Drinking chilled red wine during the summer is a nice alternative to whites or rosés and gives you the opportunity to taste wines made from grape varieties or from regions that are new to you. The key when choosing red wines for summer is to keep in mind ‘light and fruity’ not ‘dark and oaky’.
A red wine, to be served chilled, ideally should be light to medium bodied wine with ripe fruit flavours. Wines of this nature tend to be low in tannin, because when served chilled wines that are high in tannin become more astringent. They should have higher acidity, which makes the wine taste fresh. Avoid wines that are heavily oaked, as the oak can make the wine taste bitter when served chilled. Also, avoid wines that are high in alcohol, 14%vol, because served warm on a hot day, a wine with a higher level of alcohol can taste heavy and soupy.
Prior to serving put the wine in the fridge for 20 mins or so. The ideal temperature to serve chilled red wines is around 12ºC to 15ºC. If it is served too cold you lose the fruit aromas and the tannins will taste more bitter. Serving a red wine too warm, at above 18ºC, will result in the flavours becoming blurred and the alcohol will be much more noticeable. In order to keep the wine at the right temperature have an ice bucket with ice, water and a pinch of salt so that the wine can be kept chilled.
Now to the grape varieties and regions in the world where they produce the ideal reds wines for summer.
Beaujolais, home the Gamay grape, makes a great summer wine. Full of red berry and floral aromas, medium bodied with soft tannins. Look out for Beaujolais Village, there are the 10 villages or Crus, within the region that produce the best wines.
Mencia from a schistous soils of Ribeira. These wines tend to be fresh and juicy, floral with a hint of black pepper. They are quite light bodied with a crisp acidity making them ideal summer wines.
Zweigelt is a native grape of Austria. The fruit is pure black cherry, uncomplicated, with a light, juicy texture with a vibrant acidity makes a delicious summer red. In fact Pfaffl Zweigelt, that we stock in The Wine Place is so popular during the summer that it is currently out of stock.
Valpolicella, from the Veneto in northern Italy is a simple wine made from the Corvina grape which has red cherry flavours with a hint of dried herbs and as with the other wines has a crisp acidity. It also is a great food wine, try it with paella or pasta.
A young fruity Tempranillo, such as a Rioja without oak ageing, with its distinctive aromas and flavours of cherries, strawberries and cream, served chilled is perfect for a summer day.
A lighter bodied Pinot Noir is an ideal wine for summer with strawberry and raspberry fruit and flavours, soft tannins and lively acidity. Marlborough in New Zealand, the Languedoc in Southern France and Chile, where you can find wines that are very good value for money, are the places I tend to look for a Pinot for the summer.
Finally, if you are travelling this summer try the local red wines, served chilled, with the local food and discover new experiences.