dept of chill: wine-friendly grape “ice cubes”

wine chilled with frozen grapes

photo: anthony giglio

Practically every wine-loving American I meet – even those who say they don’t know much about wine – is sure of one universal “truth” that couldn’t be farther from it: Red wine should be served “room temperature.” What does that mean? And who said so?

Poking around in old British wine books from the Victorian era, I can only imagine that our wine-loving forefathers, taking every viticultural word from Europe as Gospel, embraced the idea of “room temperature” from men wearing wigs and capes in freezing-cold London. Before modern heating, few homes reached today’s “average” room temp of 72°, except during summer months. Especially in London.

But ask any sommelier worth his or her spittoon what the proper serving temperature is for red wines, and they’ll tell you between 55° and 65°. Where’s the disconnect? It seems to be a translation error: somewhere along the line, “cellar temperature” morphed into “room temperature.” Proper wine storage is around 55° -“cellar temperature” – which also happens to be a great temperature to serve light-bodied reds, like Pinot Noir, Gamay/Beaujolais and Cotes-du-Rhone. The maximum serving temperature for the most full-bodied reds is 65’, well below modern-day room temperature. All red wines of all body weights taste best when served in between those two numbers.

What does all this mean? You can, and should, chill your wines in an ice bucket filled with both ice and water for about five or ten minutes. It’s easy and despite what you’ve been told, it will not spoil the wine. However, adding ice cubes to the wine will dilute it, and that’s where grapes come in handy. They make the perfect “ice cube” for wine.

I’ve taken to offering guests frozen grapes in an ice bucket when entertaining on warm summer nights. Wine snobs might snicker at the sight, but the grapes are practical, efficient, edible, and, most importantly, they don’t add water — or color — to the wine.

wine glass w frozen grape "ice cubes"

photo: anthony giglio

It’s as simple as buying red and green table grapes at your local market, plucking them, washing them…

wetting grapes for freezing

photo: anthony giglio

…and then freezing them…

freezing grapes for wine "ice cubes"

photo: anthony giglio

frozen black grape "ice cubes"

photo: anthony giglio

They make great snacks, of course, but they also make the best “ice cubes” when it seems too hot to drink wine. Now you can. Red. White. Delicious.

Anthony Giglio

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4 Responses to dept of chill: wine-friendly grape “ice cubes”

  1. Jasmine 08.30.2011 at 12:12pm #

    Totally awesome. Cold and pretty drinks, couldn’t be better. I love your blog!

  2. Sheila 02.23.2013 at 8:41am #

    Adorei,vou fazer

  3. Your Average Go 04.07.2013 at 9:25pm #

    Love this idea! Especially perfect for the summertime. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Kim 08.28.2013 at 1:52am #

    I have used frozen fruit of all kinds, since I started drinking specifically red wines. Strawberries are my favorite but it doesn’t stop there. Mangos, pineapple, blueberries. Whatever I felt would “add” to the flavor of the wine as the fruit would thaw. Everyone just laughed at me. But I say they don’t know what they are missing.

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