Chilling wines on hot days

Posted: June 20, 2014

Buzz: Hey Marnie. Yesterday was the hottest day so far this year, which made me wonder: Why do people ice down their white wines, but not reds? Is it the only way to make them taste good?

Marnie: No, Buzz, not at all. Other wine styles are routinely served cold too - sparkling wines and roses, dessert wines and even most fortified wines. The question should really be why we don't chill red wines - they are the exception to the rule.

Think about it: Almost all drinks are served cold because it makes them seem more refreshing. We keep juice, soda, water and beer in the fridge. Others like coffee and tea are served piping hot or on ice. Red wines are the odd man out that we serve at room temperature.

Buzz: Weird. I never thought of it that way.

Marnie: The same compounds that give reds their color also give them an astringent edge that seems harsher at low temperatures. Known as tannins, they are antioxidants that come from the grape skins. They are very good for your cardiovascular system and act as natural preservatives in red wines, but they do throw a wrinkle into serving temperatures. On a hot day, you're better off sticking to cold white wines.

Buzz: Yuck - I much prefer reds. I want a wine with flavor. My sister loves her pinot grigio, but it's way too bland for me.

Marnie: Not all white wines are so subtle in flavor, Buzz. Maybe you just need to try something a little bolder. Red wine drinkers often appreciate the oomph of chardonnays, which have two red-like features: heavier texture and the toasty flavor of oak. But when it gets sticky out, I'd recommend something more brisk in an unoaked white, like a sauvignon blanc or a Rueda.

Buzz: What the heck is a roo-ay-dah?

Marnie: A white wine from Spain, from the town of Rueda, usually made with the verdejo grape. They have a wonderfully citrusy herbal flavor that reminds me of lemongrass, and they are incredibly priced. Think of them as the lemonade of wines.

Buzz: I love lemonade on a hot day, but that Rueda might chill me out even more. Thanks!

Marnie Old is a local sommelier and wine author known for practical advice with real-world relevance. Her newest book, Wine: A Tasting Course, is an illustrated crash course for the wine-curious. Marnie also advises clients in the beverage and restaurant trades. Check her out at or follow her on Twitter at @MarnieOld. Buzz's musings are interpreted by Daily News Assistant Managing Editor Gar Joseph.

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