Welcome to Ask a Somm, a column in which experts from across the country answer questions about wine. Today’s installment: Should I ever chill red wine? Are there certain red wines meant to be drunk cold?
The rule for wine sold at chef Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly in Houston, Texas is that all wineries on the list must be family-owned. That translates to a colorful selection, inclusive of cider and sherry, plus grape juice from the U.S., Europe, and beyond. General manager and sommelier Matt Pridgen curates bottles, taking into consideration Shepherd’s meat-centered, locally inspired plates. Below, Pridgen considers red wine and when it’s best served chilled.
“During the dog days of summer, many people’s thoughts turn away from red wine, and use the hot weather as an excuse to explore whites and rosés. While I love a glass of white or rosé during the summer — or any time really — there is no reason why you can’t enjoy red wine when the temperature is flirting with the century mark. The key to enjoyment, however, is having your red wine at the proper temperature. And for some reds, it should be a lot cooler than you might think.
Proper serving temperature for red wine can have a dramatic impact on the flavor profile and overall enjoyment of your wine. Red wine served at room temperature or warmer will mute fruit flavor and enhance the perception of alcohol and acidity, making for a bad red wine experience. Don’t believe me? Grab two identical bottles. Chill one, leave the other at room temperature, then try them side by side. The winner is chilled! Wine is a living thing and responds to its environment in different ways, much like us. When it’s cold, we tend to contract and cover, and when it’s hot, we expand and shed. But when it’s just right, we are comfortable and at our best.
While most full-bodied reds are best served around 65 degrees, there are many that will benefit from a further chill closer to a cellar temperature of 55 degrees. Reds that are lighter in alcohol and tannin will benefit most from these cooler temperatures. Gamay, cabernet franc, grolleau, zinfandel, grenache and frappato are all high on my list of reds to chill for a backyard cookout during the hot summer months.
Among some of my favorites with a good chill are reds from France's Loire Valley, such as cabernet franc and grolleau. Grolleau is a rather obscure grape grown almost exclusively in the Loire, and is used mostly for rosé production, as it is not permitted in any Loire AOC reds. But this isn’t stopping some of the region’s top producers, like Catherine and Pierre Breton, from putting this overlooked grape into a bottle, albeit their first commercial vintage. The 2015 Breton Grolleau clocks in at about (a very modest) 11 percent alcohol, and with a good chill displays vibrant berry fruit and minerality that turns very floral after a short time in the glass. The wine is produced much like a Beaujolais, seeing some carbonic maceration and is a kickass cool sipper that you can drink through the heat of the day and into the night.
I am an avid barbecue enthusiast, and zinfandel, especially when chilled, can be a great pairing with spicy, sweet, smoky ribs or pork shoulder. A personal favorite is from Dashe Cellars, an urban California winery that specializes in zinfandel, many from Dry Creek Valley. However, a fairly new addition to their lineup is from Potter Valley in Mendocino, a cooler climate site that produces a zinfandel with lower alcohol, vibrant fruit aromatics, and a silky mouthfeel.
Last month we celebrated #LoireFest here in Houston, so let’s round this up with a cabernet franc from the Loire Valley! The 2013 Charles Joguet Chinon ‘Cuveé Terroir’ is 100 percent cab franc from a mix of single vineyard parcels across Chinon, grown in everything from sand to gravel. The result is a wine with beautiful purity, complexity, and ripeness that is perfectly fun to drink chilled with friends and food.
With over 10,000 different grape varieties in the world, this is certainly not a comprehensive list, but hopefully a good starting point to get your red wine chill on this summer.”