Chilling out with a cool red wine is not only an acceptable practice - we actively encourage it.
Just as we like lighter and fresher foods in summer, so it is with wine. Heck, it’s hot out! You don’t want an alcoholic bomb that tastes like prunes, figs and dates with a backbeat of cigar box and Christmas pudding. You want something fruity, light and soft, with a little mouth-puckering zing.
Luckily, there’s a red for that — and choosing a good one is not difficult, whether you’re looking for a casual sipper or something more substantial to go with a light grill or cold meat plate for dinner.
Here’s what to look for when finding your perfect summer red:
Cool it. Red wines should always have a little chill, at least to below 18°C. But for summer reds, you can take it down another notch. But forget the numbers - just chuck the bottle in a fridge for 20 to 30 minutes or freezer for 10. Spin the bottle to mix, then open and serve in whatever glass you feel like (tumblers approved!)
Style council. Read your wine label. You want a young wine with vintage date within the past two or maybe three years. It will have fresher flavours (we call those “primary” flavours). Look for adjectives like fresh, vibrant, juicy, soft and avoid adjectives like deep, dark, complex, spicy and, especially, “aged for 5 years in oak barrels”. Go for lower levels of alcohol, too, in the range of 11 to 12.5 percent.
Wine Regions: You may have heard of “cool climate” wines. No surprises here: they come from cooler regions like Northern France and Italy, Chile (yes, those mountains are chilly! Get it?), New Zealand, Germany and, of course, Canada. All of these make nice light red wines you can serve chilled.
Pale is good. Get a pale wine - something you can see through. That means the wine is either from a thin-skinned grape or the juice spent very little time soaking on the skins during fermentation. Either way, you’ll have a light, refreshing wine with red-berry flavours. You’ll also avoid gritty tannins, which tend to be enhanced when a wine is chilled (you don’t want that!).
Groovy grapes. Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Grenache (aka, Garnacha) are fruit-forward and — you guessed it — thin-skinned. Ergo, they can make lighter wines. Merlot works, if low in alcohol and un-oaked. Remember, it’s about style, not just grapes. Also try Gamay, primarily from France but also Ontario; Dolcetto and Barbera from Italy; and Cabernet Franc, especially from the cool Loire Valley in France.
Still not sure what to buy? Here are a few recommendations from kwäf:
Folonari Valpolicella Classico
Buy Now from LCBO
Cono Sur Tocornal Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot
Buy Now from LCBO