It’s Chillable Reds Season!

When you visit Silver Thread once the weather warms up, you’ll notice that our Cab Franc is not room temp. We serve it chilled this time of year, and though chillable reds are growing in popularity they’re not yet very common in tasting rooms. But how do you know which red wines to chill? Well, we’ve done a bit of reading and come up with a little guide.

A bottle of 2021 Cabernet Franc

Our 2021 Cabernet Franc.

You can chill almost anything!

According to several wine experts, red wine – just like white, rose, bubbly, etc. – often benefit from being served slightly chilled. Wine experts suggest serving reds between 57 & 70 degrees F. A slightly cooler temperature than the vague and variable “room temp” can help reds open just like whites and other styles do. It can make a red wine both more refreshing and fruit-forward. This isn’t a hard and fast rule though. To determine if a red is best served chilled, it should stand up to be consumed between 45 & 60 degrees F.

Which varieties are best served cool?

When we chill any wine, but especially reds, some flavors are muted and some are enhanced. Fruity notes become more pronounced and the tannins tend to fade. This is why when we drink chilled reds, they’re usually young, light-boded wines like Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Grenache. Folks looking to chill their reds should also consider those made with less skin contact, and those that were aged in stainless steel rather than new oak. Here in the Finger Lakes, more and more winemakers are ageing their reds in stainless, and this neutral option tends to produce reds with smoother tannins; which means they’re perfect for serving slightly chilled!

On the flip side, big-bodied, often heavily oaked wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot can be hurt by chilling. Unless the red has a lot of fruitiness to it, chilling reds like this can dull the mouthfeel.

Pinot Noir in old oak barrique.

2022 Pinot Noir in an oak barrique.

How do I chill red wine appropriately?

Think about how you chill any other wine: your favorite bottle is usually ready after just a couple hours in the fridge. So for a red, which you don’t want quite as cold, 30 minutes in the refrigerator – NOT the freezer – should do it. You want that bottle to feel refreshing not icy!

And don’t hesitate to request that bottle of red you order at your favorite restaurant also be cooled down! No matter the strange looks you might get from fellow diners.

In conclusion…

It’s easy to find yourself sticking to strict rules about wine. The industry has a history of elitism and can make outsiders or those new to it feel like they’re making a lot of “mistakes” with wine. But the truth is, everyone has a different palate. Some people drink dry, and some people drink sweet. Some people prefer their white wines at room temperature, and some people put ice in their glass. Don’t be afraid to experiment! You just might learn something new about wine, and about yourself.