Many people seem to prefer red wines to white wines these days, but what to do on a hot summer’s evening when you need to quench your thirst? My advice would be still to choose a red, but opt for a lighter style suitable for serving at cooler temperatures.
Not all reds respond well to chilling. Firm tannic wines made from thick skinned grapes, higher alcohol reds or oaked wines will not be improved at cooler temperatures. So avoid your regular cabernet sauvignon, syrah, nebbiolo, sangiovese, carmenere or malbec. I find they taste metallic, raw and bitter served chilled and you certainly don’t want to cool down anything mature or expensive like classed growth clarets, fine burgundies or reserva riojas as you will lose the complexity of the bouquet.
Grapes more suited to this treatment are thinner skinned, lighter, softer varietals. Beaujolais’ gamay grape is ideal. So are wines like Loire or Alsace pinot noir, Loire cabernet franc, Austrian blaufrankisch and blauer portugieser, Spanish mencia, Italian schiava, marzemino, teroldego or refosco, Slovenian merlot, German dornfelder… the list goes on.
All these lighter reds can take on an exuberant fruit intensity at a cool temperature. It works even better if the wine has good acidity (from a cooler climate) as this is emphasised by chilling a wine and gives the mouthfeel a brisk lively vibrancy – and can sometimes improve them.
Timewise, half an hour in the fridge is ideal – beware over-chilling. Remember, if you are cooling wine in an ice bucket, putting water in alongside the ice cubes will help chill the wines faster as it covers more of the surface area of the bottle. To really hit the spot, serve your chilled reds alongside charcuterie (cold meats, terrine, pates, rillettes), cold salmon and salad at a summer lunch or evening barbeque.
GRAPE: GAMAY Beaujolais’ red grape is perfect for summer drinking with its red fruit aromas, light body, natural acidity and soft tannins. Simple Beaujolais Villages or the lighter Beaujolais Crus like Fleurie or St Amour are perfect.
Asda Extra Special Beaujolais Villages 2011
(£6.50, Asda) A great value example with bubblegum and boiled sweet flavours, juicy raspberry fruit and good natural acidity.
GRAPE: CABERNET FRANC Lesser known cabernet franc responds much better to chilling than its cab sauv cousin, as it has more perfume, a smoother texture and herby flavours. Choose examples from Chinon or Bourgeuil in the Loire, Hungary’s Villany region or Friuli in north east Italy.
Chinon 2011 Domaine de la Noblaie
(£8.95, The Wine Society) This is a fantastic value red from Loire’s Jerome Billard. So fresh, fragrant and bursting with ripe raspberry fruits.
GRAPE: MENCIA A perfect summery Spanish grape with light fruits and fresh acid, this tastes like a cross between pinot noir and cabernet franc. Quality mencias are now emerging from Bierzo in north-west Spain; some oakier than others – choose an unoaked version for light chilling.
Mencia Ecologico 2010 Abadia de Cova
(£12, L’Art du Vin, Dunfermline; Les Caves de Pyrene, www.lescaves.co.uk) Fresh, unoaked, vibrant primary raspberry fruits superbly made by Jose Manuel Moure.
GRAPE: BLAUFRANKISCH Now widely planted in Austria (in Hungary it is called kekfrankos, in Germany, lemberger), it makes a good summery red with its fine acidity and light body – but it needs less chilling than most.
Blaufrankisch 2009 Feiler Artinger
(£10.99, Waitrose) Cherry fruits, brisk acidity and very juicy and succulent – from one of Austria’s top producers in Burgenland.
GRAPE: PINOT NOIR Pinot’s thin skins, medium body and good natural acid makes it an ideal candidate for summer quaffing. Sancerre in upper Loire, Alsace pinot noir, German pinot noir or northern Italian examples are better for summer chilling than Burgundy.
Pinot Noir 2010 San Michele Appiano
(£16.95, Valvona & Crolla) A Bolzano pinot is an unusual find. Alto Adige’s mountain air gives this a crispness and cherried fruits with its natural acid.
GRAPE: MARZEMINO Little known marzemino in northern Italy’s Trentino is popular at tastings for those who like soft, juicy reds.
Marzemino 2011 Mastri Vernacoli
(£7.99, Valvona & Crolla) Mozart’s Don Giovanni called out for a refreshing marzemino just before being sent to hell. Lively, cherry, cranberry fruits.
GRAPE: TARRANGO A ‘sixties’ grape – created in Australia by crossing the Portuguese touriga nacional grape with the sultana table grape to give good colour and acidity, but low tannin. Certainly no pretensions to greatness.
Brown Brothers Tarrango 2011
(£5.99 bt reduced from £7.99 bt, currently in Morrisons; £7.99, Waitrose; Tesco) This is a bit like an Australian beaujolais with a warm strawberry, cherry bouquet; it’s juicy and light, at its best served from the fridge.
GRAPE: BLAUER PORTUGIESER Found in Austria and Germany, this grape’s low tannins and juicy freshness make it perfect for summer quaffing.
Blauer Portugieser ‘Lust and Laune’ 2011 Zull
(£11.50, www.austrian-wines-direct.co.uk) Choose a youthful example like this one from Austria’s Weinvertel region for serving in the heat of summer.
GRAPE: MERLOT I would not suggest chilling your Chilean merlot, but the same grape grown in north-east Italy in Veneto, Trentino and Friuli has lovely crunchy fruits and high acid.
Merlot/Corvina 2012 Ponte Pietra Veneto
(£5.95, The Wine Society) Like a mini valpolicella (corvina is used in the valpolicella blend) from Veneto; very succulent, sweet, juicy and well-priced.
• Join Rose’s Island Wine Masterclass on Wednesday 18 September in Edinburgh, £35, www.rosemurraybrown.com