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Ice adds quick cool factor to white wine -- but proceed with caution

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I know the very idea of this appalls many purists.

And while there are some caveats to what I’m about to suggest, I know lots of people do this on a regular basis. And they do it unapologetically, unreservedly and unbowed by the sniffs of disapproval that might meet their action.

I’ve done it myself. But I’ve also learned a few things about doing it along the way.

The most recent — and glaring — example came just a few weeks ago while my husband and I were on vacation in Barbados. We’d been there three years ago and had a marvellous time.

We were actually away for the one week in July — from the fourth to the ninth — when the weather was consistently pleasant. But then came that monster thunderstorm that threw a monkeywrench into our area. I kept up with the accounts of all that was happening at home — in fact, I almost felt guilty being away enjoying myself while Westman lived under the threat of extensive flooding. But I did manage to talk myself out of that notion and enjoy my vacation.

A lot of people react with surprise when we tell them we go to the Caribbean in the summer months. "Isn’t it hot?" they ask. Well, yes it is — and that’s why we go! But it’s not crazy-hot — average daily high is about 32 and it drops off to 28 or 25 at night. That means no need for a wrap or a jacket or anything.

Plus there’s the ocean to swim in, glorious beaches to walk every day, fabulous food — flying fish and cou-cou, not to mention the unbelievable macaroni pie — and it’s much less expensive and less busy in the summer months. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Anyway, we were fortunate enough to a have a fridge in our room, where we kept a stock of Banks beer (less than a dollar a bottle — yet another reason we keep going back!) and a couple of bottles of wine and water.

But it was a small fridge, and if I had one bottle of wine with just a glass left in it, and a full one, that often wasn’t enough chilled stuff on hand. Plus when we got back from our inaugural trip to the grocery store to purchase said beverages, we arrived at our accommodation at about four in the afternoon, and I wanted a glass at five o’clock — not nearly enough time for the wine to chill.

So when 5 p.m. rolled around, I did what I’ve done in the past. I put a couple of small ice cubes in my wine to get it down to what I considered an almost proper temperature.

To qualify, we’re talking about white wine here — I’d almost never put ice in red wine, although that’s not to say I haven’t done it. But white wine is the summer beverage of choice for me, and I like it well chilled.

Granted, adding any amount of ice does water down the wine a bit. And I don’t like that side-effect. But I’d rather have slightly diluted white wine than warm wine, with an emphasis on warm. It’s the tropics, after all, so in transport from the store, where it’s not chilled to begin with, back to the hotel, whether by bus (usually) or by cab (only if it’s raining), the wine is warm — really warm — by the time we arrive at our home away from home.

What I discovered this time around, however, was that less expensive wines were not as adversely affected by the addition of ice as the ‘better’ ones. It’s hard to find really great wines on most Caribbean islands unless one is prepared to pay much more than the same wines cost at home, and that’s something I just can’t bring myself to do.

I did, however, find a reasonably decent white I hadn’t had before, and thought, ‘I’ll just give this one a try.’ I did, and while it was a whole lot more oaky than I like, it was an obvious step up from what I’d been drinking.

But when I added ice to it — just two measly square-inch cubes with holes in them, the standard ice cubes one gets from a hotel ice machine — it just killed it. The balance, which was one of the things that set this wine apart from the other one I’d been drinking, was completely destroyed. Since the first wine wasn’t that great to start with, the ice didn’t really have a noticeable effect, other than to make it colder. But with decent wine, it was a disaster.

So I still believe in adding a bit of ice to a glass of wine to cool it down. But be cautious about which wines you choose to chill using this convenient but risky method.

Warmer wine may be better than unbalanced wine. In fact, now I know it is.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 16, 2014

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I know the very idea of this appalls many purists.

And while there are some caveats to what I’m about to suggest, I know lots of people do this on a regular basis. And they do it unapologetically, unreservedly and unbowed by the sniffs of disapproval that might meet their action.

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I know the very idea of this appalls many purists.

And while there are some caveats to what I’m about to suggest, I know lots of people do this on a regular basis. And they do it unapologetically, unreservedly and unbowed by the sniffs of disapproval that might meet their action.

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