Chillin' that wine: Ice plus water in the bucket, please
Obviously, I eat out a lot. And lately, I have to say, I often encounter a bottle of red wine that's way too warm. OK, the weather has been unseasonably hot, it's true. But this happens at all seasons. The new generation of restaurants don't have much room for proper wine storage and what little they have is reserved for getting the whites just a little cooler.
Before accepting a bottle of wine, reach out your hand and take its temperature. If the bottle feels warm, or even if it simply doesn't feel cool, you should ask the server to cool it down for a few minutes before pouring.
"No problem," he or she will say, privately thinking you're an idiot. Chill a red wine. Yes, that's right. Next time you get a warm red wine, do this experiment. Pour half a glass, and then chill the rest of the bottle. Note how different -- and better - -the wine tastes. With its temperature slightly lowered, the wine comes into focus, as if all its elements are sliding back into place.
Be sure to check that the server indeed has ice in the wine bucket, plus water to come up to the bottle's shoulders, or it will never chill down in time. I'd say three out of four servers don't know to add water, or if they do, they expect a couple of inches to do the trick. It won't.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Illustration: The proper amount of water and ice when chilling a red wine. Credit: S. Irene Virbila/Los Angeles Times