You can chill with a red, Buzz

Posted: August 16, 2013

B UZZ: Hey Marnie. Last time I was at the state store, everyone was buying white wine. I felt kind of dumb with my bottle of red.

Marnie: Don't worry. The only thing you should be buying is what you feel like drinking. It's true that red wine sales do slow down at this time of year, though. Many people prefer their drinks chilled when it's warm out.

Buzz: I wouldn't mind a cold drink in summertime either, but white wines just don't do it for me. Can't I just put my red in the fridge?

Marnie: Sure you can, and if you like the way it tastes cold, knock yourself out. You may find that it loses flavor intensity, though, and seems a little more harsh in the mouth. That's why we don't serve red wines chilled - most people don't find the effect flattering.

Buzz: I thought it was the other way around, that we serve whites cold to make them palatable, because they're so bland.

Marnie: Nope. If you think about it, we serve almost all drinks cold because that makes them seem more refreshing - not just beer and cocktails, but water and juice, too.

All other wine styles are served chilled, too - whites and rosés, sparkling and dessert wines. Red wines served at room temperature are the exception, not the rule, because of their tannin.

Buzz: Since when do wines get a tan?

Marnie: Tannin, not tanning, Buzz. It's a chemical component of red wines. Red wines get their color from dark grape skins. In addition to flavor and color, grape peels contain compounds called tannins, and these antioxidants give red wine its distinctive, mouth-drying astringency.

Buzz: That sounds like a mouthwash.

Marnie: Not really - tannins can feel raspy in strong reds and those designed to age, but more often they feel plush and velvety in the mouth. The lower the tannin, the better a red wine will taste cold, too.

Lighter low-tannin reds like French beaujolais or New Zealand pinot noir are often tasty chilled. Or, Italian lambrusco - so nice on ice, remember?

Buzz: I got iced on that stuff plenty of times in college. But I'll chill that kiwi pinot and give it a try.

Marnie Old is Philadelphia's highest-profile sommelier. Her latest book, Wine Simplified, is a crash course for the wine curious for the iPad and iPhone. For more: Buzz's musings are interpreted by Daily News Assistant Managing Editor Gar Joseph.

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