Devil's Advocate: Time to Promote Wine on the Rocks

Robert Joseph wonders whether now might be the time to start promoting wine as a drink to enjoy on ice.

Reading time: 3m

Glass of rosé on the rocks (Image: Midjourney AI)
Glass of rosé on the rocks (Image: Midjourney AI)

Is it okay to enjoy wine in one’s underwear, or naked? Or while listening to heavy metal? Or to add ice cubes to it, or soda? Or to use it in a cocktail, or drink it out of a plastic cup?

Only one of these questions has recently appeared at the head of an article in a wine magazine: that was the one about ice – and you can find the piece in question in a current Wine Enthusiast. Victoria Moore, a British friend who writes an excellent weekly wine column in the London Daily Telegraph, suggests that this kind of topic is the kind of clickbait that’s almost sure to attract online attention. My readers, she says, respond to references to ice. And the fact that I’m writing about it here suggests she may very well be right.

She also wonders whether any of these issues are generally only of concern to highly involved wine drinkers, and here I think she definitely makes sense. If a normal person has a bottle of wine and no alternative to consuming it from plastic cups, that’s what they’ll use. And I’m one hundred percent on their side. The ideal glass definitely makes a wine taste better, but if faced with the choice of wine in the wrong receptacle or no wine at all, I know which I’ll vote for.

Pink Piscine and Ice Champagne - the challenge lies in the name

And the same goes for adding ice cubes – something I do quite often during the summer months. The French, as Chrissie McClatchie, author of that Wine Enthusiast piece reveals, have a name for wine on the rocks: they call it a ‘piscine’ or ‘swimming pool’. Usually, wine referred to like this is pink and from Provence, but it could just as well be white and sparkling – after all, Moët & Chandon developed a sweet ‘Ice’ Champagne specifically to be served on the rocks. Wine critics have generally – pun fully intended – given it the cold shoulder, but my sources tell me that it sells very well, especially in Duty Free stores.

The problem with adding ice cubes to any drink, of course, is that they melt and at some point you are bound to end up with a drink that’s more heavily diluted than you wanted. But there’s a solution to this. A couple of years ago, I invested in a flexible mould that reliably produces four huge 5cm (2 inch) cubes that take forever to dissolve.

I use them in gin and tonic, Campari Soda and scotch. But I’m coming round to thinking of them as Wine Cubes – and to wondering whether, instead of asking whether – as the Wine Enthusiast headline does “Is It Ever Okay to Put Ice in Wine?”, we shouldn’t be actively promoting the idea as the restaurants in Provence are doing with their list of ‘Piscine’ offerings?

The challenge for English-speakers lies in the name. The first syllable of piscine does not make it ideal as a word, especially when talking about straw-hued white wine. And I’m not sure that ‘swimming pool wine’ has a great ring to it. ‘Pool-Wine’ is also maybe too close to ‘Pool-Hall’.

Maybe we could take a different route. Vin-Glaçons sounds quite sophisticated while remaining pronounceable. Alternatively, however, I really like the cooler, more Anglo-Saxon 'Wine Rocks!'

Which wine?

Then, of course, there’s the question of which wines to serve in this way. Readers with long memories may recall the campaign led by the Sauternais to promote their slow-selling wine with ice and mineral water in chic Paris clubs. It was kicked off in 2015 with Château Bastor-Lamontagne’s ‘So Perrier’ but never really set the world on fire. Now could be the time to revive it, probably in a special eye-catching glass. Provence Rosé is already playing the game with piscine, but lighter Rhône reds and Beaujolais can all be delicious served this way.

At a time when wine is looking for ways to compete with other beverages, I think Wine Rocks or Vin-Glaçons are really worth a try.

Whatever the name, some people might even embrace the addition of ice as a good way to ‘improve’ a few 14.5% reds. And, if Victoria Moore is right, just talking about it should attract a lot of attention online.

Mind you, of course, the same could almost certainly be said for a vin-lingerie campaign, but I’m not sure the industry is quite ready to sign up for that right now.

Styles & Regions

Maturing whisky in sherry casks has a long and distinguished history, but traditionalists scoff at the idea of briefly storing wine in barrels previously used for whiskey. With highly profitable sales of around 20m bottles per year and the involvement of top US brands, however, bourbon barrel-aged wine is a sector that needs to be taken seriously. Sarah Phillips McCartan reports. 

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