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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

Written by
Elizabeth McDonald
Written by
Eliza Campbell

As the weather warms up, cravings for an ice-cold beverage intensify. For red wine die-hards, the festive season can involve a luke-warm cabernet at Christmas lunch paired with nana's glazed ham – 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 festive celebration.

Keen to learn more? Check out our beginners guide to wine here.

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 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 Christmas ham, but for anything heavier or tomato-based, opt for nero d'avola or cabernet franc.

New South Wales is blessed with an abundance of cool and moderate-climate wine regions, such as the Hunter Valley, Orange, Mudgee, the Southern Highlands, Hilltops, and the Riverina.

Check out these locally grown examples of reds that are great on ice:

  • Frankly This Wine Was Made By Bob Red Blend 2019
  • Ari’s Natural Wine Co. Little Red 2021
  • Mallaluka Wines Barbera 2021
  • Renzaglia Wines Nuovo di Renzo 2021
  • Rikard Pinot Noir 2019
  • Vinden Headcase Shiraz Nouvea 2021

On the hunt for a chilled red?

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