One of many bees in my bonnet is that, as temperatures rise, there will surely be increased demand for red wines that can be served straight from a refrigerator, or cool cellar. In hot weather we wine lovers naturally reach for cooling whites and, now that pink wine has been socially rehabilitated, an increasing proportion of rosés. But after a few days of pigment-light wines many of us start lusting after a red in some form.
Very concentrated, heavy reds can all too easily taste sweaty and smudgy when temperatures are high. Tannins, the chewy red wine preservative that dries out the insides of our cheeks, taste even more pronounced at low temperatures which rules out another great slice of the red wine universe such as tough young Cabernets. Red wines that taste best when chilled are usually relatively soft and low in tannin with enough fresh fruit or aroma to survive the chilling process that tends to diminish these aspects.
Here are some favourites in the principal categories of chillable reds. It seems that some retailers work particularly hard at this style of wine. An asterisk denotes especially good value in these wines, listed in ascending order of price within category.
The most often cited style of wine suited to being served cool, say 10-12 degrees C or 50-55 degrees F, rather than the cooler, more usual serving temperature for white wines, is Beaujolais and other wines based on the Beaujolais grape Gamay. For many years since the phenomenal success of Beaujolais Nouveau in the 1970s and 1980s, the Beaujolais region has been plunged into commercial crisis. Like Bordeaux, the region has recently been granted its own Vin de Pays (des Gaules) designed to mop up wine not considered up to Appellation Contrôlée standard. But the Regnié and Moulin-à-Vent described below are extremely worthy representatives of the unique combination of juiciness and vibrancy that Beaujolais can offer. Perhaps spurred by this, producers outside, sometimes very far from, the Beaujolais region are now making their own Gamays. Brick House in Oregon makes the pre-eminent example in the US.
Cave des Vignerons de Bully, Cuvée des Vignerons 2006 Beaujolais
12.4% £4.99 Waitrose
This special bottling is admirably tangy and zesty for the price. It was made from sustainably farmed vines and the grapes were hand picked – a rarity on the plains devoted to the simple Beaujolais appellation. Obviously it’s not as concentrated as some of the more expensive wines listed here but it is a very true rendition of Beaujolais and extremely refreshing.
Vin à Deux, Ampelidae Gamay 2006 Haut-Poitou
12.5% £4.49* (50cl) Waitrose
Specially designed for two careful drinkers by Bordeaux university lecturer Frédéric Brochet with useful screwcap. Organically grown grapes. Very pretty – lighter than most Beaujolais but well made.
Dom Lagneau, Vieilles Vignes 2005 Regnié
13% £6.95* Stone Vine & Sun of Twyford, Hampshire
Archetypal Beaujolais with real cut and zest and masses of playful Gamay fruit.
Ch de Chénas 2005 Moulin-à-Vent
13% £9.99 Waitrose
Lots of punch and vigour – Waitrose seem particularly attuned to this style of wine. A dense style of Beaujolais that could be kept for next year too. Very persistent and correct.
Te Mata, Woodthorpe Gamay Noir 2006 Hawkes Bay
13% £9.50 Great Grog of Edinburgh, Noel Young of Trumpington
Chock full of character and juice, a fine non European example of vibrant Gamay fruit that is more luscious and direct than most of the French examples. The winemaker, responsible for New Zealand’s first lauded Bordeaux blend, recommends this with curries and Thai food.
For obvious climatological reasons northern France tends to produce more light, chillable reds than hotter regions. The Loire is a popular source, with its aromatic Cabernet Franc grape responsible for many of the most appetising examples. It used to be the case that this grape ripened fully only in exceptional vintages but improved growing techniques and global warming is changing this. Cabernet Franc grown in warmer climates tends to produce wines a bit too heavy or tannic to take well to the refrigerator. Fine Chinon has always been well represented in the US.
Les Nivières 2005 Saumur Rouge
13.5% £4.99 Waitrose
Masses of fresh fruit – positively explosive – and bone dry on the finish. The merest hint of leafiness on the nose. Like the basic Beaujolais above, this is not as concentrated as the more expensive examples.
Ch de Putille 2006 Anjou Rouge
13% £6.25 Stone Vine & Sun
Actually tastes positively thick and sweet, so good is viticulture now in the Loire.
Filliatreau, Dom de la Croix de Chaintres 2005 Saumur-Champigny
14% £7.99* Waitrose
No shortage of personality in this juicy blend made exclusively for Waitrose. Any Filliatreau 2005 is worth looking at.
Dom de la Cotelleraie 2005 St Nicolas de Bourgeuil
12.5% £8.25 Stone Vine & Sun
Scented, round, taffeta-stiff texture. Very dry finish – just the job for food.
Ch Fouquet 2005 Saumur Rouge
13.5% £8.50* Tanners of Shrewsbury
Really explosive unoaked crunchy fruit with a very dry finish. For the table.
Frédéric Mabileau, Les Rouillières 2005 St Nicolas de Bourgeuil
13% £8.95* The Wine Society, £8.99 Waitrose
Excellent value. There’s an attractive softness about this bone dry wine that is jam packed with fruit.
Ch de Coulaine 2006 Chinon
13.5% £9.30 Jeroboams
This domaine is certified organic by Ecocert and the wine is scented yet dry. It tastes really fresh and youthful.
Pinot Noir is made in a huge variety of styles nowadays and Burgundy no longer has the monopoly on making good wines from this finicky grape. In fact many non Burgundian Pinots take chilling more comfortably than the French prototypes (which should generally be served slightly cooler than, say, a Cabernet anyway). Cono Sur have been making chillable Chilean Pinot for years and now there are several other examples from Chile’s Casablanca Valley such as Morande’s.
Catena, Alamos Pinot Noir 2006 Mendoza
13% £6.99 Majestic
This tastes like a work in progress, made from relatively young vines planted high up in the Andes. It is much more satisfying on the palate than the nose, so don’t be afraid to chill it.
Dom Les Penitents Pinot Noir 2006 Coteaux Charitois, Loire
13% £12.25 Les Caves de Pyrène near Guildford
Very true Pinot flavours. Thoroughly pretty and pure even if very light and perfect for chilling. Tastes like a baby red Sancerre – from Alphonse Mellot and much better than many of them.
Stoney Vineyards Pinot Noir 2004 Tasmania
12.5% £12.49* Hailsham Cellars
The admirable Domaine A’s second label. Pale and extremely fresh fruit yet agreeably mellow and round on the palate.
Saintsbury, Garnet Pinot Noir 2005 Carneros
13.7% £13.99* Majestic
A thoroughly satisfying, quite serious wine that starts soft and lively with extremely fruity subtlety and ends with a satisfying savoury finish. The early-maturing bottling from this California pioneer of mid-weight Pinot.
A mixed bag here including a very inexpensive wine from south west France which, the only time I tasted it, seemed sufficiently light and crisp – pretty simple - to be a good candidate for the ice bucket. I have been trying to get another bottle but no Tesco I have encountered seems to stock it so caveat emptor.
Vieille Fontaine Rouge 2006 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne?
12% £2.99* larger Tescos?
Surprising amount of character for such an inexpensive wine – a special blend of the local Tannat and Négrette grapes with Gamay. Some chewiness on the finish. From the Plaimont co-op group.
Donnafugata, Sedara Nero d’Avola 2005 IGT Sicilia
14% £7.49 Majestic
Rich and full yet with real life and action, Recommended with ‘introductory dishes’ according to the back label.
Feiler-Artinger, Blaufränkisch 205 Burgenland
12.5% £7.75* larger Waitroses
Pungent, fruity, zesty with quite a bit of tannin. Dry finish – very similar build to a Beaujolais but with a Middle European accent. Super fruity refreshment.
Dom Ganevat, Trousseau 2004 Côtes du Jura
13% £11.80 Caves de Pyrène
Quintessentially lightweight but intriguingly scented version of this Jura grape which can last for many a year. Sweet start, very interesting and spicy pale red then quite chewy.