Inhibitions drop considerably in summer. Everybody let’s it all hang out. It’s time for some seasonal exhibitionism. Clothes get remarkably skimpy. Parts of the body start getting sunburnt that haven’t seen the light of day in months. All those jiggly bits finally have a place they can express themselves – hanging out of bathing suits at the beach or by the pool. Even the introverts start to get into the swing of things. It might require a glass of wine or two, but pretty soon the budgy-smuggler makes a startling appearance.
A hot afternoon and a searing patio call for (1) friends and (2) a big ice bucket with lots of wine and beer. Over the past few years you have probably been putting bottles of rosé and fresh whites like Albariño or Vinho Verde in your summer ice bucket. There’s always room for a party crasher! Supercharge the ice bucket with chilled reds. Let’s smash back a few of the best red wines to drink chilled.
Best Red Wines to Drink Chilled?
Chilled red wine is not new but it doesn’t get the level of attention it deserves. There is really no good reason to exclude reds from the fridge. The only trick is to pick the ones that benefit from being cold. The best red wines to drink chilled are a little bit lighter and have fruit-forward flavours, richer aroma and crisp acidity. The same kind of character that you find in fresh whites, Provence-style rosés and sparkling wines. Since colder temperatures accentuate these fun wine features, certain reds get a real lift from being cooler.
I’ve included half a dozen examples of the best red wines to drink chilled this summer. But take the ideas from this list and go to your wine store to shop around. Talk to your favourite wine store staff member. Have some fun picking a few reds to try chilled. The week that I spent tasting the wines in this list has been a real epiphany. This is a whole new world! In my case I’ve had my personal expert, Shanyn Ward of Metro Wines, steering me in the right direction. Shanyn has an adventurous wine palate and always finds great new stuff to keep wine exploration exciting.
G.D. Vajra’s Langhe Rosso – Piedmonte
G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso 2018 is a tart and blackberry-rich choice. The acidic tightness is there but it also has a substantial mouthfeel and a saucy, sophisticated charm. And the tannins are ever-so-mildly persistent on the long finish.
This is a top choice among the best red wines to drink chilled this summer. Maybe start with this one.
The Daily August Pinot Noir – Rheingau
I fell in love with August Kesseler’s The Daily August from the Rheingau in Germany. After drinking the August Daily chilled I ran out and got another bottle to drink at room temperature. Spätburgunder is the name for Pinot Noir in Germany. Although the Rheingau is best known for great Rieslings, there is a special enclave called Assmannshausen dedicated to Spätburgunder reds.
August Kesseler’s vineyards are on the famous (and shockingly steep) Höllenberg slopes above the Rhein river. Kesseler and his neighbours on the Höllenberg create Pinot Noirs that are worthy and sophisticated counterparts to their cousins in Burgundy.
Luscious Lambrusco from Paltrinieri
If I had only one wine to drink for the rest of the summer it would be Lambrusco. Opening a bottle has that feeling of walking into a party. Lambrusco has long shaken off its 70’s reputation for cheap bubbles and now makes exquisite yet playful wines. Paltrienieri’s portfolio from the Lambrusco di Sorbara subregion is a marvelous case in point.
The Leclisse, pictured above, is a wine of great elegance yet brims with cheeky charisma. It’s a sparkler that walks into a party as if it were walking onto a yacht. It is very dry, very refined and absolutely irresistable from the first sip until, magically and suddenly, the bottle is gone.
Paltrinieri’s Radice, like the Eclisse, is a favourite of wine critics. The experts like it in part because it shows some funky, natural wine attributes. Ultimately I think it scores highly with critics and wine drinkers because of the character Paltrinieri extracts from the grapes. It’s delicious, with mandarin orange flavour and floral aromas and a neat, yeasty pet nat touch.
At the entry level, if your summer is about the party without the pretension, you will get a huge kick out of Paltrinieri’s Piria. Very dry, zingy and a real banger on the palate. This cranberry/pomegranate bubbly is super-fun without compromising on quality.
Tiberio’s Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo
A skipping, energetic beauty from Abruzzo. Verging on being a rosé in the style of the Tavel region, this exciting Italian cherry tart has been a favourite summer wine of mine for a few years. The name – Cerasuolo – means cherry red. And this wine is a bit like a cherry red Ferrari. Sleek, racy, tight and thrilling. As fun as a cherry red vintage Vespa and as bracing as a Ducatti. Highly recommended for summer!
Tiberio is a terrific producer and I recommend all of their wines as an introduction to what Abruzzo has to offer.
Puszta Libre! Zweigelt from Austria
Claus Preisinger set out to make an irreverent and subversive red when he made the Puszta Libre. By no means meant to be taken seriously, this wine is meant to transmit joy all the way from the vineyard to the fridge to your mouth. It’s coke bottle-ish shape tells you right away this is supposed to be for gurgling back with friends. Should you put it over ice? Why the hell not?! It’s got a slight funky, Austrian farmyard whiff on the nose (I like it!) but the palate is bright, zingy red cherry all the way.
Classic Summer Gamay Noir from Chiroubles in Beaujolais
Gamay Noir grapes and the Beaujolais region are probably most associated with the best red wines to drink chilled. Chiroubles is a subregion in Beaujolais that has built its reputation on a lighter, more cherry expression. The Domaine de la Combe aux Loup from Méziat Père et Fils is a good example and is charged with fresh black cherries. The 2015 has loads of life left in it but is maybe one of the “bigger” wines in this list.
Gamay Noir is a great and generally under-appreciated wine. Vintage Beaujolais deserves more attention – including on the summer patio!