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The colour of wine in our glasses often shifts with the seasons. Come summer, the refreshment associated with many pink or white wines can make them more palatable than more substantial ruby- or garnet-coloured ones.
But it’s no longer a matter of course for many wine lovers to forsake their taste for red wines as the weather warms up. More and more red wines are being enjoyed served chilled – possibly even cooler than cellar temperature – as a thirst-quenching alternative to rosé or whites.
If that strikes you as sacrilegious, perhaps it’s time to abandon your preconceptions about serving white wine chilled and red wine at room temperature. Wine enjoyment is a matter of personal preference; always let that be your guide.
It’s also worth noting that styles of red have shifted as the world of wine becomes increasingly diversified. There are many summertime selections to savour beyond the established roster of barbecue reds.
A growing number of flavourful reds, made to be lighter in body, lower in alcohol and to perform more like white wines, are coming to market. They’re defined by juicy fruit flavours and vibrant, mouthwatering acidity, which makes them easy to appreciate or, to use the jargon of hip sommeliers and modern marketers, totally crushable.
Many new-wave reds are reimagined Australian, Californian or South African wines from producers looking to refresh the big, bold and exaggeratedly alcoholic styles that came into vogue in 1980s and 1990s. They’re possibly using different grape varieties, looking to vineyards in cooler regions to reduce ripeness and embracing alternative production methods to make more easy-drinking expressions. While not necessarily to everyone’s taste, these wines can offer considerable charm by the glass as well as a completely different drinking experience than, say, a zesty sauvignon blanc or berry-scented rosé.
Other imminently chillable reds, such as Beaujolais or Valpolicella, to choose just some of a vast array of invigorating regional Italian red styles, aren’t new. Their time-honoured expressions have suddenly become trendy as they find new audiences looking for freshness and charm as opposed to complexity and concentration.
To my taste, any red wine can benefit from a spell in the fridge prior to popping the cork or twisting the cap. I find the flavours of cabernets or syrahs perk up with a 20- to 30-minute chill before serving. I’m also one who stores any open bottle of wine – red, pink or white – in the fridge to help preserve it from the effects of oxidation.
During the summer months, however, I typically have a lighter-bodied gamay or barbera readily available alongside something sparkling or a rosé and riesling in the fridge. Selecting what bottle to open is often a mealtime decision based on mood, motivation and menu.
Regardless of its colour, that considerable chill will mute a wine’s aroma and flavours when first opened, but that bottle is sure to warm up quickly once it’s outside on a hot and humid day. Before long, I’m likely to be looking to cool it down again.