Wine purists who visit our shores are often horrified at what is believed to be a uniquely South African habit: adding ice to wine. While there’s no doubt that a handful of ice blocks will dilute the wine’s flavour, locals have their reasons.
Firstly, with our climate, it makes perfect sense to want to enjoy a cool beverage. Secondly, South African’s are renowned for our love of alcoholic beverages: diluting the wine is helps one stay vaguely coherent when drinking starts at lunch, and is expected to go on until after dinner. And finally, if you’re trying to watch your weight, ice will help lower the calories in each glass. How many calories you’ll save, however depends entirely on the sugar content of the drink.
But the trend is nothing new. High society ancient Greeks believed that only barbarians drank wine undiluted. Coupled with the hot climate, it’s rumoured that they chilled their wine – with snow! Imagine the cost (and effort) of transporting snow from the mountain tops to Athens on a hot day? (Martin Moore, http://www.grape.co.za/Coalface/070404mm-april.htm)
Leopard’s Leap’s winemaker, Eugene van Zyl, is unfazed about people adding ice his wine. Once while lunching under a blazing Franschhoek summer sun, a guest only realised her faux pax after throwing in a few blocks. Highly embarrassed, she apologised profusely but van Zyl laughed it off, saying people should enjoy his wines just as they like it, and not how they are expected to.
If adding ice is your thing, van Zyl has this tip to minimise the effect on the flavour of the wine, and maximise your enjoyment, “Choose a wine that’s well balanced, with concentrated flavours.”
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