Cool It: Chillable Red Wines


By Mark Stock

By now, many have learned about reds wines worthy of a chill. More than a trend, it’s a way to present a wine’s fresh flavors and juiciness, especially those grown in the Northwest’s cooler-climate regions. Sommeliers and wine professionals recommend throwing a bottle or two of red wine in the fridge before serving. Perhaps it’s time you try chilling wine too?

Consider these tips before filling your cooler with ice and Cabernet Sauvignon. First, the general idea is a slight chill on red wines. Nothing like a sparkling wine, that shines at ice-cold levels; instead, aim for wine fridge temperatures, in the range of 50-60-degrees Fahrenheit.

Generally, lighter and brighter remains best when it comes to chilled reds. Wines with higher acidity and lower alcohol naturally taste better on the cool side. Remember, heavy wines with abundant tannin and heat taste awkward— even chalky— when chilled.

Arguably, our collective palate is shifting toward lighter and brighter wines, making today a good time to try a red on the cooler side. There’s a desire to show off a grape’s fruity characteristics, rather than blending them away or masking with a complex barrel regimen. Introduce the natural wine trend embracing limited inputs and purity of fruit and you’ll discover a plethora of reds best enjoyed this extra-summery way.

Fear not, if you don’t enjoy the chill, let your pour return to room temperature. To cool the wine, don’t dilute it as your grandparents might and add ice. Again, drink it straight from your wine refrigerator or place a bottle in your kitchen fridge for about 20 minutes. A few degrees can make a major difference in approachability. If over-chilled, you run the risk of muting the wine entirely.

Gather some friends, assemble a tasting menu and give some reds the fridge treatment, even if only briefly. With some trial and error, you’re certain to find some great choices during the dog days of summer. By no means a complete list, start with these five chillable varietals. They will make your favorite reds a bit more refreshing.

Pinot Noir

As a medium-bodied red prone to plenty of brightness, Pinot Noir is perfectly designed for a brief chill. Look for cooler vintages with lower alcohol content, or wines made with little to no wood. Choose wines fermented in stainless steel, concrete or clay amphora, as they generally display more fruit and retain a certain crispness.

Gamay Noir

This iconic French grape produces juicy, red-fruit flavors. All those lively cranberry, pomegranate and cherry notes taste better slightly chilled, especially on a warm evening. Seek classic Beaujolais—one of the youngest wines on the planet—at your local bottle shop, but also consider an increasing number of Oregon Gamay Noir offerings.

Cabernet Franc

So often a major blending component, Cab Franc is great on its own. The floral notes, combined with berry flavors and hints of spice, bloom at slightly lower temperatures. Search for those grown in the Loire Valley, as well as some wonderful examples from our state.


From northern Italy, this grape translates to “little sweet one.” The varietal makes a wise pick served ever-so-chilled, alongside a plate of pasta or margherita pizza. In the land of red wine, this one is about as easy-drinking as they come. Look for some quality options, especially from the Southern Oregon AVAs.


This wildly popular red grape, likely born in Spain, produces wines with raspberry and stone fruit notes. You’ll find several from Europe, but also a number of locally-made with fruit grown in warmer parts of our region.

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