Chilled reds

chilled redI’m frequently asked about chilling red wines, particularly as people return from drinking chilled reds on holiday abroad.  Very often in warmer regions, the challenge is to keep red wines from becoming too warm and soupy,  so they are kept under refrigeration.  A chilled red on a warm day can be refreshing, rather like iced tea or chilled tomato soup. It sharpens up the vibrancy of the fruit character.  Chilled reds also suit lighter dishes like salads, terrines and cold meats.

But not all reds are suited to chilling.  A full-bodied tannic red will become clunky and obtuse when chilled.  Reds which work best are lighter-bodied versions, with light tannins.   Wines like Beaujolais, Valpolicella, Bardolino, Rioja Joven, inexpensive Pinot Noir are best, and if you can find them – Lambrusco, Austrian reds like Zweigelt & St. Laurent, Chinon and Bourgueil. 

Beaujolais is by far the easiest to find, and to me is as summery as sandals, strawberries and sunglasses.  It’s light, at most medium in body, with delicate tannin, and bright summer berry fruits like raspberry, strawberry and cherry.  Beaujolais is a vast region, to the north of Lyon in France.  DuBoeuf is one of the largest producers, and is widely available. The best quality zones are to the north of the area, and these are labelled as Beaujolais Villages. 

Within this area, ten villages are known to stand head and shoulders above the rest in quality and aspect.  These have more in body, intensity of flavour, and length.  These villages, or ‘Cru’ are located on granite hills, and each has its own personality or style.  The best known by far in Ireland is Fleurie, which is particularly feminine and fruity.  Some Crus are a bit more masculine, developing hint of forest floor with a few years’ age – like Morgon and Moulin à Vent. You can explore each of these Crus in detail in the French Wine Scholar programme.  

Chill these down to 13˚C or so, and notice the difference!   

Beaujolais ‘le Gamay’ 2014 by Dominique Piron is chirpy when chilled. Assertive red cherry, some floral nuances, with a vibrant vein underpinning the flavours, and holding everything together on the finish. €18, Searsons. 

Beaujolais l’Ancien ‘Terres Dorées,’ Jean Paul Brun 2014.  Still the best Beaujolais I’ve ever had.  Beautifully balanced, vibrant crunchy red fruit flavours, medium tannin, minerally and more-ish.   €19.95, worth every cent, from Wines Direct (Mullingar & Arnotts). 

Potel-Aviron Moulin-a-Vent 2012  More aniseed and floral than fruity, perky rather than plump, with some lovely bitter cherry notes on the finish.  This is made from old vines, giving that bit extra intensity and length – perfect for warm duck salad. €18.99, Wines on the Green.

Fleurie ‘Louis Tete’ 2014 Lovely redcurrant and raspberry notes, medium-bodied, light tannin.  €18, Marks & Spencer.