We embarrass easily. It's especially true in areas that we assume are fraught with rules we don't know or barely understand. Such is the case with wine, partially because it's got that European pedigree, and as Americans it's easy to assume we're automatically uncouth, or at the least, under-dressed.
"If I have ice in my wine, will people know I'm drinking wine or some fruity mixed drink?" one survey-taker joked. "Will my sassy smooth look be diminished, because that is the real concern for me."
While an ever-fashionable self-proclaimed Anglophile confessed, "I admit I put ice in my champers, but so did the Duchess of Windsor."
So since it's practically summer, I figured it was time to discover what people really thought about this conundrum -- is it okay to put ice cubes in your wine? Almost 50 people answered the question for me, from drinkers to winemakers. And while some were adamant, ("No f**ing way, ever!" was how one respondent subtly put it), the absolute never people were in a 2-1 minority to the maybes and definitelys.
Of course, those responses ran the gamut of reasons, and some suggested a truly American sense of freedom, too. "As someone who makes wine I find the idea abhorrent," exclaimed a local garagiste. "But hey, this is America where folks are free to paint their dogs, tattoo their faces, and name their children Moon Unit! So, if you must, put ice in your wine. But know, even if your wine is on fire, ice will only make it taste worse."
Many of the arguments for pro-ice suggested it was okay because it's done that way in Italy, Argentina, Cuban Miami, Louisiana via France, or the less convincing Long Island and Western Pennsylvania suggestion of Riesling on the rocks. That line of reasoning was perhaps best expressed by a winemaker and vineyard manager, "Absolutely! Angelo Gaia is known to drop an ice cube in his reds in the summer. Treating wine as such a fancy beverage continues to thwart American wine culture. Just drink it and enjoy it. Talking about wine is like calling a friend during sex and saying, 'Dude, I'm getting laid. No seriously, right now.'"
Since I write about wine, I'm not sure where that comparison leaves me. But I do know from my informal survey that the yes-to-ice camp tends to have a price point as to where one must stop with the ice (at about 10 bucks), as it doesn't really hurt inexpensive wine. People also come up with even more clever reasons to add a cube or two.
One respondent, who works as a social columnist and needs to be able to party-down and write-up, admits, "Also, when one must maintain for a day-into-night type soirée, it's an effective strategy to work a little hydration into the equation."
Of course there are more clever ways to overcome the ice issue. Lots of people turned to sangria as the only excuse (as if good sangria needs one). Others suggested a quick cube in-and-out method (try to do it when no one's looking) or those stainless steel cubes that don't melt. A long-time wine insider has this brilliant twist: "During the summer I love to freeze grapes. If my white wine needs a chill, I plop a few frozen grapes in the wine. They impart cold but do not dilute the wine nor add flavor, and as a bonus you get to enjoy a semi-frozen grape in your last sip."
Ultimately one very talented -- as in he knows customer service as well as AVAs -- sommelier summed it up this way: "The purpose of wine is pleasure. If ice helps you enjoy wine I'd gladly bring you some."