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Licence to chill: a sommelier’s guide to chilled red wine

Light, crunchy and quenching a thirst. SAMANTHA PAYNE makes a case for drinking chilled red wine this summer.
Best chilled red wine against a terracotta background. Three glasses are poured with grapes on the table.Kristina Soljo

There’s a rule I always cite when I’m training staff at the various restaurants I write wine lists for. I call it the “20/20 rule” (which makes it easy to remember). Generally in this country we drink our whites too cold and our reds too warm so put your reds in the fridge or an ice bucket 20 minutes before you drink them and take your whites out of the fridge for the same amount of time. For reds this slight chill “tightens” up the wine, allowing the alcohol to sink among the fruit flavours and firm up the tannin structure ready for it to be enjoyed with food.

Some red varieties are more suited to the chill than others; pinot noir, gamay, trousseau, nebbiolo and pinot meunier, in particular. They share common characteristics of being lighter in body, leaning more towards the red fruit spectrum, having what we call “bright” or high-toned acidity and lower tannin structure. The French have even coined a term for these styles “vin de soif” which translates to “thirst wine” (or thirst quencher).

For summertime drinking, lighter Provence-style rosés have always been appealing. But unlike these almost neutral flavoured rosés, which tend to have their acid and minerality exacerbated by food, these bolder and flavoursome light reds come to life when paired with barbecues and a spectrum of summertime seafood. And while they always defy classification on a wine list (too heavy to sit with rosés and not quite light enough to be in the straight pinot noir camp), we sommeliers love chilled reds as multi-dimensional wines that can be paired with a variety of meatier dishes (where a white wine might have been overshadowed).

To make these lighter and crunchier styles of reds, most winemakers adopt a traditional Beaujolais technique called carbonic maceration (where dry ice interacts with yeasts in an anaerobic environment to ferment grapes from the inside out). Not only is it a great word to say but it’s easily my favourite winemaking technique to explain because you sound like a mad scientist. These big fruity flavours of bubble gum, strawberry and sweet raspberry created by this process become subtle when chilled down and paired with any summer soirée.

Five best chilled red wines to try

2022 Stoney Rise Trousseau, Tamar Valley, Tas, $40

A homage to the Jura wine region’s most prolific red variety, fermented in amphora using minimal sulphur and a very light winemaking hand to make sure the wine speaks for itself. Bright cherry notes lead into clove and fresh sage savoury characters. Bring this wine as an unexpected delight to your next barbecue.


2021 Les Vignerons de Saint-Pourçain La Ficelle Rouge Gamay Noir, France, $29

Bursting with blackcurrant and mulberry fruit on the nose, as it expands in the glass it exhibits a spicy green peppercorn character and red liquorice fleshiness. A fun fact about this wine is its first vintage was in 1987 and the wine is always launched on the first Saturday of December. Each year the bottle has a different design.


2022 Jackson Brooke Pinot Meunier, Henty, Vic, $36

A super aromatic expression of pinot meunier, blood orange and pomegranate in particular. The slight addition of whole bunch grapes in the winemaking gives this wine an added layer of flavour and texture. Just add pan-fried pork chops and a fennel salad or ricotta gnocchi with burnt butter and sage.


2023 Golden Child Lazy Sunday Light Red, Adelaide Hills, SA, $30

The Lazy Sunday is a light red that’s barely heavier than a traditional rosé. A 50/50 blend of pinot and syrah that has vibrant expressions of red currant and tart cranberry notes. A perfect pairing with an ’80s-style prawn cocktail with mandatory tangy cocktail sauce and some excellent tunes.


2022 Nick Spencer P.A.R Grenache, Hilltops, NSW, $40

Following the trend of pinot-esque grenache we’ve seen emerge on bottle shop shelves over the past few years, this new style from Nick Spencer’s P.A.R range is definitely for pinot lovers. Aged in amphora for 18 months it creates flavours of picked cherry and balsamic strawberry which would create a perfect juxtaposition for richer meats such as jamón and salami.


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