No, it is not.
We kid, we kid. But this is the sort of question that would seem, before you ask it, to be cut and dry. It’s a hard no. A tacky move. A waste of a good drink. A thing that, um, Martha Stewart does.
In March, Jezebel writer Kate Dries confessed to Stewart that she sometimes drinks wine with ice and then feels guilty about it, prompting Stewart to respond thus:
Don’t feel guilty! I often put ice in my rosé. Just to, well first of all, keep it really cold on a hot night… But [also] for me, I don’t drink a lot. So when I drink I like to nurse a glass for awhile. But it prolongs it for awhile, it’s good. You don’t have to feel guilty, if they’re putting ice in sauternes and ice in cognac, forget it! You can have ice in your wine.
Then, referring to her own brand of wines, she added, “But again, this is not the rarest of the rare, so you can do that and still feel fine and drink more.”
If Martha freaking Stewart puts ice in her wine—and not just in Diane Keaton’s branded serve-over-ice wines—then perhaps it’s a question worth asking. So we did, turning the question over to some experts.
For Kimberly Prokoshyn, head sommelier at New York City’s Scampi, diluting wine is almost certain to remove all of what makes the wine special, adding that she finds it particularly frustrating when the bottles are a bit off-the-beaten-path: “If it’s a small winemaker, and they go to all this trouble to give the wine a unique flavor, aroma, and sense of place, it’s basically like taking a meal cooked by a great chef and covering it in barbecue sauce.” She returns to the condiment analogy more than once, also likening the practice to “smothering a great steak in ketchup.” Tim Rawding, beverage director and general manager of Marsh House Southern Seafood in Nashville, doesn’t bring up mayo or anything, but strikes the same chord: “The short answer is I’m not a fan. I buy a beautiful wine, be it a $15 bottle or a $50 bottle… I want to taste it. Ice becomes water, and that adds a new element to the taste, and more importantly it takes away from the taste.”
It’s not the only place the two agree. There are circumstances where it could actually help the wine, mostly if you’re shopping for bargains or by volume. Rawding: “Now, if we’re talking about a $6 rosé or white, maybe adding a little water will kind of clean it out.” Prokoshyn seems to have the same sort of bottle in mind, suggesting that “if it’s a big liter from a convenience store, you won’t really be harming the wine that much.”
If it’s generally a bad idea, then perhaps the best way to approach finding alternatives is to look at the reason someone might dump a handful of ice chips or plop a few cubes in a glass. There are several possible motives. “I have a couple of buddies who do it,” Rawding tells me, “and their thought process is that they’re hydrating while they’re drinking. Killing two birds with one stone. They also don’t drink as much wine, technically, if instead of a six-ounce glass, they’re building up ice and adding a four-ounce pour.” If that’s your motive, perhaps a smaller pour and a glass of water alongside it would do the job.
Of course, the other big possibility is that the ice-in-wine drinker just wants a really cold glass. That’s something that has some appeal to both our experts. “I have a friend who puts vinho verde in the freezer and chills it, until it’s almost a slush, and he swears by it,” says Prokoshyn. “That’s not how I usually drink it, but I think it could be good.” Rawding’s connection to that idea is more immediate. “When we had 30 pack [of cheap beer], we’d want to get those ice cold. That’s when it tasted best. The reality there is that it tasted good because it was freezing cold, that it was numbing your palate. We were drinking a cold beverage, and that’s a good sensation, and it also got us drunk.” But that’s not the best way to drink wine—if you actually want to enjoy it, both say, extreme cold is not your friend.
“I like to drink whites and rosés at slightly below room temp,” Prokoshyn suggests. “I’ll take it out of the fridge at about 40 degrees and, then not put it on ice.” This opens up the aromas more, with the benefit of not freezing your palate in the process. For Rawding, there are some bottles that are best at lower temps: “Champagne is best served pretty cold. The same goes for your less aromatic varietals. Pinot Grigio, wines like that.” He prefers most of his whites in the 46-48 degree range, and cautions that most refrigerators are set to a lower temperature. “I always tell people, when you’re drinking red, put it in the fridge 30 minutes beforehand, and when you’re drinking white, take it out about 15 minutes beforehand.” In both cases, he advises opening it up to let it relax before you actually get to pouring.
If you really want your wine super-duper cold, and in a hurry, there are options that don’t involve diluting your wine: “Decant the wine into a thinner vessel, then put it in an ice bath,” Prokoshyn tells me. For Rawding, decanting is good, but not necessary: “In eight to 10 minutes, you can get a bottle of wine pretty cold. Do an ice bath—50 percent water, 50 percent ice—and then add a bunch of salt. Put the bottle in there, and you just kind of keep the bottle moving.” Voila, cold wine.
I’m not an ice-in-wine person, but these two have certainly persuaded me to shake up the temperatures at which I’m pouring wine. Still, even if I were an ice person—and I’m not, I repeat, I do not do this thing—neither of them would wrinkle their noses too much. “When a guests asks for ice at the restaurant, I hope it’s for their water. But when I drop it and they go to to go to drop in in their wine glass, I’ll joke, “Wait, let me look away, wait ‘til I’m gone,” but it’s all just for fun. It’s their wine, it’s all theirs, and they should drink it however they want.”
Prokoshyn is even more concise: “I don’t judge! Whatever tastes good to you.”