Ice wine

One of the drawbacks of having a wife who doesn’t drink very much is that it often means I drink more. Brought up by thrifty parents and taught at school to always finish what was on my plate, I hate to see things go to waste.  I’ve now got to an age where one glass over my usual two to three glasses can lead to either snoring or the dreaded waking up at 3am sick with worry about the mortgage or the price of cheese. So on one hand I have my frugal Scottish side and, let’s face it, my in-built love of booze screaming drink it and on the other my love of a good night’s sleep and marital harmony telling me not to.

Recently I was faced with a conundrum. We were going on holiday the next day and I’d picked up some Turkish food for supper. We had just under 1/2 a bottle of rose in the fridge (Chateau Barthes Bandol Rose, £9.99 at Majestic and really quite nice), not nearly enough to go with spicy grilled lamb for two. So I opened a bottle of red (Blind Spot GSM £7.50 The Wine Society.) Problem solved but after demolishing nearly half of the red I realised that I had to stop or they’d either be snoring, sleeplessness or even a hangover, none of them good when you have to get up at 5am to catch a flight. I’d have to let the wine go to waste unless of course i could preserve it some way.

Then I had a moment of inspiration/ light drunkenness, I popped the wine in the freezer and off we went to France. On our return I defrosted the bottle  curious as to how it would taste. It would have been interesting (though not very) to try the previously frozen wine against a fresh bottle but instead I had to rely on memory. It still tasted good but it was lighter, fruitier and simpler. A moderately serious wine had been turned into something frivolous and rather delicious. All went well until the last glass because at the bottom of the bottle was a purple sludge. That sludge was the seriousness that had been removed during the freezing process. I had inadvertently created Ice Wine.

Do you remember the craze for Ice Beer in the mid nineties? There was a lot of guff about smoothness and ultimate refreshment but actually the purpose of the ice process was to remove flavour from the beer. Tiny particles that contained beery tastes – yeast, hops etc. – were frozen and filtered out of the beer. The brewers had created something for those who found Sol a little too characterful. I think the big wine companies are missing a trick here. Many drinkers love bland products; many commercial wines are already chilled and filtered heavily. Instead of keeping it quiet, they should be shouting it from the treetops: Pinot Grigio Ice! Cava Ice! Sauvignon Blanc Ice! Come on marketing people, wake up!

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About Henry

Henry Jeffreys was born in London. He has worked in the wine trade, publishing and is now a freelance journalist. He specialises in drink and his work has appeared in the Spectator, the Guardian, the Economist, the Financial Times, the Oldie and Food & Wine magazine. He was a contributor to the Breakfast Bible (Bloomsbury 2013) and his book Empire of Booze: British History through the Bottom of a Glass was published in November 2016.
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10 Responses to Ice wine

  1. Henry, I inadvertently left a bottle of Chardonnay in the freezer over the bank holiday weekend. I was left with a rather boring, bland white with some sugary looking sludge at the bottom along with some wine infused fish fingers in the freezer (the cork had popped). Rather a waste of a £9 bottle of wine, but a nice experiment all the same.

  2. Joe says:

    I would be interested in a blog that adumbrated the further disadvantages of having a non-bibulous wife. In a grass is greener sorta way…

  3. Have you not acquired one of those vac-u-vin pump things, which create a vacuum in the bottle to keep the wine?

    That gets the blame for all the half finished bottles around our way (http://www.sedimentblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/ive-started-but-will-i-finish.html)

  4. Henry says:

    I’ve got one but I find that they don’t keep a wine fresh for a week. Also don’t you think the wine tastes a little flat after the air has been pumped out of the bottle? It’s as if they wine’s soul has been taken too.

    • True, true…been considering one of those inert gas spray things, too…

      Or perhaps the only real solution is to buy half-bottles?

      • James says:

        I can recommend winesave (Google it), which puts a layer of argon over the wine, to prevents oxidation. I once drunk a decent bottle (c.£20 2006 Chiant Classico) over three weekends this way, decanting a third and immediately gassing the bottle, then repeating a week later etc – basically, minimising the time that the wine you are preserving is in contact with the air. The downside is the cost – £20-25. Although you can ‘reseal’ about 50 bottles, bit it still adds about 40-50p to the bottle price.
        But I have a free method that I use most of the time for day-to-day vino – plastic 500ml mineral water bottles. Decant what you’re going to drink that night (say, half a bottle), then immediately pour the rest into the mineral water bottle, gently squeeze it until the wine is almost to the brim of the neck (i.e. no exposure to the air), then screw up the lid. Keep it in the fridge for a belt-and-braces approach, as low temperature further retards the oxidation process. Like winesave, I’ve had bottles going well beyond a week like this, including Fino sherry which doesn’t take much to start withering. You can even just take a glass out, resqueeze it again and put back in the fridge.
        Nice blog by the way, Henry – always find it an enjoyable read.

      • Henry says:

        thanks James! You’ve really thought about this Will try the mineral water bottle method. I used to do something similar with a half sherry bottle but then it started to smell so I threw it out. I do like the idea of argon if only because it sounds like something from an alchemist’s laboratory.

      • James says:

        You certainly should try the mineral water bottle method, and maybe report back in a new post. Last night I finished the final couple of glasses of a Beaujolais Villages that had been lurking in the fridge since last Saturday evening – six days old and still fresh as a daisy!

  5. Sally says:

    Loved this post! I freeze wine in plastic bags for using in cooking later but had never considered drinking it. Also have made left overs into wine vinegar…but I guess that’s not really the point. Completely empathise with your description of what happens when you have one too many glasses of wine…. (pity my poor husband).

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