Wine. Improved by ice cubes.

A rather mind-boggling (or perhaps simply horrifying) story in the Globe and Mail, today. Some South African wine producers have been “redesigning” their rosé wines, so that they taste better served over ice cubes. As they try to appeal to a young, urbane crowd, these producers want to turn their wines into a cool kind of cocktail. And there’s apparently nothing that says cool like, well, ice.

Christened with poetic names like “Frozé” or “Couture“, these wines have been made sweeter… so that they could be more refreshing, says the article:

The grapes were crushed and fermented specifically with the intention of mixing with ice. Most notably, the wines are more concentrated and darker, with more of an electric-red colour than a pale-strawberry hue, and slightly sweeter than the typically off-dry rosés popular with wine novices, such as a white zinfandel or rosé d’Anjou.

“It does work if you’ve got enough residual sugar in it; that’s the key,” said Paul Letheren, Off-Piste’s managing director.

Well, I’ve got news for the folks who have concocted sweeter rosés to be served on ice: if you actually make the wines in a lighter, more balanced style, instead of raising the sugar and alcohol content, the refreshing part sort of takes care of itself. This idea of aiming winemaking for freshness even holds true for red wines – although I can see producers of overripe shiraz starting to wonder if their wines wouldn’t taste better with some ice cubes (I might agree with that, in some cases).

Let’s be clear: I’ve got absolutely nothing against people putting ice in their drinks, whether it’s scotch, orange juice, hard cider (like Magners, whose sales grew by leaps and bounds after they advertised their drink served on ice in a pint) or cappucino. It’s a free planet, as far as I’m concerned. But designing wine for the specific purpose of serving it over ice? Good grief.

But wait. It gets better. The guy writing the article for the Globe says that:

Sweet though they are, both Frozé and Couture impressed me with their balance when I tasted them last month in London. At fridge temperature, they finished clean rather than cloying, even without ice. And when on the rocks, they did become noticeably drier.

No surprise there, since (as he explains earlier in the article), cold makes acidity come forward, reducing the impression of sweetness. Think of Coke on ice, for a second…

Want more? The promoters of Frozé present their stuff as “The kind of wine that makes you want to stroke a labrador’s head or start singing Madeleine Peyroux songs.” I’m sure they were thinking about Peyroux’s version of La vie en rose, when they thought that up. I’m thinking more in the lines of Careless Love, Muddy Water or, maybe… Oh. I know: Heaven Help Us All.

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