Ice cube wine

August 2nd, 2010

Ice cube wine. From:

Ice cube wine.

Each summer, the wine writing world produces articles about and lists of “picnic wines”, “summer wines”, “poolside wines”, “Labor Day wines”, etc,

I’d like to propose the category of “ice cube wines” as an all-year category.

I use this term to refer to wines that need to be poured over ice cubes because that improves their taste – both through chilling and dilution.

I’ve put a cube or chunk of ice in a glass of wine now and then to improve its flavors. Some wines benefit from some dilution or cooling. So I’m not above the practice and I certainly have no problem when people chose to drink their wines this way.

Certain wines, though, seem to be made to be “ice cube wines”. Red, white or pink, they are soft, flabby and cloyingly sweet by themselves but improve with some cooling and diluting.

I’m inclined to believe that there are less bad, technically flawed, wines these days. There are different styles of wines – each with its own place and purpose – and groups of fans. From a broader perspective, however, some styles are still superior to and finer than others, regardless of the rubric applied or degree of commercial success.

But if seeking to debate the superiority of one style of wine over another is a masochistic enterprise, can we frame the discussion in terms of determining the legitimacy of a particular style of wine?

The question before us is: are ice cube wines a legitimate, valid style of wine? The fact is that people do consume these kinds of wines in this very manner. But, many think of ice cube wines as inferior or “not serious” wine.

Ultimately, wine is a finished product, not an ingredient or precursor. You buy it, you open it, you pour it and you drink it. A legitimate style of wine, then, is one that stands best by itself and is optimal when enjoyed without mixing or other manipulations. I propose that as the sole criterion for determining legitimacy of a wine type (for this discussion only).

An intervention is an adulteration which at least changes, but more often diminishes the style: Sparkling wines are not intended to be consumed flat and putting Bordeaux into fruit punch is a practice even those without an appreciation for wine’s intricacies can recognize as incomprehensible – if only from a financial perspective.

The main argument against ice cube wine as a legitimate wine style is that it needs intervention or altering by the vast majority of consumers (neophytes and experts) to make it more appealing and preferable to its straight-out-of-the-bottle form.

It would seem that by that criterion, ice cube wines are doomed from the get-go. On an intellectual level, most people would agree that ice cube wines are disqualified because they need to be altered to be most enjoyable – regardless of the fact that some people prefer them as they are straight out of the bottle.

The only argument for ice cube wines as a legitimate style is simply this: given the choice, novices and experts alike, would more likely prefer these wines over ice and by themselves.

But that completely disrupts the paradigm.

What are your thoughts?

Are ice cube wines a legitimate wine style, despite the fact that they do not fit the definition of a legitimate wine style?


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9 Responses to “Ice cube wine”

  1. Twitter Trackbacks for » Blog Archive » Ice cube wine [] on Says:

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  2. Tom Mansell Says:

    Scotch and other premium whisk(e)ys are often consumed neat, but some people would add water 50/50 or even ice cubes. I would also argue that most wines are said to “need time to breathe”, which is an element of preparation (decanting, etc.) that no one seems to object to.

  3. Arthur Says:

    Good points, Tom. Initially (in an earlier draft), I mentioned whisky but but while it can be drunk neat, it is frequently used and made to be used as an ingredient.
    I left the whisky out for that reason: wine is not meant to be mixed (or used in drink recipes) .
    Would you say that letting a wine aerate is any way in the same category of manipulations/interventions as letting a sparkler go flat or pouring seltzer into Merlot?

  4. 1WineDude Says:

    The “mixed drink” style?

  5. Tom Mansell Says:

    This is a highly philosophical and largely academic point. Which is just fine with me.

    I would argue that the act of preparing anything at all (i.e., anything besides popping the cork and pouring a glass), for example, refrigerating whites, adding ice, decanting, vinturi-ing, etc. goes against your set definition of wine as a finished product. When you add ice, you add frozen water. When you aerate you add oxygen (or more importantly, remove hydrogen sulfide…).

    Temperature can affect perception of wine, too.
    Refrigerating your Riesling is going to give you a different experience than having it at room temperature (especially on a hot summer day).

    Sangria (on the cold end) and mulled wine/vin chaud (on the hot end) have been around for a long time. And you even need a special tool to open most wine bottles!

    I don’t think it’s valid to define the “wine-ness” of a wine by its application solely as a finished product.

  6. Randy Says:

    LOL!!! Great topic. How about putting an ice cube in the jet fuel Pinot Noirs and Chard’s? In my opinion, it’d probably help taming the excessive glycine problem in these sledgehammers.

  7. Thomas Pellechia Says:

    My wife uses ice cubes in a wine to show her dissatisfaction with the wine, but only when she has no other choice of wine to drink. I simply don’t drink a wine that I don’t like in its “au naturelle” stage.

    Having said that, a few wines lend themselves nicely to the addition of cold seltzer at the end of a truly hot, hard day–sans ice cubes.

    My main bitch with adding ice cubes to any drink is that they water the drink down, and I doubt that wine producers purposely create a product intended to have water added, unless it’s done at the winery!

  8. Karen McCamp Says:

    Iced wines! My first reaction is to say, wow! I thought I was the only person who had added ice to wine. I do not add ice any longer however, because I have begun to determine what I prefer in wine and I do not like my wines watered down. My need to add ice was to chill the wine, especially reds that are served “room temperature” and in the summer months here in the south that is too warm. But now that you have mentioned this as a potential category I am intrigued and curious as to what wines you would suggest actually improve with ice.

  9. P.Gomez Says:

    It’s your wine, do what you want with it. add ice, coke, seltzer, lemonade, whatever. maybe some finer wines would be ruined for that, but c’est la vie. drink it how you want to.