Time to chill out — and it has (almost) nothing to do with our recently muggy days or the inevitable heat/humidity spike during the State Fair.
We’re talking about wine, and not only the proper serving temperature for our favorite beverage, but also some ways imbibers are cooling off, literally and figuratively, this summer.
First off, rosé slushes are a thing. Inevitably called frosé, they are selling like cold cakes up and down the East Coast; a New Orleans bar starts serving them in April, which is a lot like our July.
These concoctions are easy to pull off at home. A base frosé recipe is a lot like a simple frozen daiquiri: Put ¾ cup rosé, 4 cups ice and ¼ cup simple syrup into a blender, blend until smooth (serves 2), pour into glasses and insert straws. Oh, and try not to suck it up too fast lest you get one of those ice-cream headaches. (How to make simple syrup: Combine equal parts sugar and water and heat until sugar dissolves; cool before using.)
Among the more popular additions to ramp up these über-refreshing concoctions are strawberries, fresh lemon juice and spirits such as vodka, vermouth or grenadine.
Champagne over ice is also a thing. Not on ice, over ice. Championed by the ever-droll Bill Murray — who prefers his bubbles in a pint glass with plenty of frozen water — this tipple has been ubiquitous at trendy East Coast bistros and even at the Coachella music festival in California.
I almost agree with Murray’s assertion to the New York Times that “Champagne can never be too cold.”
But St. Genevieve wine buyer Brie Roland, who has seen a few folks put ice in their sparkling glasses at the Minneapolis bubbles’ Mecca, makes an equally valid point in the other direction.
She suggests that the bottle sit without being on ice after being opened, “and to watch how the aromas and flavors might change.”
That’s why her staff always asks if guests want an ice bucket.
In many cases, that ice bucket would come in handy with a different kind of wine: reds, especially lighter ones. It’s an axiom in the wine trade that whites are served too cold and reds too warm in many, if not most, restaurants — and of course in the home.
In most cases red wines should be enjoyed at room temperature — if the room were in an old, drafty Bordeaux château. All too often, a red that has been sitting on a restaurant or home kitchen counter is served at 70-plus degrees, which emphasizes the alcohol and tamps down the delicacy and vibrancy on both the nose and palate.
That’s especially true with reds that showcase more acid than tannins, including European pinot noirs, the increasingly popular gamays from France’s Beaujolais, barberas and dolcettos from Italy’s Piedmont, the emergent blaufränkisches and zweigelts from Austria, and cabernet francs from most anywhere. Basically, the more floral and/or earthy the wine, the brisker the serving temp should be.
Interestingly, this masking of flavors and aromas also occurs when whites are served too cold. I keep white wine in the refrigerator, but because the temperature is set between 35 and 40 degrees, I remove a bottle 10 to 30 minutes before serving, with the longer stretches for chardonnay and other fuller-bodied wines.
To keep wines cool once they’re opened, I like to use the Corkcicle (widely available) or similar chilled device that can be stuck into the bottle. Or an ice bucket. And yes, I’m cork-dorky enough to occasionally ask that an ice bucket be brought out for a red wine in a restaurant.
But sometimes, heeding what Roland said about tracking the wine’s evolution as its temperature rises can be fascinating and fun.
And of course, it’s nigh unto impossible to know the exact temp of a wine as we sip it. That’s why a range provides the best recommendations for proper serving temps: around 40 degrees for pink and bubbly wines, around 50 for most whites, around 60 for hearty whites and most reds.
Often, getting there means chilling a room-temp bottle, sometimes quickly. In these cases, variations of two obvious techniques work well:
• When freezing a bottle, wrap it in a wet dish towel first.
• When going the ice-bucket route, fill the container about halfway and add cold water to the ice level, then throw in a couple of handfuls of salt and plop in the bottle(s). Half an hour later in either case, you’re ready to roll, er, quaff.
And look cool in the process.
Frosé (Frozen Rosé)
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: Choose a full-flavored, full-bodied, dark-colored rosé for freezing. It will lose some of its color and will be a bit diluted after freezing and blending; you want something that can hold its own. The wine can be frozen for up to a week in advance. From Rick Martinez for Bon Appétit magazine.
• 1 (750 milliliter) bottle hearty, bold rosé (such as a pinot noir or merlot rosé)
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 1/2 c. water
• 8 oz. strawberries, hulled, quartered
• 2 1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pour rosé into a 9- by 13-inch pan and freeze until almost solid (it won’t completely solidify due to the alcohol), at least 6 hours.
Meanwhile, bring sugar and ½ cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; cook, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Add strawberries, remove from heat, and let sit 30 minutes to infuse syrup with strawberry flavor. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl (do not press on solids); cover and chill until cold, about 30 minutes.
Scrape rosé into a blender. Add lemon juice, 3½ ounces strawberry syrup, and 1 cup crushed ice and purée until smooth. Transfer blender jar to freezer and freeze until frosé is thickened (aim for milkshake consistency), 25 to 35 minutes.
Blend again until frosé is slushy. Divide among glasses.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 140 Fat 0 g Sodium 7 mg
Carbohydrates 13 g Saturated fat 0 g Total sugars 10 g
Protein 0 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 0 g
Bill Ward writes atdecant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.