By Elspeth Brown
The dog days of summer are typically the hottest and most humid days of the year. Turns out, “dog” refers to the Dog Star, Sirius, and its position in the heavens. For the Greeks and Romans, the dog days occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun in late July and early August. This is perfect weather to crack open a crisp beer or a cold bottle of sauvignon blanc. But what if you aren’t a beer drinker and you always gravitate to red wine over white wine? Well, you are in luck. The “hot” new trend in the ever-changing wine world is chilling your red wine, and now is the perfect time to experiment!
Some of the best red grape varietals to chill are gamay, typically found in the Beaujolais region of France; grenache from Spain; dolcetto from Italy; a juicy pinot noir from California; a light cabernet franc; or a brachetto from Italy. Always stick to a red wine that has been aged in stainless steel or concrete tanks. Put your red wine in the fridge for about an hour to achieve an average temperature somewhere between 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Do not chill a red that has been aged in oak because when the wine gets cold it will taste bone dry and tannic. Grapes such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and malbec are examples of red wines that will not chill well. They do not possess enough ripe fruit and will taste flat when chilled.
The gamay grape varietal is one of my favorite red wines to chill. Gamay is a light-bodied red wine similar to pinot noir. The wine has delicate floral aromas like violets and peonies along with bright cherry and raspberry fruit flavors. The ripe fruit and soft acidity make this red wine taste refreshing and delicious when it is chilled.
The brachetto grape is another red varietal that typically benefits from being chilled. Brachetto is primarily grown in the Piedmont region of Italy. It is a light-bodied red wine with lots of juicy, sweet, strawberry fruit flavors. The wine can be produced still or sparkling. I prefer to chill a sparkling brachetto because the cool temperature will allow the drinker to taste even more of the ripe fruit and help cut the sugar for just the right balance of fruit flavors and sweetness.
Chilled red wines can be delicious during the balmy summer days. They also pair perfectly with hearty salads and charcuterie boards. If you have any red wine that is about to go bad, do not let it go to waste; have fun using it to make red wine popsicles. August can provide some very sultry summer days, but rest assured, chilled red wine will help you cool off!
Elspeth Brown is the owner of Maggie B’s Wine & Specialty Store, 10 C South Main Street in Weaverville. For information, visit MaggieBsWine.com or call 828.645.1111.