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Wine pouring at The George Hotel
Photograph: Katje Ford

A how-to guide to chilled reds

In summer, you can actually have your red wine and drink it too – as long as you chill it first

Lauren Dinse
Written by
Eliza Campbell
Lauren Dinse

As the weather warms up, cravings for an ice-cold beverage intensify. For red wine die-hards, the summer can involve a luke-warm cabernet at a family lunch paired with nanna's bread and butter pudding – not a winning combo. But when it comes to summer wines, you can actually have your red and drink it too – just make sure to chill it first.

Chilled reds combine the food pairing potential of red varieties with the cool appeal of a white or rosé. Typically, the lighter the better, but you can follow a few simple rules to help you pick the perfect variety to have on ice at your next picnic or summer celebration.

Pouring red wine at Old Palm Liqour
Photograph: Parker Blain

Check the tannin

Heavier, more age-worthy varieties tend to have higher levels of tannin – think cabernet sauvignon, Barossa shiraz or nebbiolo. These wines are perfect for the cellar, but not so great for the fridge. As you chill them, delicate fruit flavours will become less prominent, with tannin and acid taking centre stage. Instead, opt for low-tannin styles that are designed to be drunk now.

Check the ABV

ABV stands for 'alcohol by volume'. The riper the grape when harvested, the higher the ABV – see also: wines grown in warmer climates. ABV also correlates to how full-bodied the wine is, so if you see something described as "big" or "bold" they're probably not a great candidate for chilling. Wines with an ABV of 14 per cent or more will taste 'warm' on the palate, so look for something 14 per cent or less.

Know your varieties

Light-bodied reds are often grown in cool climates – so in Victoria, we're spoilt for choice. A 'light' red will look less opaque in the glass, but there are some medium-bodied examples, light on tannin, that are also delicious when chilled. Pinot noir, schiava and gamay are juicy, fruit-forward reds that are perfect in the fridge. If you're looking for something with a more robust flavour profile, nero d'avola, syrah, grenache, cabernet franc and sangiovese are all great choices. Lots of producers now make blends designed specifically for chilling, so look out for those too.

Pick your pairing

Though refreshing when cold, chilled reds still have more substantial flavours and aromas than white wines and need to be thoughtfully paired with popular summer and festive foods. For fresh seafood, stick to white or sparkling, but for cooked fish like salmon, pinot noir or a deep rosato will complement the rich flavours nicely. For chicken or turkey, schiava, sangiovese and gamay are a match made in heaven. Grenache, sparkling shiraz or syrah are great with cold cuts, but for anything heavier or tomato-based, opt for nero d'avola or cabernet franc.

Victoria is blessed with an abundance of cool and moderate-climate wine regions, such as the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, Beechworth, Macedon Ranges and Grampians.

Check out these locally grown examples of reds that are great from the fridge:

On the hunt for a chilled red?

Prince Wine Store
  • Bars
  • South Melbourne

With an extensive selection, helpful staff, competitive pricing and best of all – free tastings on Saturday afternoons (between midday-2pm). Prince Wine Store is your go-to for a huge range of local and international wines in Melbourne.

Blackhearts and Sparrows: East Brunswick
  • Bars
  • Brunswick

At this boutique booze haus wine is their bread and butter, but their cellar's well stocked with obscure and boutique beers too. Other locations across Melbourne include: Abbotsford, Windsor, Richmond, Prahran, Kensington, Fitzroy, North Fitzroy and Brunswick.



  • Bars
  • Fitzroy North

At Public Wine Shop 'sulphur dioxide' is 'It-Who-Shall-Not-be-Named'. It's an approachable, delicious and ideal venue for anyone looking to make a foray into the world of minimal intervention wines. 


McCoppins: Fitzroy
  • Bars
  • Fitzroy

Finding a bottle-o that is open after 9pm on a Sunday is a trick in itself. But thanks to McCoppins we have two to rely on. Their second location is in Abbotsford. 


  • Music
  • Fitzroy

This pub and band room is host to some of Melbourne's best live music gigs – but the attached bottleshop is a hidden gem. With a great range of local and international wines, you can purchase whatever you like and drink it next door, corkage free.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Footscray

Since Mr West opened in 2017, it has gone from strength to strength at a speedy rate despite being accused of gentrifying the suburb. It now has its own independent bottle shop downstairs, selling small-producer wines, low-intervention numbers, and craft spirits at retail prices, seven days a week.

  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Collingwood

The Moon feels more like the VIP room of a nightclub or a sleek cocktail lounge than a wine bar. The list of wines by the glass is a good balance of approachable and more out-there natural stuff, with a slant towards Alsatian styles. To drink here, either a bit of knowledge or a sense of adventure are key.

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Richmond

Atlas Vinifera has invested money in its compelling and incredibly well-stocked shelves, it has invested time in staff training, and it has a highly functional space while remaining entirely independent. A trip to the wine wall or fridge could award you with very well-priced grower Champagne or a lesser-known biodynamic number from Chile. Add $10 to the retail price, and you can pop that bottle with full service in the store.

Union Street Wine Bar and Shop
  • Bars
  • Geelong

Down a city alleyway, behind an industrial-looking roller door, marked by a sign simply reading WINE, lies Geelong’s newest wine-lover’s retreat. One of its main attractions is that you can buy at bottle shop prices, then drink your purchase at the bar.

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