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Adding Ice to Wine?

Someone asked me this and I would love to be able to answer them. He is Greek and mentioned that in Greece, it's acceptable to put ice in wine, especially Moschato, to loosen it up and make it less syrupy and sweet. So, what do I tell him?

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  1. >>So, what do I tell him?<<

    "If it feels good, do it. But be prepared to encounter condescension and even disgust from other diners and drinkers."

    You might also encourage him not to make a practice of it with more exalted wines.

    8 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      So can I assume from this response that it is never acceptable, regardless of the type of wine? My question was more with regards to the Moschato, and any other examples if there are any, than to the social behaviours I should recommend he engage in.

      1. re: swissfoodie

        As far as I'm concerned, whatever your friend wants to do with his wine is acceptable. There are no rules governing wine consumption, and when in Rome...

        However, he should also be aware that many people will look askance at the practice and assume he's a boor for engaging in it. Aside from the occasional cube dropped into a warm glass of white or rosé and fortified/doctored wines like white port, vermouth, sangria and Pineau de Charentes, adding ice to fine wine is virtually unheard of in the west (though it wouldn't surprise me if some people in brutally hot climates, especially in locations without air conditioning, drink inexpensive wines that way).

        1. re: carswell

          Virtually unheard of? You musn't spend much time in the South in August. We put ice in everything. Just a little. It melts fast anyway.

          1. re: carswell

            All ports are fortified, not just white. Unless it was some kind of white port "spritzer" (common in Porto and not just the port on its own), I would never put ice cubes in good port.

            1. re: Luthien

              I think carswell meant that those specific fortified / flavored wines are commonly served with ice.

              Most white port seems intended to be made into spritzers.

          2. re: swissfoodie

            Regarding ice in Moschato, I've skimmed through *The Wines of Greece* and *The Oxford Companion to Wine* and done a cursory Web search all with no results. I also put the question to a Greek sommelier and wine importer here in Montreal, who replied: "Regarding the ice cubes, I think it's simply an easy way (read awful way) to cool down the wine. My theory is that if the Moscato in question needs to be 'loosened' up, I'm not so sure you should be drinking it in the first place! In any case [...] it is far from a 'tradtion' in Greece to do so, or at least no more than putting 7-Up in Retsina and calling it Champagne is (my aunts do this )."

            1. re: carswell

              Ice wasn't all that common in Greece until recently. Could be a relatively contemporary phenomenon.

              1. re: carswell

                Thanks for your investigation - I really appreciate being able to answer the question for him and myself

          3. In biblical times (Roman Empire included) it was considered bad taste not to mix wine with water. Actually, they made special vessels called kraters specifically for the (nowadays sacrilegious!) purpose.


            2 Replies
            1. re: RicRios

              Yes, but Roman wine was more akin to our vinegar. (Another interesting factoid: women weren't allowed -- socially and at one point by decree -- to drink wine for much of Roman history.)

              In France, today, many parents will dilute wine for older children when introducing them to wine.

              1. re: RicRios

                One of the reasons Roman soldiers mixed wine with water has to do with sound scientific reasoning (i.e.: they were centuries ahead of their time!).

                No known human pathogen can live in wine. When adding wine to the local water, the soldiers would protect themselves from local water-borne diseases.

              2. I will admit that, like most Americans, as a norm we don't add ice to our wine. I will also admit to adding some ice when necessary: on an airplane, when a summer quaffer has warmed up too much, etc. The biggest detriment of adding ice to chill the wine, is that as the wine cools, it becomes watered-down thus diluting the flavor. Because it is usually not a fine wine that gets the ice, it is an acceptable trade-off.

                1. I regularly put an ice cube or two in red wine if it's served too warm (an unfortunately common problem in restaurants these days). The dilution's too slight to have a significant effect on the flavor. For a whole bottle I'll sometimes ask for an ice bucket.

                  A simple syrupy-sweet muscat vin doux, I see no problem in adding ice or a splash of water. Wine snobs who would look down on that will already be turning their fool noses up at the wine (delicious in its unpretentious way).

                  A fancy dessert wine such as a Sauterne, TBA riesling, or Tokaji Essencia, now that's another story. But again, if it were served too warm, I wouldn't hesitate to add an ice cube or two.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Isn't this what they call a wine spritzer? I have seen it done when i've been out at bars.

                    1. re: pancake

                      A wine spritzer is wine with soda.

                      I'm talking about just adjusting the wine myself at the table, typically with considerably less water.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      "I regularly put an ice cube or two in red wine if it's served too warm (an unfortunately common problem in restaurants these days). The dilution's too slight to have a significant effect on the flavor."

                      Me, too. It drives me batty to have red wine too warm. Even very nice restaurants often serve it the wrong temperature.

                    3. You see ice put into wine throughout Italy, and in Italian communities in the US, though my guess is it's rarely high-end wine.

                      1. Does it really matter? If wine with ice added is how your friend ( or anyone else) enjoys drinking it, then it's his business. Anyone looking askance or making comments is only demonstrating their own lack of breeding and courtesy.

                        1. I do it all the time during summer when we dine outside and wine gets too warm very quickly - red, white, rose.

                          It's especially welcome when confronted with something too high in alcohol

                          1. If the wine is too warm then there's no harm in adding icecubes to the glass a minute before you drink it - itwill chill the wine down and won'thav etime to dilute the wine.

                            In the heat of a South Africa summer Ihave been with two different winemakers who have added ice to their glass of red wine..

                            And there are two winebrands launched this year that are made especially for pouring over ice -- see http://www.frozeonice.com/ and http://www.stormhoek.com/archives/200...

                            1. I always put lots of ice in sweet vermouth. I think that if you're in a really hot climate, you might want to put ice in a light, fruity wine to help cool you off. Wouldn't do this with a great wine, of course.

                              1. I don't have a problem with people putting ice in junk wine, the kind of low-grade, sweet, low-alcohol stuff packaged in boxes (though I know better wines are getting the box treament) and big cheap screw-top jugs. These are the wine world's equivalent of generic canned American lager: inexpensive, refreshing, not too strong. It's silly to stand on ceremony with beverages aimed at people who shun pretense or anything that smacks of sophistication.

                                But if I were serving a quality wine to someone with any level of appreciation of the good stuff, I would shun ice. Dilution with water is terrible for good wines: quality wine should be chilled to the proper serving temperature. I don't have a cellar, but I use my refrigerator and a wine thermometer (great little infrared device) to get both my whites and reds to proper serving temperatures. Whites get thoroughly fridge-chilled, then brought out before serving to warm up a bit; reds go in for 20-30 minutes to get down from room to cellar temperature.

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  This I agree with.
                                  My favorite aperitif is Punt e Mes and you definitely need ice cubes in that.

                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                    And I'm sure the wines you serve are wonderful at exactly the right temperature. But if you were serving a fine wine and a guest asked for ice to put into it, would you comment about the inappropriateness of diluting the wine, thereby making your guest feel gauche and embarrassed? If someone cannot appreciate fine wine without adding ice to it, that's unfortunate, but I think it's still their call.

                                    1. re: MobyRichard

                                      When it is wicked hot outside I often buy an extra bottle of what ever white or rose I am going to serve mix the extra bottle with a little water and make ice cubes out of it. If you don't add enough water the cubes may not set all the way but it does keep the wine cold and doesnt water it down too much.

                                      1. re: MobyRichard

                                        That's a very different question, MobyRichard, one that speaks to the duties of a host rather than the OP's question, which is whether it's acceptable to put ice in wine. As a host, I would grit my teeth and let my guests do what makes them happy, including icing the fine wines I serve them. (I do have limits -- they can't torment my pets or children.) This falls in the same category as my ruefully grilling a ribeye steak to well-done for my auntie, the way she likes it, even though that's borderline tragic to me.

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          I don't think it is a different question. What else would make a preference, however outside the 'norm' unacceptable but how the preference is received? And yes, it's very much the same as taking an excellent piece of meat past point of grilled excellence because your aunt likes it that way. She may not be getting the best out of the ribeye, just as the OP's Greek friend is possibly not getting the best out of fine wines, but that's now they like it, and as long as they are not imposing their tastes on others, they should not be made to feel uncomfortable about their choices.

                                          1. re: MobyRichard

                                            The Greek muscats in question are syrupy sweet. Some of the ones I've had would definitely be nicer on ice than straight.

                                            1. re: MobyRichard

                                              Here's how I read the OP's vs. your question, MobyRichard. The OP's is, "Is it acceptable to add ice to wine?" To this, I answer, "Yes, if it's cheap enough."

                                              Yours seems to be, "But what if your guests want to add ice to non-cheap wine?" To this, I answer, "Yes, because it's more important to make my guests feel comfortable than to assert my notion of what's 'proper.'"

                                              One is a question of aesthetics, the other of manners.

                                          2. re: MobyRichard

                                            If I served a fine wine at the right temperature and somebody asked for ice, that would probably be the last time they'd be drinking wine at my house.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Hmmmm . . .

                                              It WOULDN'T be the last time they drank wine at my house, Robert, but it WOULD be the last time I opened wine that was "that good" for them.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Would that include a close friend? A relative? A parent? I'm a strong advocate of a 'eat and eat'/'drink and let drink' policy. Everybody has quirks and corners in their personality that may not fit quite comfortably into all of their relationships, be they familial, romantic, casually social or business. I think it's a much larger solecism to impose personal [culinary] standards on others than to plunk ice cubes into a glass of good wine. The wine is gone, with or without ice, in minutes. The damage done to a relationship, even a casual one, endures far longer.

                                            2. re: MC Slim JB

                                              If the wine's served at the right temperature, the issue doesn't come up.

                                            3. Tell him to put ice in it . . .

                                              1. I put ice in cheap wine all the time - just a cube or two. I take a sip first, if I don't like it, add a cube or two of ice to dilute, and chill I guess.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                  Cheap wine and spritzers, yes, airplane wine and train wine, often. A good red, probably never.

                                                2. I don't usually put ice in wine to dilute it, but sometimes I do like my wine colder than it is at the moment. I bought some of those plastic cubes with water in them - basically, reuseable ice cubes. They're great for wine and made a terrific stocking stuffer for wine drinking family members.

                                                  1. All but the most expensive restaurants I go to serve Reds too warm and Whites too cold. I don't put ice in the reds, but think it might be a good idea.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: davebough

                                                      I never use an ice bucket or whites, but often ask for one with reds.

                                                    2. All the Argentines I know regularly put ice in their white wine (only white though). It doesn't matter what type of wine, if it's cold or hot outside. That's just what they do, and I think it is not an uncommon practice in places with warmer climes, as is suggested by the Greek and Italy mentions in this thread. Just to clarify, we're talking a sliver, notn a chunk or multiple cubes.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: iwantmytwodollars

                                                        It's not just ice.
                                                        Adding soda water to wines ( mostly reds, but I've seen it done with whites too ) is a very common practice in Argentina.
                                                        Sometimes BOTH soda water AND ice go in the mix, particularly in hot days.

                                                      2. You know, to each their own.

                                                        I found my father drinking my single vineryard Napa Valley Cab in a styrofoam cup with a few ice cubes last Thanksgiving. Then he had the nerve to tell me that it "tasted pretty good".

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: mac8111

                                                          As long as he enjoyed it, who is harmed? No one, in os far as I can see. Who benefited? Your dad, and that's enough for me to say, "Glad you liked it!"

                                                        2. Lets face it, some wine is just made for hot days and swilling in large quantites, or even mixing with other things (sangria). A nicely made Sancerre or a Cal Pinot with ice in it though? please God, no. Some judgement is called for.