On a bicycle trip through Burgundy a few years ago, we decided to host a pre-dinner wine and appetizer party in our room for our fellow riders. We stocked up on baguettes, pâté and slices of quiche from the local bakery. We bought a couple of bottles of Mâcon-Villages and Pouilly-Fuissé, as well as some gems from Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet.
Requesting ice from the hotelier, we were handed a stainless steel bucket half-filled with water and four rapidly melting ice cubes. We snuck into the hotel kitchen between service and began scooping ice into our stash of one-gallon sealable plastic bags.
As we were heading back upstairs, the hotel owner caught us red-handed. In halting French, we repeated, “The wine is warm and there is nowhere to buy ice,” until he shrugged his shoulders and pointed us toward the stairs. We ran up, chilled our bottles in the bathroom, and later enjoyed properly cooled wine with our friends.
As we never condone breaking the law—even in pursuit of cold white wine—here’s how to maintain the proper beverage temperature during outdoor entertaining season.
- Combine ice and water in your cooler or wine bucket. Ice water provides complete contact and cools more efficiently.
- Chill well in advance: the morning of an evening party, or the night before a daytime event.
- Always have more than enough ice. Unless you have a freestanding icemaker, buy several bags of ice before an outdoor party.
- Make ice cubes with salt water. It has a lower freezing point than plain water, so its ice water will stay colder, too. Keep them in separate, labeled bags.
- Plastic utility bins get the job done, but stainless-steel tubs are relatively inexpensive and more attractive. A well-scrubbed wheelbarrow makes a fun cooler for an informal gathering. A scrupulously cleaned bathtub or shower stall is also a good place to chill wine and other beverages.
- If you’re not concerned about appearances, a taped cardboard box lined with a large trash bag provides a sturdy, watertight container.
- For a small gathering, the freezer can provide a quick chill. Set a timer for 20 minutes, however, so you don’t find an exploded bottle later in the day.
- Keep a stack of clean dish-towels near your service bucket to dry bottles before pouring.
- Don’t be afraid to chill reds on a hot day. Give them 20 minutes in an ice bath before serving.