Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


The chillable red wine trend and What I'm Drinking this Friday

Staying in the moment...

It's easy to get sucked into fads and many winemakers are diving head first into the latest one. It's called chillable reds.

This week another wave of light bodied wines with their deep pink or pale ruby colour (depending on your point of view) arrived for tasting. They prove that the chillable red wine trend is gaining momentum. Add to that a completely emptied out shelf labelled Chillable Reds in Wellington city's biggest wine retail store (Regional Wines & Spirits) and it's safe to say that wine drinkers are embracing this trend with gusto. It's a hot summer thanks to El NiƱo so it's an apt time to find wines made from red grapes that can be served lightly chilled but still have enough depth of colour and flavour to sate the desire to drink a red wine. Are these wines any good? Why now? And is this trend going to hang around? It's easier to answer some of those questions than others, but it's fair to say that there are the very good, the average and the interlopers, as with all trends. This means that many wine professionals are questioning the chillable red trend. A friend who works with wine at a high level even said he has been chilling many of his favourite full bodied reds and gauging their temperature to see what works best. This might make an interesting party trick but most of us just want to pour something that tastes good (or great) and suits being served chilled on a hot day, which leads me to another point my friend above made. "Good red Burgundy has so far risen to the top of the reds I have chilled."  

This makes sense because most of us drink red wine far too warm in summer anyway. If nothing else, the chillable red wine trend calls into question the serving temperature of all red wines we drink, especially in summer. 

When did the chillable red wine begin? 

Beaujolais Nouveau is the obvious place to start but given the low quality of so many wines in that category in the past, it is probably not the wine that inspired today's trend. For this current trend, I look to wines such as Lezer, the Italian word for 'easy'. A great description of the wine made by Elisabetta Foradori, queen of biodynamic winemaking in Trentino (home to the Dolomites) region in north east Italy. As her New Zealand importer says, the first vintage of Lezer was 2017 which was a weather event compromised year that led to the creation of a crisp and crunchy light bodied, light coloured red wine. It was an innovative use of red grapes usually destined for full bodied biodynamic wines that simply could not be produced that year. The result was that wine lovers adored this very different take on red wine and, hey presto, a trend began to take place. 

Wairarapa winemaker Jannine Rickards loved Lezer enough to be inspired to make her first chillable red wine in 2021, using Pinot Noir grapes. She launched her second edition last year from the extremely weather compromised 2023 vintage. It's called Kuratea and, aside from the fact that I tend to like Rickards' wines, this is my current top rating New Zealand chillable red.

Another chillable red that is extremely more-ish is Rosso, a medium bodied Syrah made by Cambridge Road Winery in Martinborough where winemaker Lance Redgwell follows closely, if not intentionally, in the footsteps of organic and biodynamic Foradori, spear heading wines with a funky point of difference, experimenting with low to no additives and often with delicious results, as Rosso shows.

It's early days for the chillable red wine movement, fad, trend or fashion but one of its most appealing aspects is that it calls into question what temperature we like to drink wine at, particularly red wine. There is no rule about temperature, only guidelines.

We could chill any old red we want to but some will taste awful while others work wonders after 20 minutes in the fridge.

There are plenty of other chillable reds that I have tasted (Chaffey Bros Not Your Grandma's Chillable Red springs to mind as a good example) but few hold a torch to this week's top trio.

Chillable reds are not about a certain grape variety, a fixed winemaking style or a philosophy. They are about enjoyment and pleasure; cool reds on hot days or nights. They are about drinking wine in the moment and staying in the moment, as mindfulness teaches us.

Three top chillable reds in my glass this week

2021 Foradori Lezer RRP $39.99

Everything about Lezer is easy from its Romanesque label to its savoury flavours underpinned with light fresh fruitiness. Make no mistake; this is dry and calls for a platter of antipasto. 

2023 Huntress Kuratea RRP $32.99

Excellent chillable red with layers of ripe summer berry flavours in an unmistakably dry wine that makes a great match with bbq food or anywhere on a warm day. 

2022 Cambridge Road Rosso RRP $35

If Rosso isn't the perfect reason to reach for fresh salami, I don't know what is. Savoury, refreshing, red but  with a light body, this is a firmly structured, smooth take on Syrah and begs to be lightly chilled.