When the New York Times Style section recently reported on the growing trend of serving Champagne on the rocks, just about everyone and their mother—including my own mother—forwarded the article to me. Basically they were sticking their tongues out and laughing at me like Nelson Muntz, Bart Simpson’s longtime nemesis: “HA-ha! HA-ha!” And no one laughed louder than my own sister, Gina, who likes to announce whenever we are together, “Okay, Mr. Fancy Pants, I’m putting an ice cube into my Chardonnay—and I don’t care if it’s wrong!”
But before I try to redeem myself in the eyes of my family (and the rest of the world), a few words on this Champagne-on-the-rocks trend. It's been championed by Möet, whose marketing team discerned a connection between casual summer entertaining and an annual slump in Champagne sales during the shorts-and-flip-flops months. Taking a page from the glitterati who lounge in the south of France, where Champagne served with ice in a big glass is called a piscine, or “pool,” they came up with Moët “Ice Impérial” and “Ice Impérial Rosé,” both of which are slightly sweet Champagnes made specifically to be enjoyed with ice (note: the Moët folks suggest you pour the bubbly and then add the ice cubes, so you don’t flatten all of that effervescence). Rival Champagne house Veuve Clicquot followed suit with a sweet sparkler called “Rich.” If you ask me, it’s only a matter of time before some Prosecco producer introduces “Povero,” which should go over big in Jersey City, where I live.
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But back to my sister’s Chardonnay, my mother’s Riesling and your Cabernet, Pinot Noir or what-have-you. I’ve got a compromise that will chill your wine—both white and red alike—without diluting it one tiny bit: frozen grapes. They’re practical, efficient, even edible; and, most importantly, they make the perfect “ice cube” for wine because they don't melt. (I mean, yes, you could also use frozen cherry tomatoes, but aesthetics play a role, too.) Especially now, at the height of summer entertaining, I like to offer guests frozen grapes in an ice bucket when I'm pouring wine outside, or inside when the AC isn’t cranking. If I have the time I’ll even offer separate buckets of green and red grapes—my family didn't start calling me Mr. Fancy Pants for nothing. Wine snobs might give me the Nelson Muntz cackle at the sight of a bunch of frozen grapes at the bottom of my glass, but I’ll take satisfaction in knowing that the wine in my glass is cool and lovely, while theirs is hot and vile. Also, my frozen-grape-chilled wine tastes the way the winemaker meant it to, which ought to count for something, right?