By Nan McCreary
It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy…unless you’re trying to keep your wine cold while enjoying your patio or a picnic in Houston’s notoriously hot climate. Generally, experts recommend we serve red wine between 55 and 65 degrees, and whites and Rosé wines between 45 and 55 degrees, depending on the variety. But, when outside temperatures are in the 90s and climbing, that’s a tall order. Here are some tips for keeping your wine cool while enjoying the great outdoors during Houston summers.
Choose the Right Wine
While there’s really no “right wine,” a more refreshing choice for summer would be a wine with high levels of acid, a low to medium body and low levels of tannins. For whites, go for a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, an unoaked Chardonnay or a bubbly. If you prefer red wines, avoid high-alcohol Cabernet Sauvignons or Zinfandels (unless you’re grilling red meats), and instead sip on a light-bodied Pinot Noir, a Cru Beaujolais, or a bubbly Lambrusco.
Use the Proper Glassware
An increasingly popular option for outdoor quaffing is the insulated wine tumbler, which is ideal for both hot and cold beverages. Some say they keep drinks hot for three hours and cold for nine, or even longer. Generally, these glasses range in size from nine to 14 ounces. Not only are they great for staying cool, but they are also excellent for casual outdoor excursions like camping and beach trips, as they are shatterproof and come with lids that keep the bugs out!
Whether using acrylic or glass, avoid stemless barware, even the classic Riedel O glasses. While gripping these tumblers, your body heat will warm the glass and potentially interfere with the flavor. Rather, opt for a glass with a stem you can hold, which will help the wine stay cooler longer.
Surround Your Wine With Icy-Cold Water
Invest in an ice bucket, or make one yourself. Any container will do: a flowerpot, an ice chest or even a pail from your garage. If you want to chill wine fast, or build an ice bath for a long party, add salt (one cup per gallon of water) to the ice. Water freezes at a lower temperature when salty, so putting salt on ice will make the ice cubes melt faster and chill the bottle with cooler water. If you’re drinking outdoors and don’t have an ice bucket, toss the bottle in nearby lake or creek, but don’t forget to secure it with rope!
Another option to an ice bucket is a cooling sleeve. Typically, a cooling sleeve keeps your bottle cool by inserting frozen gel ice packs inside the plastic or vinyl sleeve. Also available are double-walled stainless steel iceless chillers, which use thermal insulation to maintain the temperature on pre-chilled bottles. If nothing else is available, you can always grab two beer koozies and secure one on top of the bottle and another on the bottom. This will only insulate part of the bottle, but it’s good enough to keep your wine chilled for a few hours.
If you want to go upscale to keep your wine cool, shop for an automated wine chiller, which is a sophisticated version of an ice bucket. These electric chillers can chill wine within minutes and keep it at drinking temperature for hours. It’s a great go-to for your backyard party.
Use Ice Cubes
No, not regular ice cubes, which can dilute your wine and throw off its flavor, but “wine” ice cubes. Simply fill your ice tray with the wine you’re serving and, once it’s frozen into cube shapes, toss them into your glass. When the cubes melt, they won’t dilute the wine, but add more wine to your drink. Some people like to add frozen grapes to their glass of wine. Not only does this keep the wine cool, but it also adds some flavor. Frozen berries will also do the trick. For example, adding berries to white wine makes an easy, light “cocktail.” Yet another option is to use plastic-sealed reusable ice cubes. Many of these come in colorful shapes so they can double as glassware charms while keeping your wine cool. While all of these options can add some fun to your outdoor gathering, they’re recommended for easy-drinking summer wines, not expensive wines from your cellar.
With several months of hot weather ahead of us, be ready to sip all summer. If you have room, keep a bottle of chilled red, white, Rosé and a bubbly on hand. You never know when an unexpected special occasion may come knocking on the door, and it’s always best to be prepared.