Cool It: A quaffer's quick guide for chilling white wine

white wines in a bucketIn long, intense summer heat, busy adults need something stronger than Gatorade to relax their weary bods: a good, cool buzz. When stress strikes and the urge to quaff takes hold, white wines are the perfect relaxing prescription. Not unlike Valium, whites are a misunderstood, under-appreciated breed. As much as red wine snobs rebuff them, whites pop up as ubiquitous gems at every occasion, a precious liquid that can simultaneously de-stress and quench. 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 — and prefer 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? Most recommend a bath of 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 with the bottle helps but is not necessary. Some restaurants add salt when they quick-chill a bottle of white. Adding salt, especially kosher or rock salts, melts the ice quicker, making the water colder, faster.

Be careful not to overchill 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 summer food like shrimp cocktail, potato chips (especially tasty with sparkling wine) and smoked salmon. The acidity in white wines makes it food-friendly, but some white varietals are better than others. Whites such as sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot gris love food, and balance spicy or protein-rich foods. But, contrary to popular belief, chardonnay is not a very food-friendly wine, and its oft-present oak can mask a dish’s flavor.

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.

Great whites (that won’t eat your budget):

Vionta 2008 Albarino
Laurenz V 2008 Gruner Veltliner
Buried Cane 2007 Riesling
Cupcake Vineyards 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

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