Chef wages war on ice cubes in wine

This week, a Parisian chef launched a social media campaign to stop people putting ice cubes in their wine. He spoke to Jeff Siegel.

Lanju Fotografie @lanju_fotografie
Lanju Fotografie @lanju_fotografie

Alexandre Callet's quest to keep ice cubes out of wine glasses may seem quaint in these days of wine trade wars, declining demand, and the rise of the neo-Prohibitionists.

But then again, maybe Callet understands something about wine that the rest of the world takes for granted.

"When I talk about wine, I talk about emotion," says Callet, a Parisian restaurateur. "It's not so much that the wine is good or bad, but do I have emotion for it? And if I do, I want to be able to enjoy it, I want to be able to appreciate all of the work that went into it, the year that it took to make. Wine is a special product, and it should be treated that way."

Callet has launched a social media campaign: #respectwine, a global effort to promote respect for wine – and to teach wine drinkers not to put ice cubes in their wine.

Callet's sense is that wine is becoming a commodity, like soft drinks and ketchup, as it becomes more popular around the world. Since Asian countries like China and India don't have a wine culture like Europe, he says, these new wine drinkers may not realize that wine is not just something to drink.

But Europe is not immune, either. The idea for #respectwine has been around for a couple of years, but he he realized the time had come to do something this summer. Caillet was drinking a Corsican rosé in Paris, one of his favorite wines, when he saw the couple at the next table adding ice cubes to their rosé.

"That's what I mean about emotional," he says. "I had an emotional response to what they were doing. They were never going to be able to enjoy the wine. And they didn't know what they were doing by putting ice cubes in it."

In this, ice cubes themselves aren't necessarily the problem, as they are symptom of the larger problem.

"Ice cubes are just a bad idea," Callet says, animated and passionate on the phone line as he discusses the subject. "They don't make the wine better, They destroy the wine. When you see guys putting wine in Champagne at a club, they're not doing it to make the wine better. They're doing it to make the Champagne last longer, so the girls who are with them will stay longer.

"When you see people put ice cubes in wine because because they think it will lower the alcohol, all it does is dilute the wine. They still have the same amount of alcohol in the blood." Great wine is the product of passion and hard work, says Callet, and he doesn't want to see a great Bordeaux or a fine Rijoa chilled to 10C, obscuring all elements that makes wine wonderful. "Can you imagine someone putting one or two ice cubes in a Barolo?" he asks. "But that is going to happen if this keeps up."

And so the hashtag launched, Callet has waded into battle. It will be an uphill one, considering that the warming weather will increase the appeal of ice cubes, but so are all battles worth fighting.

Jeff Siegel

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