You’re sitting at the bar with your glass of Italian red wine in hand. You give it a little swirl as you take in the beautiful aromas. That first sip feels amazing. The warmth of the wine seems to travel through your whole body, lifting all of the stress you’ve felt right off your shoulders.
Feeling relaxed, you decide to engage in a little people watching.
You see somebody else come to the bar and order the same wine that you’re enjoying right now. Only they want it a little differently. They ask the bartender for a couple of ice cubes in their wine.
You start thinking about this as they pay up and leave.
Should you put ice in your wine? Maybe this person knows something that you don’t?
What you’ve just witnessed is a scene that would leave many an Italian wine purist seething. Those who love the traditional way of drinking wine will tell you that putting ice in the glass is one of the worst things that you can do to a good wine.
But is it really that bad?
In this article, we share a few of the reasons why putting ice in Italian wine isn’t something you should think about doing any time soon.
Reason #1 – It Waters the Wine Down
This may seem obvious, but adding ice to wine waters it down. You’re essentially muting all of the flavours that you’d normally experience with the water. Plus, the water reduces the wines alcohol content so that it’s not quite as potent as it should be.
Now, you may not think this is such a bad thing.
Perhaps you want to enjoy the wine with a little less alcohol. Maybe adding your ice will mean that you can have two glasses instead of wine.
That may be the case but we have another reason not to do it that follows on from this one…
Reason #2 – You’re Changing the Wine’s Composition
If we explore the science of winemaking, what you essentially have is a mixture of chemicals that the producer has balanced in just such a way as to make the wine amazing. This is a very involved process that requires years of mastery and a massive amount of skill. Producers can spend many years cultivating their vines and experimenting with different grape combinations before they find the perfect balance.
Throwing a couple of ice cubes into a glass completely ruins that balance.
You’re introducing a new chemical into the mix that isn’t supposed to be there. And the result is that the balance that the producer worked so hard to cultivate gets lost. It’s the equivalent of leaving a wine out in the open air for a few hours before drinking. When you add ice, you’re basically giving the wine a big dose of oxygen (alongside hydrogen), which means it doesn’t taste as it should.
There’s a reason why we put so much effort into storing wines correctly.
Too much oxygen ruins the wine. And if you’re adding ice to your glass, you’re speeding up that process
Reason #3 – You Cool the Wine
This is an issue that affects Italian red wines much more than white wines. After all, the cooling effect may be one that you’re looking for with a white wine. You want the drink to be as refreshing as possible and ice can contribute to that, even if it does change the makeup of the wine.
But cooling isn’t the goal with red wine.
Typically, you’re looking to enjoy that wine at room temperature, or maybe just a touch below.
When you add ice to a red wine, you’re taking away that warm feeling that it gives you when you drink it. Just imagine being sat by the fire on a cold winter’s day. You curl up with a book and a glass of wine. You’re as toasty as can be until you take that first sip…
And suddenly, you have a cold red wine coursing through your body!
Nobody wants that situation, which is yet another reason to avoid putting ice in your wine.
Reason #4 – The Acidic Taste
Sticking with Italian red wine, we have another reason related to how ice can change the drink’s chemical composition.
Adding water to red wine gives it a more acidic taste.
Again, this may not be a bad thing with a white wine, assuming the wine isn’t already acidic enough. But with a red wine, you’re not looking for that refreshing bite of acidity. You’re looking for a combination of interesting flavours that you can explore.
Adding ice gets rid of those flavours.
And it replaces them with an acidic taste that isn’t in keeping with the smoothness of this particular type of wine.
Reason #5 – It’s Lazy
Let’s switch to focusing on Italian white wines for a moment.
You know that the ice will cool the wine down. What’s the harm in popping a few cubes into the glass if you get the desired effect?
Frankly, it’s just a little bit lazy!
What you’re doing is completely changing the composition of wine for the sake of dropping the temperature by a couple of degrees. The much better solution is to store the wine in a place where it’s properly chilled before you even pour the first glass. That way, you don’t have to worry about cooling it down with ice.
It will already be cold enough.
The Final Word
Now, there may be a few people reading this who regularly put ice in their wine.
As always, we believe that the joy of Italian wine lies in finding something that works for you. If adding ice is your thing, we’re not trying to stop you.
We just want you to think about what you’re sacrificing when you pop a few cubes into the glass.
Maybe there’s a better way to chill your wine. And if you do end up ruining your wine with ice, you can always find more in the Xtrawine store.