Chill Out

Some years ago my wife and I were lunching at one of San Francisco's best restaurants — okay, it was Zuni — and we ordered a bottle of Marcel Lapierre's tasty Morgon to go with our burger and Caesar salad.

When our server presented the wine to us it was at room temperature. Rather than displaying its usual bright, fresh, bramble fruit, pepper, and earth notes the wine was aromatically listless and dull tasting. Dumbed-down due to being served too warm.

"Could you please bring us an ice bucket?" I asked. The server initially took issue with the obviously ignorant hick sitting in his section, but the bucket arrived with a little water in it and after a few minutes in this soothing bath the wine was happy...and so were we.

Experienced wine drinkers know that chilling lighter reds such as that Lapierre, especially during warmer weather, is the best way to maintain the lively freshness we're looking for from these wines in the first place. But it isn't only lighter reds that can benefit from a cold soak — and this is particularly so if the flavors of a particular recipe (often tomato-based this time of year) — require a juicer red, but the weather demands something cool.

I recall reading how the Peyraud family of Bandol's Domaine Tempier served their rosé with bouillabaisse, but they were also known to serve cold bottles of young Bandol rouge, too.

Photo by the one and only Julie Wertz

Photo by the one and only Julie Wertz

And so it was at a recent sun-drenched lunch party, where we cooked our version of Zuni's Spicy Squid Stew with Roasted Peppers, that I chilled a magnum of Giuseppe Quintarelli's Primofiore to accompany this almost intoxicatingly aromatic, exotically flavored dish. 

Although Primiofiore, which we poured at last week's tasting, is Quintarelli's lightest red, it's still no cru Beaujolais. When it comes to weight and juiciness this remains a relatively hearty red wine. But when I was thinking about what to pair with that squid stew my mind flashed to the table at Domaine Tempier, and somehow a chilled magnum of Primofiore seemed like the most logical choice in the world.

Our guests were surprised and quite pleased by how well the bright tanginess of the ice-bucket-cold red paired with the spicy flavors and texture of the stew. And so was I.