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July 5, 2017

The Big Chill

There used to be a saying among wine aficionados that "a wine's first obligation is to be red." Indeed, there is a significant body of wine enthusiasts that clings to that mantra and only drinks red wine — as an aperitif before dinner; with dinner, even if fish or shellfish are being served; or after dinner, as a nightcap.

To each his own. But my mantra is that a wine's first obligation is to be delicious. The thought of sipping a heavy tannic red wine served at room temperature on a sultry 90-degree summer day is far from appealing. Bring me something cool and refreshing.

For those whose thirst can only be quenched by a red wine, there is a solution. Several categories of red wine are frequently served with a slight chill, particularly in Mediterranean climates.

The most common red wine often served chilled is Beaujolais. It's light in tannins and easy to drink when young, and it has such a burst of bright fruit that it can even can be lip-smacking delicious served cold. The French sometimes even serve it chilled in the dead of winter.

Italy has its own Beaujolais-style wine in dolcetto, which is made in the northern Italian district of Piemonte. Dolcetto is generally lighter than Beaujolais — at least cru Beaujolais — but it is fruit-forward and delicious and loses nothing when given 10 to 15 minutes on ice before serving.

Spain also has a serious red wine that benefits from chilling in warm weather: Rioja Crianza. The Crianza Riojas are lower in the Rioja hierarchy, well behind Reserva and Gran Reserva. They are younger and usually fruitier with lower levels of tannins. Tapas bars throughout the Rioja region often serve Crianza by the glass with a slight chill.

So, if you're a die-hard red wine lover and the summer heat's getting to you, here's a tip: Chill.
Posted by Robert Whitley at 8:57 AM