While trendy rosés may have replaced whites in a few glasses, reds are rarely considered for beating the summer heat. Yet many lighter reds make perfect summertime wines.
The trick is to give the wine a little chill just before serving by popping the bottle in the refrigerator or ice bath for a few minutes. Doing so accents the bright red fruit aromas in the glass and highlights the wine’s natural acidity.
That said, not all reds make a good showing served at cooler temperatures. In fact, only reds with lower tannins and moderate alcohol levels can handle a big chill.
Here’s why: Tannin, a natural substance found in the skin of the grape, gives the wine structure and leaves your mouth feeling somewhat astringent or “furry.” Served too warm, the wine will seem out of balance, making the alcohol and tannin components stand out. Served at room temperature (60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit), full-bodied, tannic wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Malbec are balanced by the alcohol and acid, making the tannins less apparent. Give these same wines a big chill and the alcohol and fruit aromas will fall into the background, focusing more attention on the wine’s astringency of the tannins.
On the other hand, wines lower in tannin and lighter in body are best sipped at cooler temperatures since the balance isn’t skewed by the extra tannin and alcohol. Served with a slight chill (55 to 60 degrees), light-bodied wines will peak in terms of fruit aroma, acidity and overall balance.
Ultralow-tannin wines such as Beaujolais can be served even colder (50 to 55 degrees), making them great partners for summer entertaining.
The amount of tannin in the wine is directly related to the amount found in the grape skin, so knowing which varieties are lower in tannin makes choosing a chill-worthy red much easier. Tempranillo and Rioja from Spain, Beaujolais from France, Barbera and Sangiovese from
Italy and Pinot Noir from just about anywhere are all good light-bodied choices for chillin’ on the patio with friends.
Marianne Frantz, CWE and founder of the Cleveland Wine School, was joined by her tasting consultants in selecting and sampling wines for this month’s Cellar Notes.
Italy ($19): Dry with medium body, medium alcohol and medium-light tannins. Crisp acidity gives the wine a refreshing edge. Slightly chilled, it is a good partner for grilled veggies, chicken and sausages.