10 Chillable Red Wines

three glasses of light red wine, the first wine pouring into the glass with sunlight glinting through

Chill out, red wine lovers

By Erin Henderson

I tend to resist the conventional dictum of summer whites and winter reds.

It could be my rebellious Aquarian nature, but when proclamations from on high command what I should drink and when, I stubbornly refuse. I am a unique snowflake and cannot be pinned down!

So, while I pout in the corner, sticking it to the man, it’s good to know that when I emerge, there are many reds perfectly comfortable to drink in a Southern Ontario heatwave (or a heatwave anywhere in the world.)

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It is true that when the heat is on and the humidity thick, it’s less appealing to sip on a heavy and robust red. Just like cracking an ice-cold beer after a sweaty morning on the links, or cooling off with a rejuvenating G+T after an afternoon of gardening, thirst-quenching reds are the name of the game for summer sipping.

And there are many from which to choose.

Qualities of Chillable Reds

Red wines that are lighter in body, lower in tannin, and higher in acidity is what you want in a wine destined for the chiller.

This is because reds that have hearty tannin don’t take well to cold. The grippy, astringent tannin is exacerbated by the chill, making for an unpleasantly bitter drink.

Juicy reds with a bit of verve do well with a quick dip in the ice bucket.

Ice Bucket, Yes. Ice Cold, No. 

To get room-temperature reds to a comfortable chill only requires 10 minutes in the ice bucket, or maybe 20 in the fridge.

You want to bring the wines down to a coolish temperature around 10°C or so. And colder, and you will strip the flavour from your wine leaving behind the astringent, bitter, and sour notes of the tannins and acids.

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Food Friendly

The great thing about these bright, juicy, and lean reds is they are infinitely food friendly.

The lip-smacking acid, soft tannin, and fruity flavours can be mixed and matched with so many foods, it’s incalculable.

But let’s try.

See? There’s really no end to the options.

two red wine glasses cheersing in a vineyard, sun setting behind them

Wines to Try


Once a rare bird in the wild, Frappato has no become a bit of an It Girl among wine lovers. Hailing from Sicily, this light bodied, low-tannin wine has loads of up front, tart cherry fruit. It’s most commonly made in stainless steel or concrete vessels which preserve that bright, fresh fruit. Loads of producers are turning their attentions again to Frappato, so wine lovers have loads of choice. Look for great bottles from Donnafugata, Tornatore, and Planeta.

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Barbera d’Asti

The Barbera grape is grown in the Piedmontese region of Asti in Italy’s hilly north. Typically, these approachable wines are inexpensive easily found for under $20. A deeper red which belies the easy-going character of the wine which has flavours of raspberry, wild strawberry, and light minerality. Great producers to watch for: Michele Chiarlo, Ascheri, Vietti.


Also known as Blaufränkish, Lemberger is Austria’s top performing red grape. Dry and medium bodied with earthy flavours mixing with pomegranate and pepper spice. Lemberger can be a bit more brooding than others on this list, with medium tannins, but does have that smacking acidity for freshness and vibrancy. Outside of Austria, you can find Lemberger produced in New York’s Finger Lakes, and Between The Lines in Ontario has a cult following for their Lemberger.


What can’t Gamay do? This little-red-that-could, is my pick for the wine cellar’s MVP. It’s modern origin story starts in Beaujolais, where it’s still the main red grape of the region, producing juicy and simple Nouveau right through to complex and considered Cru-level wines. Gamay has also found a happy home here in Ontario. Look for bramble berry flavours, Swedish berry gummies, and a little cracked black pepper.  Top producers include Georges Duboeuf, Bouchard Aine et Fils, Malivoire, 13th Street.

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Nerello Mascalese

Another red wine from Sicily, Nerello Mascalese balances fruit with savoury spice for wines of interest and complexity. As the bulk is grown on Mount Etna, you will mostly see the label reading “Mount Etna” as opposed to the grape. They’re quite fresh with that telltale vibrant acidity and notes of sour cherry, dried herbs, rocky mineral and light floral. Leading producers include Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Tornatore, Donnafugata, Planeta


Look for bottles simply labelled Valpolicella or Valpolicella Classico for the freshest, most youthful expressions. Ripasso and even Superiore become more weighty and rich. At its most basic, Val is light and fragrant with vibrant acidity, that most people can’t resist comparing to Beaujolais. Valpolicella is a region in the Veneto, hilly, lush and green sitting on the edge of the Dolomite mountains. Popular producers: Cesari, Zonin, Tedeschi, Tommasi


A completely under the radar wine from the Alto Adige that’s just starting to wake up the wine world. Most often compared to Pinot Noir, this light, translucent red is complex and intriguing with stony minerality, red berries, and spice. It also has a few pseudonyms – Trollinger and Versnatch are the other names its called. It’s still a tough find in most places, so maybe this is one to bookmark for future, as it’s coming in hot – especially amongst sommeliers looking to stock their wines lists with quality light reds now that Burgundy has nearly priced itself out of the market. Alois Lageder, Nils Magreid, Girlan are all top producers.

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The lesser-known red grape of Argentina, Bonarda could be compared to Malbec, but juicier and less tannic. Flavours range from floral, to Chinese Five Spice, black cherry, and plum fruit. Look for terrific bottles from La Posta, El Enemigo, Alamos.

Cabernet Franc from Loire – such as Bourguiel or Chinon

This one is a smidge tricky as Cab Franc (one of my faves), can be quite rich and robust. This is why I’m zeroing in on the Loire, where the grape tends to be much leaner and lighter grown in the sandy and gravelly soils of the cool climate Loire. Look for good bottles from Y. Amirault, Domaine Breton, JM Raffault.


What a glow-up Lambrusco has had! Once the poster child for sweet, bulk, uninspiring red fizz, Lambrusco is now a picture of elegance and poise. It’s made in the Emilia-Romagna, across a few regions, and can range from fruity and fresh to spicy and earthy. Producers to watch: Lini 910, Cleto Chiarli, Terrevive.

Your next read: How to Chill Wines in a Flash


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