We all know red wine should be drunk at room temperature. Right?
Not quite. Most red wines are actually designed to be enjoyed at “cellar temperature”. This might sound like a trivial difference, but with cellar temperature considered to be 16 or 17 degrees, it’s considerably cooler than your kitchen bench – especially during summer. This means even heavier varietals such as shiraz, merlot and cabernet benefit from a quick cool-down in the ice-bucket or fridge before serving.
“Red wine at room temperature can taste a little bit broad and flabby,” says Andrew Harris, in-house Wine Educator at Brown Brothers. “It’s not quite as tight and structured as it should be.”
Dry reds (such as the varietals mentioned above) shouldn’t be chilled too long, however; their natural tannins and oak characters are amplified by cold, which disrupts the wine’s balance. “The wine will be a lot more bitey, more tannic, than it should be,” says Harris. “So serving at the right temperature ensures it tastes the way it should.”
Some fruitier, sweeter reds actually benefit from being stored in the fridge. Gamay, sangiovese, tarrango and some sparkling shiraz make for excellent summer drinking options when properly chilled – they’re lower in tannins and often haven’t seen oak, so the fruit flavours are able to stand the cold without being overpowered. Some aromatic reds rich in berry flavours, such as Brown Brothers Cienna, are designed to be consumed cold.
Armed with the knowledge that red wine is a totally appropriate summer beverage, here are some of the best ways to enjoy a chilled red.
With spicy food
Sweet rieslings are often the go to wine for spicy food, but a chilled red can be even better. “Especially the Szechuan pepper flavours in hot pot dishes,” says Harris. “The sweetness of Cienna stands up and helps diminish the fieriness of the pepper and chilli.” The wine’s sweetness is also a natural complement to the sweeter elements found in Chinese and Thai dishes, such as roast pork with plum sauce or green papaya salad.
Red wine and red meat might be natural partners, but an icy beer is still the standard drink of choice at the classic Australian barbeque. For your next cook-up try a chilled bottle of Cienna – like beer, Cienna makes a casual complement to lamb, sausages, grilled chicken and charry seafood, without overpowering. It’s also an Australian grape, making it the perfect fit.
In the same way a sweet wine matches a sweet dish, a chilled, fruity red can be a fine accompaniment to that final course. Light, summery puddings, such as berry clafoutis or lemon delicious, or an Eton Mess (with lots of fresh berries, coulis and cream) are an excellent choice. Try a dolcetto and syrah (made from a blend of dolcetto and shiraz grapes) with simple berries and cream.
Sangria is an obvious one – it’s basically chilled red with fruit and spices added to it. But how about a chilled red-wine spritzer? Mix together red wine, ice, a handful of berries or mint leaves, and top it up with soda water.
With deep conversation
No question, rosé, white and sparkling wines are made for summer, but rarely are they the catalysts for a 2am deep-and-meaningful. For some conversations, a cool, light red on a warm evening is the perfect pairing.
Chilled red form guide:
Glassware in public: standard wine glass.
Glassware at home: tumbler.
What they'll tell you it pairs with: spicy food, berry-based desserts, barbequed lamb.
What they won't tell you it pairs with: late-night chats.
This article is presented in partnership with Brown Brothers.