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COMPASS MAGAZINE > September 2012

the wine connection

Kris Love Can you ever chill a red wine?

By Kris Love
Translated by Angel Pu

Can you ever chill a red wine?

Can you ever chill a red wine?

Can you ever chill a red wine?

The height of summer in Taiwan means hot, sticky weather and time for something chilled and refreshing. Does this mean giving up red wines? Can you chill red wines?

At risk of being that annoying guy who always answers yes and no, this answer definitely falls into that basket. Some red wines certainly make sense chilled while others do not. The first and perhaps most important thing to consider is tannin, the drying element in wine that comes from grape skins and stalks. If you've ever bitten a grape seed and felt your mouth instantly dry out, that's tannin. It's not pleasant. Tannin does perform a vital role in red wines and, to a much lesser degree, in a few whites, binding the flavours together (often referred to as "giving structure") as well as being an important natural preservative helping in the ageing process. Chilling tends to accentuate the tannins and promote a bitter flavour, so heavily tannic wines should not be chilled.

The next factor you'll have to consider after selecting a wine with light tannins is the fruit. Generally, you should be looking for something with a good level of acidity (the refreshing part), which also has a lot of fresh, clean fruit flavour (rather than oak, smoky, earthy flavours). Younger wines always have more of these characteristics, so you really want a young, fruity wine with light tannins.

The last factor is light chilling. Thirty minutes in an ice bucket is heavy chilling; 15-20 minutes in a fridge will be fine. That way you'll still get a full-flavoured wine.

Here are a few quick recommendations:
Bonarda is an Argentinian grape variety which may or may not be related to similar-sounding grapes from Italy. It's often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or, most commonly, Malbec. However, some producers are now starting to make interesting single varietal Bonardas. These blended wines should also suit light chilling.

Cabernet Franc or Gamay-based wines from France's Loire Valley are also usually quite good for lightly chilling. Look for Bourgeil, Chinon or Saumur. Some fruity, soft Zinfandels from California are also fine to chill. Most of the cheaper ones will fit this category but, if you're spending a little more, ask if the wine is a heavier tannic style or a soft fruity style.



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