Wine: How to keep your cool

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Writing about keeping wine cool during a summer heatwave may well be tempting fate. Still, come rain or shine, it's worth knowing how to bring on a chill, even if you only need to put these plans into action in more reliable climates.

I like to come prepared. Since marrying an Australian, methods of keeping wines and beers cool have become a way of life. Once I was a slave to the ice bucket or tub. Now when I'm in Australia I go native and never venture to the beach without the ubiquitous eskie, aka cool box.

For me, the eskie, suitably cooled by freezer pack, is indispensable for keeping your cool. As are the rapid wine and champagne sleeves which stay "squidgy" when you take them from the freezer and wrap them round your bottle, ready-chilled or not. Likewise Vacuvin's Rapid Ice and champagne coolers, which are widely distributed (for stockists, call 01299 250480) or Waiter's Friend's twin pack, with adjustable Velcro fastener (£14.50 including p&p, www.winegiftcentre.com). And keep an eye out this month for California wine producer Fetzer's offer in Sainsbury's of a Cool-Air tube, free with every bottle of the thirstquenchingly raspberryish 2004 Fetzer Valley Oaks Syrah Rosé (£5.99, currently £1.50 off at Tesco, Morrison and 3 for 2 at Thresher).

As long as you've already chilled your wine in the fridge, the double-walled acrylic coolers are also practical and look more stylish on the dinner table or picnic rug. For parties, cooling from scratch without enough rapid ice chillers means you'll need a traditional ice bucket or champagne tub with half ice, half water to achieve the desired chill in half the time it would take ice on its own. If you're desperate, you can put the bottle straight in the freezer, and I hold my hand up, but from experience I wouldn't recommend it to the absent-minded as a forgotten bottle can make a shocking mess.

Bearing in mind that while whites are often served too cold, reds are just as often served too warm in the mistaken belief that chambré, or room temperature, is the temperature of a modern, centrally heated flat rather than a shivery 17th-century English country house. I wouldn't want to lay down the law here since perceptions of temperature are subjective, but in general cooling a wine down takes the edge off its sweetness, and vice versa.

As a rule, a good temperature to serve a standard red such as cabernet or shiraz is 15-18C, while lighter-bodied reds such as beaujolais, Loire, valpolicella and New World pinot noir show their fruit qualities better served at around 10-12C. A typical Loire red, such as the 2003 Anjou-Villages Brissac Château La Varière Cabernet Franc (down £1 to £6.99, until 31 July, Waitrose), shows the cabernet franc's summery charms if cooled.

Dry white wines are normally served at 8-14C. The cheaper and sweeter the white, the cooler the better. Wines with a touch of sweetness are best served on the cool side and the sweeter the white, the cooler it should be. Paradoxically a fine sweet wine, such as sauternes or New World botrytis riesling, shouldn't be too cold if you want to avoid knocking all the fruit out of it. Champagne and sparkling wines, rosés and sweet wines can be served as low as 6C and not generally rise beyond 10C. To be absolutely accurate, you can always take the temperature with the Bottle Bracelet (£6.49 including p&p, www.winegiftcentre.com).

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