As daytime temperatures reach the 90s, it is sometimes difficult to think of red wine as refreshing or, for that matter, even pleasurable.
All types of alcoholic drinks have been known to cause warming sensations in men and women of all ages. Alcohol consumption increases blood flow to the skin causing it to look flush and sometimes perspire excessively — not a pleasant experience when aided and abetted by the current heat and humidity.
Red wine often brings on this feeling of excessive warmth more so than white wine. Human hot flashes are attributed by some to the presence of tyramine, a compound found in red wine. This compound is also suspected of triggering migraine headaches.
Other suspected culprits of red wine heat flash phenomena include the generally higher alcohol levels found in red wines, higher tannin levels imparted from skins of red wine grapes and the amount of time a wine spends in oak barrels. Another contributing factor may have to do with the temperature wine is served.
Old texts addressing the temperatures at which to serve wine invariably suggest serving red wine at room temperature. Room temperature should be redacted from these texts. This was good advice when those who drank wine lived in cold, stately homes where interior temperatures, even with lighted fires, rarely warmed beyond 65 degrees. More current texts suggest serving red wine in the 55 to 65 degree range, depending on the varietal.
If red wine is stored in an unrefrigerated cabinet or closet in a home where the air conditioning is set between 73-79 — as recommended by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning — the wine will seem hot and alcohol laden.
To cool wines to recommended temperatures, they should be refrigerated at least an hour before serving then opened and allowed to breathe before pouring. If time is an issue, placing the wine in an ice water bath for 15 minutes should bring the temperature down to a desirable range.
Some red wines take to chilling better than others. Pinot noir, Rioja, Chianti and Beaujolais tend to be lighter in alcohol and tannins and spend less time in oak, making than less likely culprits of red wine warmth. These wines are usually inexpensive, from less-prestigious growing regions and should be chilled between 55 to 65 degrees.
Red wines need not be abandoned in the summer — even a prized California cabernet or French Bordeaux just needs a bit of a chill. Chill out on some of these cool reds over the course of the summer and save those big reds for fall and winter.
Candoni Pinot Noir Delle Venezie. $10 range at both Tyson’s Fine Wines and Things in Golden Springs and Publix in Oxford. Pinot Noir needs coolness — grapes for this wine are grown on terraces in the foothills of the Veneto Alps. Though light with the taste of red berry fruits, it does not taste diluted. There is body here but it’s balanced with fruit, making it a versatile wine for an array of foods.
Candoni Organic Merlot. $10 at Tyson’s. From 100 percent certified organically grown grapes. A lighter merlot than most American counterparts. Not overly complicated, dark berry flavors and balanced finish.
Louis Jadot 2011 Beaujolais. $10.99 at Publix. Made from 100 percent gamay, a grape varietal not known for producing intense structured wines. Light, fruity, easy-quaffing wine made for immediate consumption.
Vina Borgia 2011. $8 at both the Wine Cellar on Quintard in Anniston and at Tyson’s. From 100 percent garnacha, known as grenache in most grape-growing regions. Popular, reasonably priced Spanish wine. Straightforward bright berry fruit flavors. Aged and fermented in stainless, resulting in a fruit-focused wine.Email Pat Kettles at firstname.lastname@example.org