Wine on ice
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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Now, here's a decent and affordable white that's refreshing cool or cold. One of the featured wines in this month's Wine Tasting 101, it's a Chardonnay from the Maconnais, the large region in Southern Burgundy that's best known for its simple, relatively affordable whites.Louis Jadot 2002 Macon-Villages Chardonnay ($9.49)
Clear straw color with a brassy hue. Fresh apples in the aroma, and good, crisp white fruit in the mouth, juicy apples and pears, medium body, braced by a good, flinty acidity that provides structure and balance. Textbook Macon Chardonnay, simple but well-built, lets the pure fruit shine through. U.S. importer: Kobrand Corp., NYC. (June 29, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with poultry, seafood or veal and made to go with good cheeses; it made an exceptional match with a simple omelet filled with a fairly strong Swiss Gruyere.
VALUE: Good value under $10, but take care to shop around, especially if you live where Internet wine-buying is legal, as Web merchants list the 2002 as low as $6.99.
WHEN TO DRINK: Simple Macon whites aren't really meant for aging, and this wine's delicious freshness calls for drinking it soon; if you can't keep it at a constant 55F (13C), plan to drink it within the coming year. But even simple white Burgundies like this can gain richness with a few years of cellar time, provided they're kept under excellent storage conditions.
WEB LINK: The Louis Jadot Website is online in English and French.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Louis Jadot's wines are very widely distributed and should be easy to find locally. For online vendors and price comparisons, check Wine-Searcher.com,
Correction: Little Penguin
Haste making waste, as it so often does, I erred in assigning the Little Penguin brand to Gallo in the introduction to Wednesday's article about mass-market wine brands with animal logos. Little Penguin, a new brand challenging the unexpectedly popular Yellow Tail, is from Australia's Southcorp. Gallo's entry in this mass-market Australian sweepstakes is Black Swan.
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Friday, July 2, 2004