Wine etiquette showdown

Some time ago I brought a stunning bottle of wine to a party of pretty good friends. During the semi-formal dinner my red Bordeaux was the hit of the table. The wine was an older wine of some significance and as I poured the wine around the table I saw a man drop a few large ice cubes (lifted from his spoon) from his water glass into his wine glass. I poised the Bordeaux bottle over the glass and hesitated for just enough time to call attention to the two of us looking at each other and the bottle poised over the wine glass with the ice cubes. Now what?

Here's the problem: There is no doubt that pouring an expensive, fragile and elegant red wine such as an older Bordeaux over a set of ice cubes will kill the taste of the wine, snuff out any nuance and water down the wine in 30 seconds. Not only will the dilution of the wine take the heart out of the Bordeaux, but the cold will tighten any taste sensation whatsoever that existed in the wine.

The brutal truth of the matter is that this person could have had any red wine over ice and the tastes would have stayed the same, muted, diluted and watery on the palate.

Here is the other side of the story: The guy likes all of his wine, red or white, to be served over ice.

This is just the way he learned about wine, the way he has always insisted that his wine be served to him, either ice cold from the refrigerator or with ice; just that simple.

So there I was, neck of outrageous bottle over glass of ice. Well, I did the unthinkable. Very gently I took his wine glass and tipped the ice back into the water glass and poured a little (little!) bit of Bordeaux into the wine glass and said. "Give it a try the old fashioned way and see what you think." I kept moving down the row of folks and watched from the corner of my eye as he looked at his glass in front of him as though it was a new species of insect that was caught in the glass.

I know that some of you think that what I did was invasive, ill-mannered and way out of line but, in all honesty, I simply could not allow that lovely, pricey and wonderful bottle of red wine be served under such conditions. If we put it in perspective, it is much like seeing a lovely shrimp dish being cooked until it tasted like rubber bands, or a fresh trout grilled to leather.

I just could not accept the idea of it, much less be part of the crime.

I was asked to say something about the wine, which I did in front of the group — and as we sipped the Bordeaux I saw him (the ice cube man) sip the wine along with us. I waited to see his face and he looked at me and let the wine slide down his palate. After 10 seconds or so, he pursed his lips and nodded to me. Then a smile came on his face as he tried another sip of the elegant wine. So here is the end of the story;

It turns out that this gentleman grew up in the deep south where the muggy and hot temperatures made every sip a cold sip laced with ice. It did not matter what his family drank, the ice cubes were in every glass. In later years, he kept this southern family tradition alive with him. He told me later that evening, when I went to him and explained myself, about his cold beverage inclinations. It seems that I was the only person to talk to him about correct wine etiquette and he thanked me for it because he found the wine delightful!

I am not so sure everyone would have been that nice to me in such a situation, but I had to take a stand.

Who says the wine world is boring?

See you next week!

Share This Story