It is often stated that red wines should be served at room temperature. Full stop. That limited advice is perfect if you live in a French chateau with a subterranean cave or wine cellar, but the real-world application is a bit more complicated. Holding your red wine at the suggested serving temperature of 55° F works if you are truly to the manor born or have invested in a specially designed wine cellar or coolers for your home. However, in warmer weather situations without dedicated options, such as a boat, vacation rental, or poolside deck, it’s perfectly fine to do what you can to avoid serving your wine at a temperature that is closer to “body” than “room.”
First off, don’t be afraid to chill your reds. Whether you put them in the refrigerator for an hour or two or the freezer or an ice bucket for 20 minutes, red wines will feel and taste better on the palate if they are cold rather than hot. (If using the refrigerator, feel free to remove the wine 20 minutes before serving.) Heat intensifies the drying and mouth-coating sensations of tannins in warm wine, making it unpleasant to drink. With that in mind, it’s also important to choose varieties that have lighter tannins to begin with and are made in a style that uses a judicious amount of oak rather than dealing it out with a heavy hand. Three good choices are Gamay from Beaujolais, Sangiovese from Tuscany, and Grenache-based blends from the Gigondas appellation in the Rhône Valley.
Jean Foillard 2018 Fleurie Beaujolais France
The Foillard name is well known to lovers of Cru Beaujolais, especially since Jean Foillard took over the job of tending vines and making wine from his father in 1980. Most his family’s Gamay grapes come from 20- to 70-year-old vines planted in Côte du Py in Morgon. He prefers whole bunch fermentation lasting 3 to 4 weeks to preserve the fruity flavors in his wine. His 2018 Fleurie is brilliant ruby colored with aromas of red currant, strawberry, and a whiff of bramble from the whole bunch fermentation. On the palate there are flavors of ripe red fruits including red plum and red raspberry, bracing minerality, soft, silky tannins, and a bright splash of acidity at the very end.
Château Thivin 2021 Côte de Brouilly Cuvée Zaccharie Beaujolais France
Vines that produce grapes for this enticing wine come from the slopes of the Colline de Brouilly in the Côte de Brouilly appellation. They are planted in well drained volcanic soils, have an average age of 50 years, and face east and southeast for maximum sun exposure. The grapes are fermented for 13 to 15 days, pressed gently with a pneumatic press, and aged in an assortment of barrels ranging from new to five years old. The wine is then blended and bottled. Cuvée Zaccharie has a bouquet of ripe black currant, blackberry, and brown baking spices and flavors of ripe red and black fruits with a touch of freshly ground black pepper in the finish.
Château du Moulin-à-Vent 2019 La Rochelle Moulin-à-Vent Beaujolais France
The vineyard at Château du Moulin-à-Vent is a mere 10.43 acres yet boasts granitic soils that are rich in minerals including metals and manganese. It also benefits from a privileged location that gets great sun and cooling from the strong winds that blow through the 80-year-old vines. In 2019 there was an early spring frost that led to a smaller but more concentrated yield. The wine was aged for 12 months in a combination of stainless steel and oak barrels and has aromas of red currant, red raspberry, and crushed violet flowers. The palate opens with flavors of red cherry, red plum, black pepper, and brown baking spices with pleasantly grippy tannins and a note of eucalyptus in the finish.
Biserno 2018 Bibbona Tuscany Italy
Marquis Lodovico Antinori (of Ornellaia fame) founded Tenuta di Biserno, which is just a few miles north of Bolgheri, in 2001. The winery was designed by Gae Aulenti and “flying winemaker” Michel Rolland is in charge of winemaking. Bibbona is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot and has aromas of ripe red fruits accented by toasted brioche, tobacco leaf, and dark chocolate. In the mouth there are flavors of red plum and cassis with soft, balanced tannins and a finish that goes on for days.
Fontodi 2015 Flaccianello della Pieve Tuscany Italy
Visitors to Chianti should consider a swing through the town of Panzano to see this iconic vineyard known as the Conca d’Oro, or “golden shell” due to its shape resembling a Roman amphitheater. Brothers Giovanni and Marco Manetti oversee winemaking at this 74-acre certified organic estate and have a long standing reputation for producing quality wines. This delightful wine has aromas of black cherry, red currant, and a touch of saddle leather with flavors of red plum, dried cherry, and pomegranate. The tannins are soft, smooth, and well-integrated.
Fico 2019 Sangiovese Tuscany Italy
The first vintage of Fico was produced in 2015 by Filippo Corsini, whose vision was to produce a unique biodynamic wine in Tuscany. The name Fico comes from the Italian word for “fig” because the grapes chosen for this wine surround an ancient fig tree. Unfortunately, Filippo died in 2016 in a tragic car accident at the age of 21. His legacy is carried on by the winemaking team of Laura Lenzi and Claudio Giglioni. This enticing wine is made from Sangiovese grapes grown on 23-year-old vines and has aromas of red raspberry, sour cherry, and dried fig with flavors of strawberry, ripe red cherry, tobacco leaf, and dried Mediterranean herbs. The tannins are soft and silky and the finish is long lasting. Only 900 bottles were produced in 2019.
Domaine des Bosquets 2018 Les Routes Gigondas Rhône Valley France
Grapes for this amazing wine are grown on vines arranged in a circular formation at Les Bosquets, Les Routes, Le Plateau, Jasio, as well as other vineyards. The plantation totals 64 acres and encompasses a variety of soil types which give complexity and depth to the wine. Aromas of black licorice, black currant, blueberry, and eucalyptus draw you in to a palate of black plum and red raspberry accented by powdered cocoa and vanilla. The tannins are soft and well-integrated, making this a wine that begs for another, and another sip.
Domaine Raspail-Ay 2019 Gigondas Rhône Valley France
Christophe Ay oversees operations at the domain’s 46-acre estate in Gigondas. Although the domain is not officially certified, the vines are farmed using organic standards. After harvest grapes are vinified separately and maceration can last as long as 30 days, which gives the wine its gorgeous color. The wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre and has aromas of ripe cherry, red raspberry, red plum, and freshly ground black pepper. It is light to medium bodied with soft, velvety tannins, flavors of red fruits accented by toasted hazelnuts and vanilla, and a bright fruit finish.
Montirius 2017 Confidentiel Gigondas Rhône Valley France
Named for three Saurel children; Manon (Mon,) Justine (Ti,) and Marius (Rius,) Montirius represents the family’s fifth generation of winemaking in Gigondas. Their grandfather, Max stopped using chemical fertilizers in 1980, the family totally eliminated chemical pesticides in 1990, and by 1999 their vineyards were certified biodynamic. The vines have an average age of 75 years and are 80 percent Grenache and 20 percent Mourvèdre. The domain consists of 143 acres with 38 separate parcels in Gigondas and Vacqueyras in the Southern Rhone Valley. Confidentiel is ruby red in the glass with aromas of cherry, red raspberry, and saddle leather. On the palate there are flavors of ripe red fruits, tobacco leaf, and a closing whiff of mint. The tannins are soft and round.