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Fact Sheet: Cool Summer Reds

Everyone knows that you chill white wine. But red? The idea seems anathema. Yet some red wines are ideal candidates for the refrigerator, and refreshing complements to all kinds of summer food.

The Right Temperature All wines taste best when served reasonably cool (not ice cold). The ideal for a fine red wine is 60 to 65 degrees. A few red wines, however, are best at an even cooler temperature—around 50 degrees; they're the ones to seek when hot weather hits.

The Right Reds The best red wines for chilling are usually relatively straightforward, with a concentrated fruitiness and low levels of oak, tannin and alcohol. Beaujolais is pretty much the ultimate example of this style, although there are plenty of others, such as young Riojas (labeled crianza) and the lighter Zinfandels and Pinot Noirs. Wines that are made from the juicy Bonarda grape (an Argentinean grape originally from Italy) are other prime contenders for the refrigerator.

10 Top Bottles

2001 Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône ($12) Most famous for super-luxury-priced Côte-Rôties, Guigal also produces a spicy, harmonious red at the other end of the price spectrum. Its core of rich fruit is delicious at cool temperatures.

2002 Georges Duboeuf Brouilly Domaine de Combillaty ($13) The delicate floral notes of this Beaujolais belie its solid core of juicy red fruit.

2001 Jacky Janodet Moulin à Vent Domaine les Fines Graves ($20) Although it may seem unorthodox to chill a "serious" Beaujolais like this Moulin-à-Vent, the wine's tasty strawberry and violet notes and its mild cut of acidity are actually enhanced by chilling.

2001 El Coto Rioja Crianza ($12) Spain's best-selling restaurant wine spends a year in American oak, which gives it a well-knit elegance. After an hour's chilling, this all-Tempranillo red will be fresh and juicy.

2002 Tommaso Bussola BG Valpolicella ($13) This graceful, medium-bodied Italian red seems to gain weight and substance when it's chilled slightly.

2001 Altano ($6) From northern Portugal's port-producing Douro region, this dry, medium-weight red (made by the Dow's/Graham's port house from Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca grapes) has good fruit flavors and a spiciness that comes through even when the bottle is slightly chilled.

2003 Lurton Bonarda ($6) The Argentine operation of Bordeaux's Lurton family, run by Jacques and François Lurton, grows Bonarda high in the Andes. This red is deep-colored, firm and aromatic.

2002 Bogle Old-Vine Zinfandel ($11) High alcohol and lots of oak make many Zins unsuitable for chilling, but this soft, fruity example made from a blend of grapes grown in old-vine vineyards around California's Lodi and Amador counties is an exception.

2001 Beaulieu Vineyard Coastal Pinot Noir ($11) This California Pinot Noir has an uncomplicated charm and a lusciousness that make it both food-friendly and temperature-flexible. It's like an Old World Beaujolais that's got a touch of New World ripeness.

2002 Château de Coulaine Bonnaventure Chinon ($19) At its best chilled, this Chinon is a perfumed, straightforward Cabernet Franc from a 700-year-old Loire Valley property that's been organically farmed by Etienne Bonnaventure since 1988.

Published June 2004
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