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How Does Temperature Affect Wine?


Some people imagine the best wines in hot weather are exclusively whites and rosés. But I have never subscribed to this thinking. I still want to drink reds with plenty of the foods that might end up on a grill at any sort of summer gathering.

What changes seasonally for me is weight and temperature. That is, I generally prefer lighter-bodied wines to the sort of dense reds that would be great with the stews and braises of cooler weather. And I like reds that take well to a light chill.

This may seem like heresy to those weaned on the notion that red wines are to be served at room temperature. That’s good advice if the room in question is an old stone wine cellar where the temperature is a steady 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. But in a steamy kitchen in the muggy heat of July? No thank you.

This month we’ll examine chillable red wines. We will also take the opportunity to look at the effect of temperature on the wine itself. I’ve chosen three reds that I think will work perfectly. They are:

Broc Cellars North Coast Love Red 2021, 12.5 percent, (Louis/Dressner Selections, New York) $22

Jean-Paul Brun Domaine des Terres Dorées Morgon 2020, 12.5 percent, $25

COS Terre Siciliane Frappato 2021, 12.0 percent (Polaner Selections, Mount Kisco, N.Y.) $28

If you are not able to find these wines, many other options will do. The idea is that they should be of moderate alcohol levels, below roughly 13.5 percent, not oaky nor tannic, and not particularly complex. The flavor and feeling of oak and tannins are exaggerated when colder, and the chill will make nuances and complexities more difficult to discern.

You could look at the sort of thirst-quenching wines that we drank a few years ago — the Broc would fit that category — or other easygoing Beaujolais or Italian reds like the Brun and COS. Or something else entirely, like a young Rioja or Ribeira Sacra, a simple Loire red or a restrained red from Argentina or Chile. You know the sorts of bottles I’m talking about.

If, like me, you don’t have access to an outdoor grill, drink these with the sort of food you would cook on a grill regardless — burgers or sausages, marinated chicken thighs, maybe seared eggplant or other vegetarian options.

Here’s what I suggest: Put the bottles in the refrigerator and let them get cold. Take them out about 20 minutes before you are ready to eat and give them a try right out of the fridge. Taste again when you begin your meal and note how they change over time. Leave a bit in the bottle so that you can try it a last time at room temperature.

As for my customary closing reminder of not drinking the wine too warm, I think we’ve already covered that.

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