the Gamay grape is that it is quite high in acidity – more like white wine in structure.  If you wanna try it, grab a bottle of Fleurie from Aldi’s core range, or my personal favourite is the Domaine De La Madone Fleurie Tradition from Mitchell and Son.

The thin-skinned Pinot Noir makes some of the most delicate and ethereal reds known to wine lovers. It’s a hard grape to get just right, but when winemakers succeed, it can be truly sublime. Widely regarded, at least by the French, as the King of Grapes, these wines aren’t all about tannic structure and weight. Even though they can get really fancy, they’re not averse to a brief encounter with the chiller. Simple fruity expressions of the grape can happily be chilled right down to enjoy with picnics and al fresco lunches to show off their haunting bouquets, which will start to nudge their way out of the glass and become increasingly focused.

If you want to put the theory into practice, maybe grab a bottle of Louis Jadot from all good offences including every O’Brien’s in the country. This also happens to be the company that made the famous wine from episode 3 of The Last of Us. So it makes a great gram as well as an experiment.

Austria’s principal red grape, Zweigelt, is a perfect red for chilling. It has a lovely cherry spiciness to the fruit but also some tannins and a deeper colour than Gamay and Pinot. The juicy-fruit character and soft tannins give it a bit more oomph than you’d expect. It would be a great red to have on hand for breaking out when you dust off your grilling shoes. Try the ​​Pittnauer Heideboden Zweigelt imported by Wine Mason if this tickles your fancy. It’s a beautiful expression of the grape when chilled.

Words: Shamim De Brún


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National Museum 2024 – English


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