It’s hot. It’s stupid hot. It’s asphalt melting under your feet, sweat through your clothes, exploding into flame hot and I’m thirsty and I want a glass of red wine but come on—if I pour one out on my patio it’s just gonna boil. I wish I could serve it cold, but I’m no idiot. You can’t serve red wine cold, you maniac. It’s sacriledge!
Except no it’s not.
You can serve red wine any way you want to. I mean, it’s yours. But sure, a lot of people are a little wary of wandering off the well-worn wine way which demands we drink our vermillion vino at room temp. Which is, in the best of circumstances, ideal. But chilling it in the fridge to enjoy on your deck as you and your guests burst into flame is perfectly acceptable. I know because Jared Gelban, sommelier straordinario at The Italian Village forced me into a booth and made me drink cold red wine.
It was delicious.
Is it weird? No. I mean yes. I mean, kind of. I mean, not at all. Gelbrand chilled our five bottles to 57 degrees. It doesn’t change the flavor of the wine, but it changes how you experience that flavor. Compounds and essences that normally bloom bright at room-temp are pulled into the bottom of the glass. Tannins and acids are tamed, almost timid. The fruit and the spices and the herbs leap to the top of the taste profile. You’re tasting the wine backward.
The Italian Village keeps their wine cellar upstairs
I trust Gelbrand on this for a couple of reasons. First, the dude’s a walking viticultural spreadsheet. Secondly, he manages 30,000 bottles of wine, most of them Italian, and knows each one like it’s his own child. His office is a tiny desk in the corner of the Italian Village’s wine cellar, which is up a terrifying, narrow, two-floor flight of stairs. He plans pairings and menus surrounded by carefully curated and lovingly stored towers of bottles. But you probably won’t find him there. You’ll probably find him at your table, recommending a wine that complements your dinner perfectly.
Unless you’re a guest at one of Gelbrand’s irregular and legendary wine dinners. Like his Super Tuscan tasting that featured verticals of this unusual red from 1998, 2001, ‘04, ’05, ’06, 15, and 2016. It was a dinner for 75 people with seven glasses each. The work that goes into planning a party like that is intense–as is the work that happens behind the scenes during the dinner when the staff is managing more than 1,000 glasses.
If you’re looking to chill out while the August air ignites itself, you can try these five bottles of Italian reds. Or you can just head over to the Italian Village and let Gelbrand pour you a glass.
Cerasuolo Di Vittorio
This is the only Italian DOCG from Sicily. It’s got a moderate ABV at 12.5% and the use of Frappato, a fruit-forward low tannin and low acidity grape races to the front of the flavor when chilled. And the flavor is stupire le palle: Despite pushing the tannins and the acidity down, the classic flavors of Nero D’Avalo (leather, pepper, animale) are still there and still wonderful.
Primativo Botromagno, 2016
Primativo is known for producing wine with such a high ABV it’s often dialed back just to get it to 14%. The tannins are pucker inducing and almost bitter. But not in this version. Especially not when they’re chilled.
“These are softer, sweeter tannins,” Gelbrand explains. “So even when you chill it, it doesn’t get too bitter.”
Monte Esole’s Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso
Made from vines growing on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius (yes, that Mt. Vesuvius). The legend behind this wine is that when Christ saw the coast of Italy (which apparently Lucifer brought with him when he fell), he wept. These ancient vines grew up from those tears. Also, when the grapes bleed, the drop looks a little like a tear. There’s no doubt about the minerality in this light red wine, which you would expect since it’s grown on a volcano.
Quercioli Reggiano Lambrusco
This is a semi-sparkling wine with Absolutely delicious chilled. A beautiful wine in the glass, ruby-colored with pink bubbles. You can serve this one even colder, all the way down to 45 degrees. It has a very low ABV at 8.5 so you’re not gonna get hammered which is good since it’s ridiculously refreshingly delicious and you’re going to drink all of it.
Dolcetto d’Alba, Piani Noce
According to Jared: “Think Beaujolais. Bright. Fresh. More cherries. It’s aged in stainless steel, so no wood notes.” Traces of black pepper, herbs, and eucalyptus under the bright red flavor. The producer is known for being crazy, obsessive, and innovative. This wine exhibits his crazier side. It’s cheap and delicious and so, so good chilled.