Chill out, grill out


July is nearly upon us, and along comes the warmest months of the year. Summer wines, picnics and backyard gatherings are all appropriate as the temperatures soar.

But instead of thinking about just the right white wines for summer, let’s think radically. Let’s put our red wines in the fridge for a short bit.

Some people really like their beer, and even wine drinkers have been known to switch over to suds during the July-August heatwaves. But there is something of a new wave in the wine world, and it’s a suggestion wine drinkers chill their red wines a bit more than normal during warmer weather.

Many people simply prefer red wines. Who doesn’t enjoy a big Cabernet with a nicely charred piece of beef? Zinfandel and Syrah remain underappreciated red choices for the summer. Syrah is getting to the point it can be hard to find on Midwest wine shop shelves.

But if you’re eating lighter — maybe grilled salmon and salad — and want a red in the heat of the early evening, perhaps you should try something familiar yet different.

Perhaps you have read, even in this column, Americans tend to drink their white wines too cold and reds too warm. The standard suggestion is give your red wines about 10 minutes in the fridge to cool them off a bit before serving. That’s particularly important for lighter red wines.

But what if you cooled them more than the standard 10 or even 15 minutes? What if you chill your lighter red wine for 30 minutes? Blasphemy? Outrageous? Can’t you just hear the wine purists screaming?

Wine is best enjoyed when you forget about the rules. I’ve written many times the most important thing about drinking wine is to consume what you like — and the way you like it. Some people drop an ice cube or two in their wine.

Let’s go back to that salmon and salad. Pinot Noir pairs perfectly with grilled salmon. Take a lighter bodied Pinot and give it 30 minutes in the fridge. You’ll need to experiment to find out if 30 minutes is just right or whether you need a bit more time or less. I’d urge caution on leaving it more than 30 minutes, but it’s your bottle of wine.

You can chill any bottle you wish for summer consumption, but if you are looking for some guidelines, stick to the lighter-bodied wines or wines from cool-climate areas.

For example, a chilled Oregon Pinot Noir is probably going to work better for your dinner than a heavily extracted California Pinot. Beaujolais seems like a good choice for chilling. Recent articles have suggested even a chianti can be chilled for enjoyment. Spain’s lighter tempranillo wines might work for your palate.

Lighter body and a bit more acidity are keys to wines that might withstand a 30-minute visit to the fridge. Forget the rules of wine and drink what you like at whatever temperature increases your enjoyment.

Howard W. Hewitt of Crawfordsville writes every other week for more than 20 Indiana print and online publications. He can be reached at [email protected].

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