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Wine on Ice - Literally
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed July 2, 2004. For more information go to

If it's OK to serve your red wines slightly chilled during summer heat, as we proposed in Monday's edition, then why not simply drop an ice cube into your glass?

This non-traditional suggestion came on our online forum from John D., who observed, "Although it seems wrong try one ice cube in your glass. Many times the small amount of water will smooth out any rough edges. It really works. I don't recommend it for a complex wine but most basic reds work wonderfully."

Well. The idea of putting ice in wine made me immediately skeptical, mostly because I'd worry about melting ice diluting the wine. (Some of my wine pals are so fretful about dilution that they won't even rinse a glass with water between tastings for fear of polluting the precious fluid with so much as a drop.)

But I would never want to be counted as a wine snob, rejecting a creative idea just because it runs counter to the conventional wisdom. So, pulling the shades and looking around to make sure nobody was watching, I put a little of each of Wednesday's budget-level red wines - the Hungarian Egri Bikaver and the Spanish Osborne Solaz - into small tasting glasses. Then I dropped a single refrigerator ice-maker cube into each. After five minutes on a sultry summer evening, the glasses were beaded with condensation, the ice cubes had almost completely melted, and I took a taste.


I can't say that I'm an immediate convert. The problem for me wasn't dilution but temperature: Even a single cube of ice in a smallish (2-ounce) serving chilled the wine enough to diminish its good fruit flavor, leaving behind an awkward blend of thin, austere acidity and tannins; exactly the problem that for most of us rules out serving red wines well chilled in the first place. Maybe the wine was diluted, maybe it wasn't, but the effects of the cold overrode this relatively minor point. I gave it up and turned the samples into a nice cooling "spritzer," mixed with soda water and a wedge of lime in a tall glass with lots of ice. Now, that's a refreshing drink.

I might try the ice trick again some time, using a larger serving of wine or a smaller ice cube, or maybe see how it works with an unrefrigerated glass of white wine. Or perhaps take a shot at an intriguing alternative that forum participant Clinton M. reports from a Maryland winery, "Freeze wine grapes and drop them into a glass of wine, achieving cooling without dilution. Just pick the grapes, put them in a bowl or bag, and park 'em in the freezer. Virtually no dilution of the wine, and marinated grapes to enjoy when the glass is done!"


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