Welcome back to Uncommon Pairings, a series all about wine! Today, we’re talking about the perfect fall pairing: chilled reds.
I like my beverages either scalding hot (coffee) or at room temperature (water). The former is because I hate when ice melts into my coffee and waters it down, and the latter is because my grandparents once told me it’s better to drink room temperature water from an Ayurvedic perspective, and if my people have been doing it for millennia then who am I to question it! Also, I did a box of at-home whitening strips and now my teeth, while significantly whiter, are also incapable of handling any cold.
The one beverage I’ll consistently make an exception for is wine. And yes, technically, you can drink wine at any temperature, but mulled wine tastes like bad soup to me, and room temperature wine reminds me of college (we drank a lot of boxed Franzia and big Barefoot bottles, and neither of those fit in the dorm-supplied mini fridges). Chilled wine is ubiquitous in the summer, but it’s usually white or skin contact. Both of those feel like summer, so I get it, but the moment fall rolls around, it’s like wine lists get warmer. Some of us need time to adjust, and I think the perfect way to bridge the gap between summer and true fall is with a chilled red!
Chilled reds are the perfect companion this time of year. They feel like leaves changing and light sweaters and playfully sticking your toes under someone’s butt to warm up. And they’re excellent at paving the way for the heavier reds that come in the winter!
Why Chill Red Wines
You might already be familiar with the Twenty Minute Rule: white wine comes out of the fridge twenty minutes before it’s served; red wine goes into the fridge twenty minutes before it’s served. This rule mostly works. Both reds and whites get a little closer to cellar temperature (a balmy 55-ish degrees), but it also hinges on the idea that white should be served much colder than red. And I think that’s not necessarily true!
Chilling a red wine can help bring out flavors that you might’ve otherwise missed, and helps amplify some of the juiciness that can be found in younger, lighter reds.
Which Red Wines to Chill
Younger, lighter wines are great for chilling. Gamay is a solid choice, as is any light Pinot Noir, or most young wines from the Loire Valley. Or Lambrusco! To figure out if a wine is young, check the date the grapes were harvested. It’s the date that’s printed on the bottle. The younger the wine, the more recently the grapes were harvested. I’d steer clear of anything full-bodied or aged – those styles of wine shine in warmer temperatures, a little warmer than traditional cellar.
We’re almost in November, so if you’re patient, you can wait for Beaujolais Nouveau day! It’s always the third Thursday in November. Beaujolais Nouveau is one of my favorite reds! It’s extremely young — it’s released the same year it’s produced — and low-tannin. It’s great chilled!
How to Chill Red Wine
The easiest part of chilled wine is getting your wine to the right temperature. If you’re lucky, or just planning very last-minute, you can buy your wine chilled. Many wine shops have a selection of wines that are kept cold, and chances are there’ll be a light red in their midst!
You can also use an ice bucket, but I have neither an ice bucket nor enough ice ever, so I instead use the freezer when I’m in a pinch. It’s risky (wine can explode, the cork can get pushed out, it’s honestly not a great idea overall) but it is fast. The safer option is to use the fridge. To get a red wine from room temperature (70-75F) to true “chilled” temp, I’d say leave it in there for at least 30-45 minutes.