Inspiration / Lifestyle & Opinion

Cool Reds: our guide to the best red wines for chilling this summer


Joanna Goodman Joanna Goodman / 13 July 2019

News & Content Editor Joanna Goodman picks a handful of red wines to chill down when the temperature's up, from juicy Beaujolais and fragrant pinot noir, to zweigelt and xinomavro from under-the-radar regions.

The first time I came across the concept of chilling red wines was in one of the early American-style diners in my home town. My mum had got chatting to two French lads in the queue in the Post Office. They were from Clermont-Ferrand on a work placement at the local steelworks and she felt sorry for them, so invited them out to dinner – not with her, you understand, but with my school friend and me. She thought it would be a good opportunity for us to practise our French!

Anyway, the fact that I can remember them asking the waitress to bring an ice bucket with the very ordinary bottle of red we ordered obviously made an impact on me. The waitress was completely baffled but obliged. Hey, they were Frenchmen, they must know about wine, right? Either that or they were slightly mad.

Quite the sophisticates (we thought), my friend and I knew that ice buckets were for white wines and bubbly, but the Frenchmen pointed out to us that the waitress had reached up to grab a bottle of red from a shelf above the coffee maker and that it would be far too warm to be enjoyable. They were right, of course; as Frenchmen often are when it comes to all things food and wine.

Red Wines for Summer

Why chill red wine?

Even full-bodied reds might benefit from a short spell in the fridge on the hottest days, so that when you come to enjoy them they are not getting all warm and soupy but stay at the desired temperature for longer.

In general, the more tannic and structured the wine, the warmer it should be served (around 16-19°C). Chilling too much just emphasises the astringency of the tannins. However some reds, those that are fruity, perfumed and lighter in body, positively lend themselves to being served on the cooler side. Serve these at no more than 16°C by chilling them down for 20-30 minutes or more in the fridge and you will find that it brings them to life and lets their character shine.

Red wine styles perfect for chilling


Lighter-bodied and made from the thin-skinned gamay grape, wines like Beaujolais are archetypal cellar-cool reds. Alison Steadman's character Beverly in Abigail's Party knew this – was that a double-bluff of a gag on the part of writer Mike Leigh?

But snobbery and social mores aside, why does it work? This is a wine that is all about primary fruit aromas and flavours, at least at the gluggable Beaujolais-Villages level. The wines usually undergo a special fermentation technique – carbonic maceration – to emphasise the fruity nature and keep tannins soft. The grapes are left whole and undergo fermentation within their cells. The not-so-often-seen (thankfully, some might say!) Beaujolais Nouveau epitomises this style. Another feature of the gamay grape is that it is quite high in acidity – more like a white wine in structure, another clue as to why it is ripe to chill.

Browse our Beaujolais range

Pinot Noir

The thin-skinned pinot noir makes some of the most delicate and ethereal reds known to wine lovers. It's a hard grape to get just right but when winemakers succeed, it can be truly sublime. Just like Beaujolais, it is not all about tannic structure and weight, and not averse to a brief encounter with the chiller. Simple fruity expressions of the grape can happily be chilled right down to enjoy with picnics and al fresco lunches. Even the most exquisite styles from Burgundy's hallowed slopes would benefit from being served cool – around 16°C when the bottle feels cool to the touch – to show off their haunting bouquets which will start to nudge their way out of the glass and become increasingly focused.

Browse our range of wines from pinot noir

Red Wines for Summer

One to try - Saint-Pourçain La Réserve Spéciale 2017

If you want to put the theory into practice, you could do a whole lot worse than add a bottle of this light cherry-scented gamay-pinot noir blend to your next order. It comes from the upper reaches of the Loire on the high ground that lies so far east that it is actually part of the département of the Auvergne, yet has more in common with near neighbours Burgundy. One of France's most northerly wine regions and with a distinctly continental climate, the fruit here has that lovely purity and tingle of crushed raspberries on the tongue.


Austria's principal red grape is a perfect red for chilling. It has a lovely cherry spiciness to the fruit but also some tannins and a deeper colour than gamay and pinot. The juicy-fruit character and soft tannins give it a bit more oomph than you'd expect and remarkable versatility when it comes to food pairing. I have even enjoyed it with fairly hot chilli con carne and it would be a great red to have on-hand for breaking out when you dust off the barbecue.

A new lower-alcohol zweigelt

This summer we have a new arrival on our List - Punkt Genau Light Zweigelt Weinviertel 2018 – at just 9.5% alc, it's considerably lighter than most reds but still has lots of ripe and juicy dark-cherry fruit and really is rather refreshing! How do they manage to make a ripe-tasting wine at just 9% alcohol, I wondered? The answer is that low-yielding organically grown grapes ripen early so can be picked when they have reached physiological maturity but, importantly, before sugars have risen too much.

But there's also the intervention of 'wine spirits'! The three siblings who work in harmony at this family-run estate, Maria, Ewald and Christian Gruber, assisted by more wine spirits – the tiny 'Spiritus vinosi Gruberialis biologicis' – microscopic helpers present in the vineyards, cellar and on the tongue.

Visible only under the microscope, they do really exist, and you can taste them in the wine! If you don't believe us – the Grubers managed to capture them on film!

Xinomavro magic!

It may come as a bit of a surprise to see this Greek red listed here. Who would have thought that this hot wine-producing region is capable of making bright and elegantly perfumed wines? Perhaps it comes as less of a surprise when you hear that the xinomavro grape is often described as being a bit like a cross between pinot noir and nebbiolo. It certainly has something of that red-fruit tang and is perfect for serving cool alongside even quite spicy dishes. While some wines seem to shrink back into themselves in the face of a pokey chilli-spiked stir-fry, I can say from experience, this one positively raises its game and comes back at you with fruit-aplenty, particularly when made by master of the grape Apostolos Thymiopoulos. You won't be disappointed by any of his wines, but to get a feel for the style, start out on the Xinomavro Jeunes Vignes and work your way up.

I am sure you have your own favourite reds to chill with. Let us know over on our Community – we're always keen to hear your suggestions too!

Want more inspiration?

Sign up for a carefully-curated selection of recipes, guides, in-depth expertise and much more.

Our website uses cookies with the aim of providing you with a better service. By using this website you consent to The Wine Society using cookies in accordance with our policy.


4.4. Cookie Policy

By using The Wine Society website, you agree to cookies being used in accordance with the policy outlined below. If you do not agree to this, you must alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you or cease using the website.

The Wine Society uses cookies to enable easy navigation and shopping on the website. We take the privacy of all who use our website very seriously and ensure that our use of cookies complies with current EU legislation. The following guide outlines what cookies are, the types of cookies used on The Society's website and how they work.

You may alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you, but this will cause difficulties when accessing and using some areas of the site. Instructions on how to do this can also be found below.

4.4.1. What are 'Cookies'?

  • Most major websites use cookies.
  • A cookie is a very small data file placed on your hard drive by a web page server. It is essentially your access card, and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely yours and can only be read by the server that gave it to you.
  • Cookies cannot be used by themselves to identify you.
  • The purpose of a basic cookie is to tell the server that you returned to that web page or have items in your basket. Without cookies, websites and their servers have no memory. A cookie, like a key, enables swift passage from one place to the next.
  • Without a cookie every time you open a new web page the server where that page is stored will treat you like a completely new visitor.
  • More recently, cookies have also been used to collect information about the user which allows a profile of their preferences and interests to be created so that they can be served with interest-based rather than generic information about available goods and services.

4.4.2. How do Cookies help The Wine Society?

Cookies allow our website to function effectively. Cookies also help us to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. We can learn what information is important to our visitors, and what isn't.

4.4.3. How does The Wine Society use cookies?

The Wine Society does not accept advertising from third parties and therefore, as a rule, does not serve third-party cookies. Exceptions to this include performance/analytical cookies (see below), used anonymously to improve the way our website works, the provision of personalised recommendations, and occasions when we may team up with suppliers to offer special discounts on goods or services.

The Society uses technology to track the patterns of behaviour of visitors to our site.

4.4.4. What type of cookies does The Wine Society use?

We use the following three types of cookies: Strictly Necessary Cookies
These cookies are required for the operation of our website, enabling you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services like shopping baskets or e-billing cannot be provided. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Authentication Cookie and Anonymous Cookie
    These cookies remember that you are logged in to your account – without them, the website would repeatedly request your login details with each new page you visit during your time on our website. They are removed once your session has ended.
  • Session Cookie
    These cookies are used to remember who you are as you use our site: without them, the website would be unable to tell the difference between you and another Wine Society member and facilities such as your basket and the checkout process would therefore not be able to function. They too are removed once your session has ended. Functionality & Targeting/Tracking Cookies
These cookies are used to recognise you when you return to our website and to provide enhanced features. This allows us to personalise our content for you. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Unique User Cookie
    This cookie is used to:
    • store your share number in order to identify that you have visited the website before. Without this cookie, we would be unable to tell whether you are a member or not.
    • record your visit to the website, the pages you have visited and the links you have followed. We use this information to make our website, the content displayed on it and direct marketing communications we may send to you or contact you about more relevant to your interests.
    • This cookie expires after 13 months.
  • Peerius Cookies
    These third-party cookies are used to provide you with personalised recommendations based on your purchase and browsing history. They expire within 4 hours of your visit. Performance/analytical cookies
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information which identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Google Analytics Cookies
    These are third-party cookies to enable Google Analytics to monitor website traffic. All information is recorded anonymously. Using Google Analytics allows The Society to better understand how members use our site and monitor website traffic. Authentication Cookie
In order for us to ensure that your data remains secure it is necessary for us to verify that your session is authentic (i.e. it has not been compromised by a malicious user). We do this by storing an otherwise meaningless unique ID in a cookie for the duration of your visit. No personal information can be gained from this cookie.

4.4.5. How do you turn cookies off?

All modern browsers allow you to modify your cookie settings so that all cookies, or those types which are not acceptable to you, are blocked. However, please note that this may affect the successful functioning of the site, particularly if you block all cookies, including essential cookies. For example, In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools Menu, then go to Internet Options, then go to Privacy. Here you can change the rules your browser uses to accept cookies. You can find out more in the public sources mentioned below.

4.4.6. Learn more about cookies

4.4.7. Changes to our cookie policy

Any changes we may make to our cookie policy in the future will be posted on the website and, where appropriate, notified to you by email. Please check back frequently to see any updates and changes to our cookie policy.


Have a question?Live Chat

Live Chat