Ice in Wine: Faux Pas or Smart Move?

Although temperatures have already began to rise, the start of summer was officially recorded yesterday with the summer solstice. People across the United States can now look forward to sunny and longer days. As the weather starts to change, so does wine drinking etiquette. We’re here to address one of the issues that has been of ongoing debate between sommeliers: Is it acceptable to add ice to your wine? The temperature of wine is of utmost importance and contributes to the full experience of the beverage. But are there times when icing the wine is absolutely necessary?

Icing wine has been embraced by some and despised by many. Most of the time we tend to follow a basic rule that if we must ice a wine, it can only be white. This trend is starting to fade, however, as people begin to realize that wine (whether red or white) served at a temperature extreme takes away from the full flavor experience. A white wine served too cold loses its infamous acidity while a red wine too warm can be have its fruity essence dulled.

People from countries that lay in hot regions of the world, such as Spain and Italy, routinely add ice to their wine. Even if the wine has been served straight from a refrigerator or cellar, it is inevitable that the beverage will warm under the hot sun or in a restaurant that lacks the luxury of air conditioning. Americans tend to stray away from adding ice to their wine, not wanting to risk fear of embarrassment that may come from the comments of more “advanced” wine drinkers. Having wine in a controlled environment is one thing, but consuming it outside or over a long period of time could call for a few ice cubes.

Adding ice to a wine shouldn’t be shunned, especially if a wine is too warm, which can dramatically affect the taste. Yes, adding ice to a wine will dilute the beverage to some degree, but wine is mainly water anyways. If watering down the wine a little means saving the flavor that would have been destroyed by too warm of a temperature, it’s definitely worth it. If you want the best of both worlds, try icing the wine for a few seconds then removing the cubes. Have the temperature drop without the extra water addition.

Usually restaurants do not lead the charge in the icing movement, but only bring the ice when it is requested by a guest. Some establishments have implemented plastic cubes or gotten creative with frozen grapes that can be added to a beverage if the temperature is off. However, in the end, wine is all about how it is enjoyed by the guest. People should ax the embarrassment and drink wines in a way that is pleasing to their own taste.