To Chill or Not to Chill Red Wine?

Sep 25, 2020

ty morrison

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This post is for my red wine drinkers! I have a lot of friends and family who drink red wine all day every day, no matter what time of year it is. Me? I’m a seasonal red wine drinker (for the most part). I don’t really care to have a glass of red wine when it’s 80 plus degrees outside—especially if that wine is around room temperature. It’s just not enjoyable to me. But, this summer I kept hearing people talk about “chillable red wine.” Apparently, some reds are actually better served with a light chill. I personally had never really chilled my reds before, but the more I read up on it the more it made sense. Let’s take a closer look!

What Makes a Red Wine ‘Chillable’?

A red wine is generally considered ‘chillable’ when it has the following qualities:

  • Low tannins
  • Refreshing acidity
  • Light-to-medium body
  • A juicy fruit character
  • No/low oak
  • Low-to-moderate alcohol level (Look for a red between 12% and 13% ABV)

You may also hear people referring to chillable red wines as glou glou (the French term for the “glug-glug” sound of gulping an easy-drinking wine). So when you hear the term glou glou, just know that the wine is more than likely going to be good good!

How Chilling Affects the Structure of the Wine

Typically, thin-skinned red grapes are used to make the types of red wines that are most suitable for chilling, as they provide less potential tannin than thick-skinned grapes. Lighter-bodied, high-acid reds are going to taste even more refreshing, as the cooler temperature help pull out the brightness and acidity in the wine. Fruit aromas and flavors will also be more heightened. Thick-skinned grapes, often used to make wines with high tannin content, are poor candidates for drinking chilled because lower temperatures tend to make the impression of tannins ‘harder’ and more apparent. Any red wine can benefit from a very slight chill to reduce the overt impression of alcohol in the wine, but drinking tannic red wines too cold can mute their flavors and really allow the tannic structure to dominate.

Consider Production Method

This will likely take a little research or require a chat with a knowledgeable store clerk, but it’s worthwhile to consider how the wine is made. Wines that undergo carbonic maceration (a fermentation process that emphasizes freshness and fruit in the finished product) are ideal candidates for a little chill. I found that natural red wines are a perfect example—Beaujolais as well. Reds that are fermented and aged in neutral vessels like stainless steel and concrete will more likely be of the fresh, easy, ready-to-drink chillable wine.

Chillable Red Grape Varieties

Here are a couple of red varietals that are great for chilling.

  1. Gamay: Beaujolais is made with the Gamay grape and serves as the OG chillable red. Beaujolais tends to be very light in style, with low amounts of tannins and, typically, lots of acidity. Due to the lean nature of Beaujolais, some of its flavors can remain relatively muted when served without any chill. 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator, and the fresh, sour cherry characteristics of Beaujolais and the Gamay grape are allowed to shine.
  2. Pinot Noir is relatively high in acid and tends to feature a medium amount of tannins, its complex flavors of roses, currants and fresh plums awaken once the wine has undergone a slight chill.
  3. Zinfandel gets somewhat of a bad name among casual wine drinkers, primarily because they associate the grape with a wine called “White Zinfandel.” Red Zinfandel can be unbelievably intense, concentrated and complex, benefiting from years if not decades in the cellar. Others, however, find themselves on the other end of the spectrum — bright, fresh and jammy, begging to be drank immediately. This is the type of Zinfandel you want to chill slightly prior to drinking, as a drop in temperature will bring out the Zin’s fruit-forward characteristics.

Other red varietals worth chilling include: Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Frappato, Barber, Cinsault, Grenache, and Lambrusco among others.

Easy Ways to Chill Your Reds

Overcooling a wine—whether it be red, white, or rosé—is basically equivalent to putting it on mute.  For reds, you’re going to want something in the 50-55 degree range. This is best if you have a wine fridge where you can control the temperature. The ideal temperature for a regular kitchen fridge is between 35°F and 40°F. Chilling bottles in the door won’t make a difference as far as time, but if you open it frequently, stick bottles further back on a shelf.

I know some might throwing their bottle in the freezer if you looking for a quick fix. I do it all the time. The key is NOT to forget the bottle is there. You don’t want to over chill or deal with an icy explosion if left in overnight. When the water in wine freezes, it expands and can push the cork out in part or full, or even crack the bottle. This allows the egress of oxygen, which starts the clock on oxidation. If you use the freezer, set a timer for 30 minutes. Here are a couple more tips on timing:

• Put your bottle in ice water for 15-20 minutes before serving
• Put your bottle in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes before serving
• Store your bottle at refrigerator temperature and take 1 hour before serving.

I hope you found this information helpful. I know it can be confusing when it comes to whether or not to chill your red wine. I’ve definitely become a fan of chillable red wines this summer and will share some examples in a future post. Until next time…glasses up!

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THE COMMENTS

  1. ReRe says:

    Thanks Tymika for the info!!!

    I recently tried putting the Zinfandel on chill in the fridge 20 minutes and it was good. I always and the pinto noir on chilly a bit.

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In 2015, I started the YGOM blog as a creative outlet to chronicle my journey to learning about wine. I started off mainly reviewing different wines and wine-related events. As my passion and knowledge grew, I began offering tips and advice to make wine consuming fun and easy for wine lovers, especially those who were novice drinkers. Over the past six years, the YGOM blog has evolved into a valuable resource helping readers better understand their palates.

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