Ice in your wine – faux pas or fab?

By Glou Glou  •  Sep 27, 2016 at 11:59pm  •  Learn, Reviews, Reviews, Visit

Okay, so this is a subject hardly anyone feels lukewarm about – to ice, or not to ice? Whether you consider this a heinous crime against wine, or if you love nothing more than sneaking in an indulgent cube or two on a sweltering Summer’s day, we want to help melt away any misunderstandings you may have about the ice-in-wine debate. This week I (Kristen) headed to one of Lyon’s coolest watering holes to break the ice.

When the notorious canicule (heatwave) hits, there’s nothing more urgent on a European’s agenda than finding a way to cool down. If the beach isn’t in reach, the next best thing is hitting the closest waterside spot to sip on something cold and refreshing. I happened to be in Lyon (France’s second-biggest city) this past Tuesday to celebrate Bastille Day and to visit one of my favourite Frenchies, Charline, and boy was it a scorcher of a day. Charline suggested we grab a drink at La Barge, a tapas bar located on a permanently-moored péniche on the Rhône river.

After settling down beneath some palm fronds and scanning the wine list, my eyes fell upon something I had never seen before: une piscine de rosé. This is literally French for “a swimming pool of rosé” – and given the pressing heat, my internal search engine was on high alert for all of those terms. Charline quickly came to my aid and explained the contents of this intriguing-sounding beverage: a large wine glass crammed with ice cubes and a light, refreshing rosé. At this point I think I was more interested in the ice than the wine, so we shrugged our shoulders with a pourquoi pas? and ordered two glasses tout de suite.

As my glorious glass of icy heaven started to perspire in the afternoon sun, I realised with a slight pang of guilt that I was enjoying my iced rosé tremendously. Charline assured me that loads of French people put ice in their wine and that it’s a pretty normal thing, but after years of having heard it was definitively wrong to put ice in wine, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was doing something a bit taboo. Nevertheless, I indulgently gulped down my swimming pool and resolved to do some research into the subject after recovering from the revelry of the 14th of July. So, after poking around the internet for a bit, and of course after consulting my personal Frenchie, what have I found?

First off, I don’t think we can turn this into a moral issue by using words like right and wrong. I’m in the camp of those who believe that consenting adults can put whatever they wish into their wine and not be chastised for it. I think the question should rather be: does adding ice enhance the taste and/or enjoyment of the wine? Generally, the answer to this will depend on a few key factors:

1. Dilution: Adding ice cubes to wine dilutes it (obviously). So if you’re drinking a really well-made or complex wine, you probably won’t want to water down the flavours and aromas. Some wine enthusiasts even view adding ice cubes as an insult to the winemaker, who put extensive care and effort into creating a perfectly-balanced wine. On the other hand, diluting wine with ice can soften the alcohol, similar to the effect of drinking whisky on the rocks.

2. Temperature: It’s widely understood that temperature can have a significant effect on the taste and enjoyment of a wine. As a rule, white wine as well as light-bodied reds are best served chilled, while medium or full-bodied reds should be served at room temperature to maximise the release of aromas. That said, it’s important to remember we’re talking room temperature of a European cellar, which tends to be around 15-18°C. White wines can be chilled in either a fridge or ice bucket (filled three quarters full with equal parts water and ice), however on sweltering Summer days you might need to glug down your wine before it gets warm (unless you’re in the ice cube camp, of course).

3. Context: If you’re sipping on an elegant Chablis at a work function, you may get some strange looks if you lob a few blocks of ice into the mix. However, if you find yourself in a casual environment drinking a casual wine, or if the sun is beating down mercilessly, poppin’ some cubes into your Sauvignon can be downright refreshing. In fact, Moët & Chandon recently released a Champagne designed to be drunk over ice (also to be consumed on your private yacht in Saint-Tropez, as their marketing campaign would suggest). So if that isn’t enough of an excuse to ice ice baby, I don’t know what is.

Now that you’re in the know, you’ll be able to go forth and ice with discretion. As for me, the heatwave in France continues and I’m already on the lookout for my next piscine

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  1. Kumar Utpal / 17/07/2015 at 8:01 AM /Reply

    Very nice article …. :)

  2. Richard Warland / 17/07/2015 at 8:45 AM /Reply

    Bonjour Kirsten,

    Whatever you choose to do in the wine game please don’t give up blogging – in fact, you could well make a living out of it. You have a natural gift for transporting your readers to the scene. Mind you, your photography is part of the magic! Great reading.

    • Bonjour Richard, that is incredibly kind of you – thank you for your continued support! I would love nothing more than to make a living out of telling stories about the world of wine. Watch this space!

      • Richard Warland / 17/07/2015 at 10:08 AM /Reply

        Kirsten, I am intrigued by the possibilities. Fact is that the traditional Wine Writer is going out of fashion. People want experience not boring facts. I am a Baby Boomer but I am enough in touch with the wine market to understand where the marketing opportunities are. You are the future of wine marketing and if I could be your “Manager” I would love that opportunity. You have my private email address so if you are interested, lets talk!

        • Thank you Richard, your offer and support is greatly appreciated. At this point I am looking to focus on my thesis and internship, but I welcome your suggestions and any input you may have about avenues I could explore in the future.

  3. Pingback: The Piscine of Rosé (Yes. You Have France’s Permission to Ice Up Your Wine) » Chez Bonne Femme

  4. i lived in South Africa for a few years and they happily add ice to their wine red or white…..seems strange but i have also tried and massively enjoyed it. hey whatever you enjoy right! love wine and just found your site which im also loving the read

  5. Cheryl Jennings / 03/11/2019 at 3:56 PM /Reply

    Hi you two besties, Gosia and Kristen. I just came across your blog when clicking on an email I received from Creation. Loved reading your article on Creation and Ice in your Wine. Kristen I love the fact that you take your Kitty with you. I used to take my Jack Russell, Biscuit, with me to my favourite restaurants, to church and other places. I miss her very much.

    Firstly, Creation is one of my best Estates. I met Caroline long before she married Jean-Claude and became co-owner of Creation. I have never met Jean-Claude. I became involved with wine by pure chance. Sitting at a friend’s home one New Years day, about to embark on a trip to Cape Town, my friends suggested I become a Winemaker. I giggled and put a question to them, “What do I know about wine?” Shortly after my return home from Cape Town I went to a relative’s daughter for dinner. Her and her husband told me they belong to a wine club. I thought this was just too coincidental. I called my friends the next day and told them I had found a wine club for us to join. We all signed up. I was the stayer. One fine day the now deceased Chairman of the club asked me to join the committee, I did, and became the new organiser of weekly tastings. I got to know all the winemaker’s and many people working in the industry. I also assisted at public tastings many times. I love all the hugs I get from the winemaker’s and estate owners when I see them. Creation have presented their wines at my guesthouse on two of my birthday occasions. I believe in being a Creation so their wines were apt to celebrate my birthday. They kindly gifted me with their Pinot Noir Reserve. Not one of my favourite cultivars but, Wow, was I so blown away. I found it to be absolutely awesome. I became hooked.

    I have just returned from Cape Town having been there for nearly 3 weeks. I was about to embark on a trip to Hemel-van-Aarde Valley to see every estate there starting with Creation but a storm blew in and it was the worst that Cape Town had experienced in many years, so my plans were shattered. I never got there as I had intended. God willing, there will be another time soon.

    Secondly, I believe in the fact that the Winemaker is an Artist and the wine in the bottle is his/her art. Both are to be respected. I am dead against putting ice in wine as it will definitely alter what the winemaker has worked so hard to create for our enjoyment. They make it in their own style and our mouths are the artist’s pallet. They have crafted a wine according to their pallets. Savour and enjoy what they have created should your pallet agree with theirs. I am a Wooded Chardonnay Queen and I believe it should not be served as cold as an Unwooded White wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or Unwooded Chardonnay. There are certain components in the wine that come from Wood that can only come through on your pallet if not iced. For me it is Butterscotch and Vanilla. Yes, plenty of citrus fruit too but the first 2 components are my best.

    When doing a wine presentation I often use the analogy of walking around an art gallery and looking at the art on the wall. If you see a painting that you like, whilst admiring it, think about why you are attracted to it and then think about the colours in the painting on the pallet. Think about what the artist was feeling at the time of painting on the canvas. I believe the same can be said for and experienced through wine.

    My friends keep telling me to go after my passion. It might still happen, in the meantime I continue to enjoy my wines and share with my friends and fellow wine lovers. I will be starting the wine tasting presentations again early next year and will revolutionize tasting in a brand new format. Thanks to the IT revolution.

    I hope my request to subscribe to your blog has been submitted, I clicked the button a few times. Looking forward to traveling with you on your journey through the wine farms and perhaps meeting up with you in Cape Town soon to share so much more.

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