Chilling red wine is far from a new phenomenon, though not enough wine lovers partake in this simple delight. On the contrary, a majority of wine drinkers still adhere to the outdated belief that while white wine should be served chilled, reds are meant to be consumed at room temperature. During the decades or centuries when “room temperature” was generally closer to that of cellar temperature, that assertion may certainly have been correct, but it’s much less so in contemporary times.
However, a good number of red wines actually come to life when served at cooler temperatures—and, fortunately, they happen to be the lighter-bodied reds that many people prefer to drink in the summer months and early autumn. This is what to know about this category of red wine.
What Is Chillable Red Wine?
Most wine professionals will agree that the majority of red wines, if not all red wines, are best enjoyed with a slight chill—aim for between 60 and 65 degrees for full-bodied reds. Certain red wines, however—most notably light-to-medium-bodied wines marked by high acid and low tannins, are often best when served even cooler, between about 50 and 55 degrees. To achieve this temperature, you can either pop the bottle into your refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes and remove it just before serving, or stick it in the fridge overnight and remove it about an hour before serving.
Which Grapes Are Used to Make Chillable Red Wine?
Gamay, pinot noir, schiava, poulsard, trousseau, and zweigelt are a few of the most common grapes used in “chillable red wine” production, as per the definition above. Cinsault and cabernet franc are also delightful when served chilled, as are wines made from frappato, valdiguié, mencia, and a handful of other varieties.
Where Does Chillable Red Wine Come From?
Chillable red wines are produced in nearly every wine-producing region in the world. However, when seeking out chillable red wines, Beaujolais might be the best region to have on your radar. Produced entirely from gamay, this French region’s refreshing, easy-drinking reds are top candidates for serving cold. For other regions with a high level of production, look to signature regions of the grape varieties listed above: Think Alto Adige (schiava), various Austrian regions (zweigelt), and beyond.
How Is Chillable Red Wine Made?
Chillable red wines can be vinified in a variety of styles. However, a signature technique used to make red wines that are best enjoyed chilled is carbonic maceration. Most commonly associated with wine production in Beaujolais, this technique involves allowing the grapes to begin fermenting within their whole berries prior to crushing. As a result, wines produced via this method generally show the high levels of acid and low tannins that mark chillable wines, and abundant fruit-forward flavors.
What Does Chillable Red Wine Taste Like?
The flavor profiles of chillable reds are highly dependent on the grapes used, as well as the vinification techniques imparted on the wine. However, most chillable red wines are fruit-driven and incredibly refreshing. Common flavors include strawberry, cranberry, tart or sour cherry, and white or cracked black pepper.
What are Good Food Pairings with Chillable Red Wine?
Similar to rosé, chillable reds are some of the most food-friendly wines on the planet, as their high levels of acid and low levels of tannins make them easy to pair with a variety of foods. From roasted poultry to barbecue favorites, roasted veggies, and beyond, these wines can go the limit when served on a hearty dinner table. Just be sure to save the cheese course for your white wines.
These are seven bottles to try.
Although Mendoza gets all of the love, Patagonia is one of the most underrated places for Argentinian winemaking, especially for high-acid, cool-climate reds. Founded in 2003 by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta of Tuscany’s Tenuta San Guido and renowned Burgundian vigneron Jean-Marc Roulot, Chacra focuses on creating harmonious wines from biodynamically farmed vineyards at soaring altitudes. Barda is one of Chacra’s more powerful and mineral-laden wines, loaded with meaty, earth-driven flavors of raspberry, citrus peel, and spice. Fruit for this wine comes from the estate’s youngest vines, dating to the 1990s, and is vinified with native yeasts, aged in 50% concrete tanks and 50% oak barrels, and bottled unfiltered prior to release.
Matthieu Vallée is the head of Château Yvonne, a Loire-based castle with roots dating back to the 16th century. The property has long been surrounded by vines, and under Vallée’s careful attention, produce some of the most compelling, ageworthy, and drinkable expressions of cabernet franc and chenin blanc from Saumur. La Folie is a varietal cabernet franc that is hand harvested, native yeast fermented, and aged for 12 months in large foudres prior to being bottled unfined and unfiltered with little sulfur. The wine’s floral-tinged flavors of raspberry jam, damp earth, pepper, and black tea come to life when served with a slight chill, especially when paired with grilled meats and veggies.
If you love gamay or pinot noir, zweigelt needs to be on your radar. This traditional grape of Austria is the most widely planted red variety within the country, and the affordable, easy-drinking wines it produces are not to be missed. “Kieselstein” refers to the pebbly stones found within this producer’s zweigelt vineyards, which average about 25 years in age. Berry-forward and bright, this wine is fruity, herbal, and laden with flavors of blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, and pepper. The wine ages in neutral barrels and is bottled with just a smidge of sulfur.
Never heard of valdiguié before? Let winemaker Michael Cruse teach you his ways. Based in Petaluma, California, this producer has been making thought-provoking table wines from impeccable vineyard sites across California since 2013. Monkey Jacket is the winery’s signature red blend, which is led by valdiguié, a high-yielding grape known for producing juicy wines that was frequently referred to as “California gamay” in the past. This inviting bottle offers notes of raspberry jam, rhubarb, and olive. Think of it like Beaujolais gamay-meets-California sunshine in the best possible way. Try sipping it chilled with tacos for a spectacular pairing.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
Beaujolais is the go-to region for chillable reds, and this budget-friendly, well-made expression is a great bottle for kicking off your explorations of the region. This sustainable wine is produced from old vines using carbonic maceration and ages in a combination of steel and cement. Expect flavors of tart cherries, blackberry, and potting soil to lead to a long, mineral-laced finish. (Bonus: For another classic chillable red from one of Beaujolais’ most iconic producers, try the Domaine Jean Foillard Beaujolais-Villages 2020.)
In the realm of diamond-in-the-rough wineries, this producer is among France’s best. Founded by Victor Gros, Montbourgeau has been making classic wines in the Jura since 1920. After 40 years of spearheading the estate, Gros’ daughter, Nicole Deriaux, is passing the reins to her two sons. Although Montbourgeau is best known for its white wines, this small-production Trousseau is not to be missed. Fruit is hand harvested and organically farmed, then fermented in steel and aged in barrel. The family uses 50% whole bunches in their fermentation, which adds a refreshing, spicy note to this earthy, high-acid wine. Expect flavors of wild strawberry, blueberry, pepper, and damp leaves to jump from this light-bodied stunner.
Although the majority of Chilean reds tend to err on the big and bold side of things—hello, carménère and cabernet sauvignon—the country’s Pais and Cinsault-based wines are simply delightful for those looking for something a bit lighter. Pedro Parra is perhaps the most progressive and influential winemaker in Chile’s natural wine scene, and this varietal cinsault promises to blow your mind. Fruit for this wine comes from 45-to-75-year-old vines and is vinified with whole bunches in combination of cement tanks and foudres. Flavors of pomegranate, cherry jam, and hints of smoke lead to a palate-coating finish. For an equally compelling chillable Chilean cinsault, check out Rogue Vine Grand Itata Tinto 2021.