That chilling the red wine thing
If this latest heatwave has shown us anything, it’s that there are a few more bends to go before we see the “shade” at the end of the tunnel which signals that another summer has passed. Thinking about the end of summer is of course only a mental exercise to keep one busy while constantly receiving away notices from every email sent and the sweat beads off the forehead due to the office having no AC.
This point in the summer is also a time for wine in measured doses and most definitely of a chilled nature. Obviously no one has a problem drinking chilled white wines during summer but I was rather surprised to see that 1/3 of wine drinkers didn’t know you can chill red wine. I mean, if you can deep-fry a Mars bar, then surely logic dictates that you can do the inverse and cool a red wine? Or maybe it’s just because in Southern European countries, it’s the truly shat red wines that restaurants serve ice cold so as to hide their inherent shatness?
Look, there’s nothing wrong with chilling (which means keeping it at fridge temperature of less than 10C) a good red wine and there are quite a few articles that pop out in July circling around this theme. They take a general tact of suggesting wines that are: fruity (uncomplicated, direct fruit aromas), fresh (higher acidity), and simple (stainless tank, and no oak aging). That really sounds like a white wine with a touch of red color and I can’t say I’m on board with this because for those of us who want red wine, that’s what we actually want, dammit! Sorry, it’s really hot in the office.
I will heartily agree that monstrous tannins are pretty unpleasant when chilled, so Bordeaux, Napa, and most Cabernet Sauvignon wines are out of the question as is probably upper-end Riojas and all of Ribera del Duero and Toro. But, a red wine with a bit of booze to it is just fine as well as some deeper complexity whether that comes from a touch of gentle or or just thicker-skinned grapes. I don’t know about anyone else, but getting to sip that evolution in the glass, especially in a red as it heats up and the volatile elements of the wine disintegrate, is a hefty aspect of wine’s pleasure. You just have to drink a chilled red much slower than one served at cellar temperature but in summer, everything is moving slower anyways.
So, Grenache? Yes. Zinfandel? Yes. Rhône-style beds? Oh hell yes. Don’t be put off the higher alcohol in all of these. If the wine is well made, it’s not a problem as long as the bottle is a) chilled and b) remains chilled between small pours. Don’t come running to me if you get yourself day drunk though and needless to say, take care when drinking any kind of alcohol out in the sun.
Below are a couple of suggestions that are what I look for in a red wine to chill and swill when the heat outside is frightful so that what’s in my glass is…? Yes, delightful. Also, you should generally be able to find these wines in Europe/Norther America as they have decent production and distribution. The last thing you want to worry about is where to find your god damned chilled red wine right now! Sorry, sorry, no AC. Time to hit the fridge I think.
Turley - Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel 2015
Very lifted, delicate fruit, red cherry and caramelized strawberry braced by delicate rose petal aromas, touch of sweet red peppercorn spice, light caramel notes. Intense weight on the palate, big, broad wine, but with bountiful character and depth, long finish, and quite elegant despite the listed alcohol being quite high.
100% Zinfandel · 15.5% · 60USD
AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah, 27% Cinsaut, 6% Grenache, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
Mas Doix - Les Crestes 2016
Dark cherry, prune and raisined notes, very upfront, baking spice at the bottom as well as an underlying streak of red cherry fruit. Fresh and light on the palate, nice balance of red fruit, medium plus acidity, long finish. Quite expressive and will continue to evolve.
80% Grenache, 10% Carignan, 10% Syrah · 14.5% · 16EUR
Cellers de Scala Dei - Garnatxa 2017
Crisp red cherry with vibrant cranberry, crushed mint and sage, underlying black pepper. Very fleshed out red fruit on the on palate, medium plus acidity, medium finish.
100% Grenache · 14.5% · 9.50EUR