A view to a chill: Tasting chilled red wines

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Drinks: Wines

Make space in your fridges, because it’s not just whites and pinks that are better a few degrees colder. Clinton Cawood and a team of super-cool sommeliers put a selection of summery reds on ice


If you’re serving your red wines from a cool cellar on a December evening, you probably have little to worry about when it comes to their serving temperature. But there are countless other occasions when it’s worth sparing a thought – and maybe an ice bucket – for that bottle of Pinot that’s slowly expiring in the heat.

Precious few red wines are traditionally served colder than room temperature, but hey, if Beaujolais and Cerasuolo can do it, why can’t others?

Working on the assumption that there are undoubtedly other styles that belong in an ice bucket on a summer terrace we scouted the offering of UK wine merchants to find these elusive reds, and called in a varied selection of wines that would potentially be up to the task.

We then headed over to Aster Restaurant, chilled them and put them in front of a panel of sommeliers on an unseasonably sunny May afternoon.


How it works
UK agents were asked to submit red wines that they thought would work chilled, with no limitation in terms of price or origin, provided they were exclusively available to the UK on-trade and independents. We narrowed the entries down to a manageable and varied list, omitting tried-and-tested Beaujolais, which we tasted last issue. Wines were tasted blind (and chilled) by our panel, who were only aware of the price of each sample. Scores were then collated to give each a percentage score, with only those scoring 60% or above listed below. All prices are ex-VAT, and
all bottles are 750ml unless otherwise specified.

Panel

Noelia Calleja, Aster Restaurant; Clinton Cawood, Imbibe; Timothy Connor, Bread Street Kitchen;
Donald Edwards, consultant; Andre Luis Martins, The Cavalry and Guards Club; Mattia Mazzi, Lutyens

Results
85 E&F Jourdan, Cinsault Vieilles Vignes 2014, Sommières, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
‘A savoury, light nose leads to a slightly sweet, ripe palate, with abundant minerality, and more of that savoury note, which is all enhanced by being served at this temperature,’ CC. ‘What more do you want from a chilled red? Match this with a steak sandwich, and I’d be happy,’ TC.
£9.30, Red Squirrel Wine, 020 3490 1210

83 Cillar de Silos, Hacienda del Carmen 2014, Arlanza, Spain
‘A Black Forest nose, full and dark, with blackberries laced with dark chocolate. A complex, long wine,’ MM. ‘Intense blackcurrant notes, and a minty element too – this is full-bodied, with vanilla, cinnamon and black fruit, with a long finish,’ NC.
£9.50, Fields, Morris & Verdin, 020 7819 0360

83 Montalbera, Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato Vegan 2014, Piemonte, Italy
‘A pronounced and energetic wine, with real charisma. There’s sweet spice and dried fruit, as well as some coriander – it just keeps going. It’s surprising to see how well it works chilled, with the tannins making way for the fruit and spice,’ TC. ‘Fruit-forward and aromatic. Packed with intense red fruits and spice, with a palate that’s full and warm, yet fresh,’ MM.
£10.76, Astrum Wine Cellars, 020 3328 4620

79 Trimbach, Pinot Noir Reserve 2014, Alsace, France
‘There’s a real lightness to this, elevated by the lower temperature. Redcurrant fruit is joined by a light, appealing funky element, with fresh acidity,’ CC. ‘Sour cherry aromas with light, earthy, herbal notes, leading to a tobacco element,’ AM.
£12.75, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 5161

78 Garage Wine Co, Single Ferment Pais 2016, Maule Valley, Chile
‘A wild, light, crisp red, with wild cherries on the nose, and a farmyard note as well. The palate is fresh and lively, with some good complexity,’ MM. ‘Spiced, pencil-lead aromas and some grippy dark fruit. This would work better lightly chilled, as opposed to cold,’ DE.
£13.74, Bibendum, 0845 263 6924

78 Vinteloper, Park Red Dolcetto 2016, Australia
‘Delicious, juicy dark fruit with a snappy, herb-garden inflected palate. Spot-on summer drinking,’ DE. ‘Packed with fruit, like cherries and redcurrants. Accessible, drinkable, and perfectly suited to being served chilled. Awesome,’ CC.
£10.80/500ml, Red Squirrel Wine, 020 3490 1210

77 Les Domaines Paul Mas, Domaine Martinolles Pinot Noir 2015, Languedoc, France
‘This wine has plenty of charming sweet raspberry aromas, with some gentle peppery notes as well. This leads to further sour raspberry notes, and some complex minerality too,’ AM. ‘A pretty, crisp, light red wine, that’s packed with red fruit and lip-smacking acidity. This is one for grilled white meat,’ MM.
£7.53, Soho Wine Supply, 020 7636 8490

76 Cave de Saumur, Lieu-Dit ‘Les Villaises’ 2014, Saumur-Champigny, Loire Valley, France
‘Fresh cassis, with some sweet, spicy notes too. The palate’s rich and powerful, with cassis and some elegant clove notes to finish,’ AM. ‘A full and meaty wine, with a grippy, satisfying mouthfeel, with intense dark fruit and peppers. One for black pudding or lamb,’ MM.
£9.95, Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2430

76 Domaine du Bourg, Les Graviers 2014, St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Loire Valley, France
‘Floral aromas and some herbal spice with this wine, as well as some gentle plum notes lead to rich spice and earthiness on the palate, with some tobacco leaves on the finish,’ AM. ‘An abundance of concentrated red fruit and acidity make this a great wine for light chilling, resulting in a lovely, fresh and versatile wine,’ CC.
£10.29, Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2430

76 Huaso de Sauzal Pais 2014, Maule, Chile
‘Elegant and charming, with wild cherries and strawberries, Provençal herbs and some gentle farmyard notes. The palate’s sleek and restrained. New World generosity with Old World composure,’ MM. ‘Don’t let the earthy nose fool you – this wine is packing lots of fruit and acidity, and just the right amount of spice. It’s rounded, and works beautifully chilled. I love Korean barbecue, and I believe this wine does too,’ TC.
£17.47, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 5161

76 J Lohr, Wildflower Valdiguie 2015, Paso Robles, US
‘An intensely fruity wine, with rich, dark, spiced fruits and some good acidity. A good quaffing wine, and a good match for pulled pork and American-style barbecue,’ MM. ‘Really good, dark fruit on both nose and palate, although the temperature maybe emphasises the tannins a bit too much,’ CC.
£10.34, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 5161

76 Vina Kozlović, Teran 2015, Istria, Croatia
‘Blackcurrant aromas with some light farmyard notes lead to some complex, herbal character with underlying spices, and an elegant, mineral finish,’ AM. ‘Deep, concentrated blueberry fruit
and some light, well-integrated tannins are all improved by being served lightly chilled,’ CC.
£10.82, Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines, 01582 722538

75 Cecilia Beretta, Soraie 2015, Veneto, Italy
‘Nice bright bramble and strawberry notes, as well as a touch of smokiness, leading to some meatiness on the palate, alongside some pencil-lead shaving notes on the finish,’ DE. ‘A lovely, smooth and smoky wine. Perfect for game and red meat cooked in a Josper grill, with fruit and juicy acidity to give freshness,’ TC.
£6.96, Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2430

74 Collavini, Refosco Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC ‘Pucino’ 2015, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy
‘Wild spice and blackcurrant at first, with some gentle balsamic aromas too. Elegant ripe fruit follows, with a clove, sweet-spice finish,’ AM. ‘Plummy notes, with a hint of smoke – this is quite smooth and light in the mouth, with delicate flavours and tannins,’ NC.
£11.38, Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines, 01582 722538

74 Domaine Gilles Jourdan, Côte de Nuits-Villages 2014, Burgundy, France
‘With no shortage of juicy red fruit, this manages to be concentrated but not confected – helped by the temperature – with an appealing lick of spice too,’ CC. ‘This has everything I’m looking for, with good fruit, acidity and freshness, and good balance between them,’ TC.
£19.12, Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2430

74 Mohua, Pinot Noir 2014, Central Otago, New Zealand
‘Lovely raspberry and green twigs – this has lots of fresh, juicy Pinot character,’ DE. ‘An elegant and charming wine, with strawberry and floral aromas. The palate’s also fresh, with herbal and spice notes, and a beautiful minerality. A match for grilled seabass and asparagus,’ AM.
£14.07, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 5161

73 Bodegas Jiménez-Landi, Méntrida ‘Bajondillo’ 2016, Méntrida, Spain
‘Fresh wild strawberries to start, along with some charming floral, herbal aromas, leading to sweet spice and a baked-apple note on the palate,’ AM. ‘Fruity and light, the cooler temperature lifts the red-berry fruit and spice, leaving some moderate, well-balanced grip on the palate,’ CC.
£8.00, H2Vin, 020 3478 7376

73 La Tunella, Pinot Nero 2014, Friuli, Italy
‘A well-balanced and delicate wine. Black cherry fruit, some spice, and a touch of leather towards the finish all make for a really interesting combination,’ NC. ‘Grippy and gravelly on the palate, there was a nice herbal element too, with a slightly green edge, as well as some perfume notes,’ DE.
£7.79, Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2430

73 Les Vins de la Madone, Côtes du Forez Rouge ‘La Madone’ 2016, Loire Valley, France
‘Rich plum aromas are joined by some paprika spice, leading to sweet-and-sour red plum on the palate, with a herbal finish,’ AM. ‘I like this a lot, herbal and abundantly perfumed, with lots of lovely juiciness.’ DE. ‘This opens with a light burst of refreshing fruit, leading to a dry and satisfying palate that I think would work well with cold meats,’ TC.
£10.50, H2Vin, 020 3478 7376

72 Jean Loron, Jean ‘Gamay Noir’ 2015, Vin de France, France
‘Ripe plum with some fresh pink-grapefruit zest on the nose, leading to rounded plum notes and herbal, spicy complexity,’ AM. ‘Juicy and fresh, and bursting with red fruits – textured, with light, persistent tannins. Good served chilled like this, with picanha or barbecue,’ MM.
£6.75, Hayward Bros, 020 7237 0576

71 Patriarche Père et Fils, Coteaux Bourguignons 2015, Burgundy, France
‘Quite a smooth wine, with just a touch of oak and vanilla, and medium tannins, highlighting notes of plums and black fruits,’ NC. ‘A lightly-scented nose of red fruit with some green-pepper notes, leading to a light body packed with crisp acidity and good tannins. A great match for grilled white meats or tartare,’ MM.
£9.53, Castelnau Wine Agencies, 020 7751 2490

71 Prophet’s Rock, Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Central Otago, New Zealand
‘Ripe cassis and some balsamic notes in the wine lead to a powerful, complex body with a fresh, herbal and mineral finish,’ AM. ‘Savoury and snappy, this has finely-textured tannins. Elegant
and very drinkable,’ DE. ‘Refreshing and punchy, I think chilling this wine might have hidden its potential a bit, but it’s nice to see how it changes with every sip,’ TC.
£29.62, Bibendum, 0845 263 6924

70 Govone, Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2015, Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy
‘Gentle red berry aromas, and a light asparagus note lead to fresh plum and some appealing spice notes too,’ AM. ‘Meaty and supple, with spiced red and dark fruit. Good quality for the price,
and works well slightly chilled, with barbecue, or just on its own,’ MM.
£5.64, Amathus Drinks, 020 8951 9840

70 McPherson Wine, MWC Pinot Noir 2015, Victoria, Australia
‘Red fruit notes on the nose, leading to soft tannins and some medium acidity – a well-balanced wine, made in an easy style,’ NC. ‘Fresh, ripe red fruits with some gentle spice, leading to a good finish with some cassis fruit. A good wine to serve with a fresh salad,’ AM.
£5.92, Lanchester Wines, 01207 521234

69 Township Winery, The Outlaw Red Riding Hood 2014, Swartland, South Africa
‘A nice perfumed red, with some light raspberry and cranberry fruit, and hints of fennel too. Fresh, with good acidity,’ TC. ‘Gentle perfumed and floral aromas lead to a rich plum spice, with a light herbal finish. A match for grilled tuna salad,’ AM.
£5.46, The Wine Fusion, 020 7717 1577

68 Château de Sonnay, Chinon 2015, Loire, France
‘Violets laced with green pepper, lead to a green and crunchy palate with heaps of acidity and grippy tannins. Good match for fresh cows’ cheeses or grilled pork,’ MM. ‘Autumnal twigs and sous-bois notes. Showing more maturity than I’d ideally like for a wine served chilled,’ DE.
£8.35, Amathus Drinks, 020 8951 9840

67 Bodegas Manzanos, Joven 2016, Navarra, Spain
‘A delightful nose of freshly crushed strawberries and raspberries, following directly to the palate. A smooth and balanced wine,’ TC. ‘Fresh cassis notes, with light herbal and floral aromas too, leading to a palate with more ripe cassis, and some gentle tobacco leaves too,’ AM.
£6.46, Alliance Wine, 01505 506060

67 Domaine de la Rochette, Touraine Gamay 2015, Loire, France
‘A light and crisp character, with wild red fruits and some nice grip. A light quaffing wine, great for barbecues,’ MM. ‘Delicate herbaceous nose, with hints of forest floor. Good fruit concentration, refreshing acidity, and overall a very pleasant wine when chilled,’ TC.
£7.18, Castelnau Wine Agencies, 020 7751 2490

66 Mateo Vicelic, Plavac Mali 2013, Peljesac Peninsula, Croatia
‘A great candidate for serving at lower temperatures, with lots of juicy acidity, but with some good tannins in the background. With the right fresh dish
on a sunny day, it’d be ideal,’ CC. ‘Like an After Eight in a strawberry field, this is intensely aromatic, with rose notes joining the fruitiness, and vibrant minty notes too. Light, crisp and lovely, yet quite complex too,’ MM.
£12.30, Fields, Morris & Verdin, 020 7819 0360

65 Eschenhof Holzer, Wagram Zweigelt 2015, Wagram, Austria
‘Wild raspberry and some gentle earthy notes too, leading to ripe fruit and an intense mineral finish,’ AM. ‘On the palate this benefits from being chilled, with juicy red fruit and a liquorice note,’ CC.
£7.20, Red Squirrel Wine, 020 3490 1210

62 Casa Ferreirinha, Papa Figos 2015, Douro, Portugal
‘Elegant and ripe cassis aromas lead to some powerful tannins, with more fresh cassis and some light, herbal characters too,’ AM. ‘Chalky tannins – possibly too structured for this degree of chilling,’ DE.
£8.04, Liberty Wines, 020 7720 5350

60 Ronchi di Cialla, Ribolla Nera 2014, Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Italy
‘Interesting, spicy nose and a light, elegant structure on the palate,’ CC. ‘Spritzy raspberry notes, and herbs too, leading to some snappy tannins,’ DE.
£12.68, Astrum Wine Cellars, 020 3328 4620

60 St Desir, Pinot Noir Pays d’Oc 2016, Languedoc, France
‘Wild strawberry and peppery notes,’ AM. ‘Soft and creamy berry fruit,’ CC.
£6.05, Majestic Commercial, 0845 604 9949

Also tasted: Gulfi, Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2015, Sicily, Italy


Noelia Calleja, Aster Restaurant
‘Wines with lower tannins worked better here. That said, some of the lighter wines could lose some of their aromas, or even those with intensity could lose some of that at lower temperatures. Our customers are definitely open to the idea of chilling their red wine if we suggest it, although it’s still something to work on.’

Clinton Cawood, Imbibe
‘Tasting these wines at these temperatures brought to mind so many drinking occasions and food matches, it seems a waste to not be exploring what a bit of chilling can do to the lighter reds on your wine list. Aside from a few pitfalls to watch out for, particularly when it came to tannins, a bit of chilling usually brought out a whole new dimension in these wines.’

Donald Edwards, consultant
‘I found a definite split between wines that work cold, or those that are better chilled. I think red wine is generally better a bit chilled, and I always have a chilled red on a list. There were some here that could be served fully cold, when you just want brambly fruit and soft tannins, but for some the tannins became too apparent at lower temperatures.’

Mattia Mazzi, Lutyens
‘I’d rather have a wine slightly chilled than too warm. It’s better to err on the chilled side, as you can’t chill a wine during service, but a chilled wine will warm up. I think it reduces the alcohol warmth of some wines, and in some cases the richness of fruit too. For hot food on a warm day, a chilled wine can keep the match refreshing, and it helps with spicy food too.’

Timothy Connor, Bread Street Kitchen
‘We started serving some chilled reds last year, and it took off really well. It’s surprising – in some wines the herbaceousness or the tannins take over when chilled, and in others it makes the fruit stand out. It’s good for food too. If the majority of a table is having red meat, but they want a white wine, you can offer a chilled red.’

Andre Luis Martins, The Cavalry and Guards Club
‘This is something I always do, especially in the summer, and I ask if someone wants cellar temperature, or on ice. Consumers are always looking for new experiences, and as a wine warms up it’s a discovery journey. Chilling brought out some aromatics in the lighter wines here, and it can help to disguise a bit of reduction behind that freshness; with some of the bigger wines the tannins became a bit metallic.’


Conclusions:

Many of the wines here benefited from being served below room temperature, although this wasn’t true for all of them. Crisp, clean fruit and spice usually worked well at lower temperatures, while more structured wines with more tannins were less successful.

Tannins weren’t always a negative characteristic, but often this was the element that was heightened over others, with some describing the result as metallic.
Often it was the exuberant, fruit-forward, cheaper wines that performed better over the more structured, expensive entrants. £10-£13 proved to be the sweet spot with the wines here.

Within the best-scoring wines here, the variety of wine styles and countries of origin was vast. There’s a lot to explore, and a lot
to offer your customers.

Food matching suggestions were diverse too – perhaps more than if these had all been served at room temperature. The crispness and fruitiness of the best examples inspired an array of summer dish pairings. There was potential for spicy food matches too.

Maturity of wines was a consideration. While only two of the submitted wines in the tasting were from before 2014, there were still some examples of complex, developed notes – and these were seldom enhanced at lower temperatures.


Many thanks to the team at Aster Restaurant for hosting the tasting. 

About Author

Clinton Cawood

Clinton has been writing about drinks since landing in the UK in 2006 from his native South Africa. He's partial to all things agave, and is dependent on good coffee. He's still not a morning person. Follow him on @clintc.

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