JWL Issue #055: Can you chill red wine?

June 4, 2019

In two weeks time, I’ll be off on holiday to Italy for a wedding and holiday. Almost by chance, I’ve found myself drinking a handful of Italian wines recently.

For a long time, Italian wine meant two things to me. Either massive red wines (come at me nebbiolo), or rather insipid pinot grigios. That all changed when I did my WSET, but as a whole it’s still a country whose wines I haven’t really dug my teeth into. Hopefully my trip to Italy will dispel some of that, but in the mean time there are two Italian wines I’ve loved recently below.

With hotter days around us, it’s also time to visit one of those slight unknowns: chilled red wine.

What have you been drinking lately? And importantly, what do I need to know about Italian wine?


Lidl white strikes again. La Croix Doree Languedoc (£6.99) is a wonderful white for the summer. Pear, mint, white pepper and oaky vanilla hang in this smooth and rounded white.

Assyrtiko from Santorini (£28 from Roberson) is a delight. Huge saltiness and vivid lemon scream minerality in one fell swoop.

Monteforche Lo Sfuso di Collina 2017 is a delicious and smashable red I had at Artusi in Peckham. It was served chilled at lunch, which muted the nose slightly. But the flavours of earthy black fruits, olives, and pepper, with an organic funkiness were incredibly welcoming on the palate. Wayward Wines sell the 2019 vintage for £15.


Can all red can be chilled?

Not all red should be chilled. Lots of things happen when you reduce the temperature on wine, which will impact what you can choose.

First of all, chilling reduces flavour profiles of lots of wines. So if you’ve got something highly complex and expensive, leave it out of the cooler.

Generally, lighter reds chill better. That’s why gamay from Beaujolais is your obvious choice. Likewise pinot noir and cabernet franc also do well with lower temperatures. Bigger, bolder reds packed full of tannins need a bit more warmth.

Chilling will reduce the alcohol feel of your wine, while heating increases it. So that is an added bonus.

Unlike the old adage about cooking wine (never cook with something you wouldn’t drink), chilling rough reds can certainly help things along. On a few holidays previously, I’ve found one of the cases we’ve bought end up being a bit rough. 30 minutes in the ice bucket can often do those reds the world of good.

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