Chilled Red Wine

Earlier this week, I gave you some recommendations for white wines which should be on your to-drink list this summer. Today it’s all about chilled red wine.

The temperatures in Munich keep surpassing the 30°C mark. Naturally, during summer the demand for red wine decreases as people drink more whites and rosé. But for those who still prefer drinking reds over anything else I have a suggestion: Drink your red wine chilled.

Not every red wine is ideal for being served chilled and wine makers as well professional wine snobs might as well discourage you from doing so but a chilled red wine can be something truly wonderful when it’s hot outside.

There are a few red wines should always be served (slightly) below room temperature such as young Beaujolais Primeur from France or the Italian Vino Novello which is recommended to be served at 10-14°C.

But I am not talking about these reds for two reasons.

1. The likes of Vino Novello are usually already sold by summer.

2. They do not taste that great.

Lambrusco is another red wine which is best enjoyed when served refrigerated. This sparkling wine from Lombardy would make for an interesting post and maybe we’ll get back to it in the near future.

Thankfully there are a number of other still red wines which don’t mind being chilled.

Temperature is one of many aspects which affects the way a wine tastes and smells. Cold wine makes us perceive the alcohol of a wine on the palate less than wine served at or above room temperature. Serving temperature is key for the way we perceive the alcohol of a wine. This especially becomes clear when you serve a wine too warm because it will start to have a more and more dominating alcoholic touch the higher the serving temperature gets.

However, serving a wine chilled will also tighten its flavors & aromas. This means the wine can appear less flavorable than it is. It will also make the wine appear more tannic.

Which Reds Can Be Served Chilled?

Almost all red wine benefits in summer from a short time (30-45 minutes depending on how warm it is outside) in the fridge. It’s better to serve a high quality red wine slightly too cold than slightly too warm. With temperatures the wine will reach the recommended serving temperature in no time and you won’t risk drinking the wine too warm.

The outside temperature affects how we perceive a wine. This means when it is hot outside a wine which is served at room temperature might feel more alcoholic than it actually is.

But be careful with refrigerating complex reds like Brunello di Montalcino as you might not be able to enjoy them at their full potential if they are being enjoyed too cold. This could then lead to disappointments if the wine was particularly expensive.

Sometimes I enjoy to serve uncomplicated, young, fruit-driven reds with no or very little oak chilled during summer. Serving them chilled makes them more refreshing, juicier and very quaffable. Perfect to start a BBQ party when you want to stick to reds all evening long.

The fastest way to chill a red wine is to put it into an ice bucket for about 15-20 minutes.

Below are a few suggestions for you to try at your next summer party.

1. Ciliegiolo

San Ferdinando CiliegioloCiliegiolo is a red grape variety which is predominantly grown in Tuscany, Liguria and Lazio. The majority of Ciliegiolo is used as a blending partner for Sangiovese and varietal Ciliegiolo can be hard to find. The name of the grape comes from the Italian word for cherry, ciliegia, a fruit which lots of varietal Ciliegiolo resemble. Ciliegiolo wines are fresh, fruit-driven and, unlike varietal Sangiovese, can be enjoyed young without any or only little cellaring.

Serving a varietal Ciliegiolo emphasises its freshness and makes the wine even tastier when its hot outside.

2. Young Barbera

Contradictory to common belief, Barbera is the most widely planted grape variety in all of Piedmont and not Nebbiolo. The grape variety has a naturally high acidity level. Common aromas include blackberries, bilberries and raspberries. When I talked to winemakers from Asti at ProWein last March, I asked them what they drink when it gets warmer and two of them told me that they drink their own Barbera – but below room temperature!

Not all Barbera wines are suited for being served chilled. Only young Barbera, preferably unoaked. Oaked Barbera can be complex and very sophisticated – I don’t complexity when drinking chilled red wine.

3. Red Wine From Marche

The Marche region of Central Italy is still being under-appreciated when it comes to reds even though it is home to stunning varietal Montepulciano found in Offida. Sangiovese and international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon are also popular in Marche.

A young Rosso Piceno can be fun being enjoyed chilled. The same goes for Unoaked Montepulciano and a few other wines like Thalia from P.S. Winery.

2012 P.S. Winery Thalia Marche IGTP.S. Winery, a small producers from Marche, is run by Ascoli-born Raffaele Paoloni and his American associate Dwight Stanford who used to be a surgeon in the U.S. before venturing into the wine business. Together they make stunning reds.

Their vineyards overlook the beautiful hills of Offida and their wines are at least as beautiful as the landscape surrounding the winery. In the past, I have reviewed some of their wines on Vino in Love. For this post, we will take a closer look at Thalia, an unoaked blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah and 8% Merlot.

2012 P.S. Winery – Thalia – Marche IGT

This wine was served chilled. Your experience may vary if serving the wine at room temperature.

In the glass, Thalia has a deep ruby red color. The label-indicitated ABV is 14.5%. On the nose, fruit-driven with mulberries, plums, blackberries a bit of earth and hints of spices. On the palate juicy with  moderate acidity which gives the wine some extra freshness. Present tannins, medium-bodied with notes of cocoa and dark fruit. Very quaffable. Good length.

3.5 stars

Retails in Munich for about €8.50. Good value for money.

4. Primitivo

Zinfandel grapesPrimitivo, or Zinfandel as its called in the U.S., is another red wine which taste great when its chilled. Primitivo tends to be fruit-driven and uncomplicated and is ideal for being served chilled. Quality Primitivo are available for little money and can therefore be a good choice for your next summer party.

One of the downsides of many Primitivo is their high alcohol level. It’s not rare for Primitivo to have 14.5%+ ABV. As explained earlier, chilling a wine will make us notice the alcohol less.

5. Frappato

Frappato is red grape variety from the sunny Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is often used as a blending partner for Nero d’Avola in wines like Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, Sicily’s first and only DOCG appellation, but is also used to make varietal wines. Frappato has a low tannin level, produces rather light-bodied wines and has aromas which recall ripe black cherries and forest fruit.

On Sicily, Frappato is served during summer at restaurants slightly chilled and when it gets very hot then even very chilled. It’s a great summer wine which often comes at an affordable price.

Varietal Frappato is traditionally unoaked whereas Cerasuolo di Vittoria wines tend to age in oak. Larger wineries like Planeta also have unoaked Cerasuolo di Vittoria in their line-up which is perfect for being served chilled, too.

Planeta’s unoaked Cerasuolo di Vittoria (red label) has an average price of €14 on Wine Searcher whereas their Frappato is slightly cheaper. Planeta wines are available on a number of continents – from Europe to Australia – given Planeta’s sheer size and high annual production.


I used to live in Bologna, Italy, and during the summer the temperatures reached 40°C on certain days. Restaurants in Bologna and other parts of Italy therefore tend to serve all red wines with a wine cooler. Trust me, with temperatures like those you need one to enjoy your red wine. Lighter, fruiter reds are sometimes served with an ice bucket instead of a wine cooler.

What is your standing on chilling certain reds like the ones I mentioned above? Do you enjoy drinking chilled red wine? Let me know in the comment section below. Cheers!

You might also like to try these Summer White Wine Recommendations

12 comments on “Chilled Red Wine”

  1. hannah-theis hannah-theis Reply

    Pink and white wines are on the top of my list in the summer but I love Sicilian reds, especially NdA. So maybe I need to try Cerasuolo as I think I never had any!

  2. Suzanne Reply

    I really enjoy sparkling reds. and they are great chilled. I actually chilled a cab franc and it was good. Great post Julian, reds take a hit during the summer but this is a great post with guidelines for serving.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      I’m with you on sparkling reds, Suzanne! They can be great 🙂
      If you enjoy still red wines and want to see how the temperature affects the taste and smell of that particular wine then you could chill half of the bottle and pour the other half in a carafe before chilling it. It shows interesting results.

  3. talkavino Reply

    Good recommendations, Julian. A lot of Pinot Noir wines benefit from been served slightly chilled, and so does Beaujolais. But in general, I think it is important not to let any reds to reach that “room temperature” in the summer – summer or not, but you want to serve your reds generally under 65 F (18C).
    I never thought of chilled Zinfandel – will be interesting to see how that works.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thank you Anatoli! I read that serving Pinot Noir chilled benefits the wine but I haven’t actually tried that myself.

      The first time I tasted chilled Primitivo was a couple of years ago in Bologna and from what I remember it was a pretty good decision by the staff of a one of the local wine bars to serve it chilled. Since then I’ve only had chilled Primitivo on a couple of occasions.
      Would love to hear how you enjoy chilled Zin/Primitivo after you’ve tried it 🙂

  4. Espressito Reply

    Nice, comprehensive list, Julian. Barbera and I have a difficult relationship. I don’t have much appreciation for the grape. Too many Barbera have disappointed me in the past. Your other recommendations sound better to me.

  5. Tracy Lee Karner Reply

    I do like a chilled fruity red wine in summer — I’d take your recommendations. I also like a rose. (Note to self — go to the store and get a rose for the upcoming friends’s visit!)

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thanks for sharing your opinion on child reds, Tracy! Much appreciated 🙂
      I need to buy more rosé, too! Been drinking many whites and reds but only a few rosé. Oh well!

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