Chillable Red Wines: How New Winemakers are Pushing the Boundaries

by Rhonda Turner

While white and rosé wines are often considered social wines, there are times when a glass of red is a better fit. Yet to the vast majority, red wines are bold and heavy to be served at room temperature. 

There is, however, a compromise where certain red wines take center stage. 

What Makes a Red Wine Chillable? 

Chillable reds are lighter, brighter, and more refreshing than a full-bodied, oaked red wine. They are typically best served slightly chilled, 55℉ to 60℉. These wines have little to no oak treatment, and most have lower alcohol by volume.

Chillable reds are versatile – pairing perfectly with charcuterie. But they can also be complex wines with nuanced profiles and a bit more tannin to complement grilled meats. In France, there are referred to as glou-glou or chuggable wines.

A Desire to Be Different

One of the forces driving chillable red’s popularity is the vin vivant or Natural Wine movement. Natural Wines are organically farmed without cellar tampering. These methods produce bright and fruity wine, such as the Pėt Nat or Orange Wine, with qualities that align with chillable reds.

Chillable Red Characteristics

Related: Food and Wine 101: Red Wines

New Winemakers are Pushing the Boundaries

By recognizing consumer-driven trends such as natural, organic, and low alcohol wines, a new generation of winemakers are creating singular drinkable vintages and allowing boutique and urban wineries to flourish.

These small craft vineyards rely less on the identity of the growing region and more on the ingredients and barrel-aging techniques to make wine. As a result, creative oenologists are crafting highly competitive wines. 

And by bending the boundaries of wine and rewriting the often stringent rules of food and wine pairings, this new winemaking generation supports the new narrative – drink whatever you want to drink!

Consumers, in a noticeable divergence from the full-bodied reds, seek out new styles and lesser-known grapes such as Beaujolais, which offers crisp acidity and a crunchy fruity flavor. These upbeat reds use grapes like Cabernet Franc and Côtes du Rhone-style in their blends. 

Doing Their Own Thing

Following the path of the old world garagistes — boutique Franch Bordeaux winemakers challenged traditional approaches — these innovative winemakers are forging a new direction in American winemaking. 

One new wine product, Bourbon barrel-aged wines, has recently hit the market. The wine is aged in the Bourbon barrels, then infused with different ingredients such as berries, vanilla, or herbs just before bottling.

Another trend is the use of grapes and grape blends, rarely seen in the United States, such as the Piedmontese-inspired wines. These blends use Northern Italian Grignolino and Freisa grapes to produce translucent red wines. These tend to have intense acidity, tannins, and aromas, including hibiscus, potpourri, and raspberry.

New York’s Trailblazers

The New Your Finger Lakes Region is home to family wineries and many of the country’s winemaking trailblazers. Young and vibrant, these innovators are ready to challenge conventional techniques, embracing the sheer joy of winemaking.

One, Top 40 under 40 Winemaker Nathan Kendall, has created an Old World style wine named Nathan K without filtering or fining. His second wine, The Chëpìka Project, uses hybrid Delaware and Catawba grapes, with a regional lineage back to the 1800s.

Another independent Finger Lake vineyard, Trestle Thirty-One, is the hard-won endeavor of the wife and husband team, Nova and Brian Cadamatre. Nova carries the title of Master of Wine — the first female winemaker in the United States to be awarded this prestigious certification. Trestle Thirty-One is credited with numerous 90+ rated wines.

Times are definitely changing. Gone are the required temperature charts or stringent wine paring rules of “red for meat and white for fish.” It might be the intentional rebellion of a generation to cast aside their parent’s wine choices or a genuine interest in new and unfamiliar flavors. Either way, chillable red wines are appreciated because they are affordable, drinkable, and immensely different.



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