But what is the best way to chill a warm bottle before lounging on the back porch, by the pool or at a barbecue? Some think plunging a bottle of wine into really cold water will damage the fragile contents -- a debatable notion at best -- preferring to gradually chill it in a refrigerator. That's great for forward-thinkers, but planning is for the anal retentive, and Americans want it now. Besides, the impromptu poolside bash or after work de-stress session deflates with a plan.
What is the ideal chilling method if you're hankering for a spontaneous splash of white wine? Martha Saulkner, at The Wine Shop in Charlotte, recommends half ice, half water in a sink or wine bucket, swirling it around for about 10 minutes. This process emulates the fancy automatic wine chillers you find in upscale grocery stores. Swirling the water exposes more of the bottle to the cold temperatures, but is not necessary in the chilling process. Some restaurants, like Primadonna in Tampa, add salt when they quick-chill a bottle of white. Adding salt, especially kosher or rock salt, melts the ice quicker, making the water colder, faster.
Be careful not to over chill a white wine. If you serve it too cold, the temperature will kill the flavor offerings. Perfect serving temperature for most white wines is between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (reached after 10 minutes outside the fridge or in an ice bath). You might experiment with tasting the wine at different temperatures to see what pleases most.
Once you've got a cold one in your hand, introduce it to lounging food like shrimp cocktail, potato chips and smoked salmon. The acidity in white wine makes it food friendly, but some white varietals are better than others. Whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer love food, and balance spicy or protein-rich foods. But, contrary to popular belief, Chardonnay is not a very food friendly wine, and can suck flavor out of a dish.
So next time your insides are all knotted up, forgo other solutions and reach for a sweaty glass of white wine. You might throw away other prescriptions forever.
Mionetto Prosecco Frizzante NV
A fabulous Italian sparkling wine. Light on the palate, absolutely sparkling clean finish with refreshing grapefruit and floral stuff going on. Great deal, too. $13 **** 1/2
Kunde 2001 Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc
Floral and grapefruit-y like a New Zealand Sauv Blanc. Blended with a touch of fruity Viognier makes this an excellent quaff for everyday drinking. $14 ****
Hop Kiln 2000 A Thousand Flowers
A fruity, fun white blend of Gewurztraminer, Riesling and others from Sonoma Valley. Clean, slightly acidic and minerally, it's perfect for food. $12 **** 1/2
Palacio de Menade Verdejo 2001
If you're a fan of Portugal's Vinho Verde, then this wine is for you. Very light flavor accented with Granny Smith apple. $12 *** 1/2