Keep it cool! The Ice Bag is a red wine lover’s accoutrement du jour in the Southern Rhone.
A summertime mis-en-scene: your waiter uncorks a bottle of red wine from a quality winery, one you ordered with conviction as a wine guru validated it with a score of 90-plus, and at first sip the wine is ‘en bouche’ warm.
In a majority of restaurants and cafés in the Southern Rhone – small to mid-size businesses with no sommelier (even some Michelin star restaurants have no sommelier) — the daily stock of wine is brought up from the cellar and it sits in a warm bar or dining room area for hours. Few places are air-conditioned. The wine, brought to room temperature (chambré), is toasty by evening.
Southern Rhone reds are often served warm in restaurants, cafés and at the gite or home table. When warm, red wine quickly looses it freshness, the alcohol is perceived as out of balance, and if left too long in heated conditions it develops ‘bottle bouquet’ that spikes its nose (smell) and flavor.
The ideal serving temperature for a Southern Rhone red is 15-17°C / 59-63°F, and that applies to the duration of the repast.
1 – At a gite or a house cool the red wine in a refrigerator before serving, and use an ice bag with cool water to maintain the proper temperature at the table.
2.- At a restaurant, inquire about the temperature of the wine before ordering. If the establishment serves the wine warm and does not have ice bags, inquire if they can cool the bottle(s) that you are ordering.
3. – Some restaurants and bars have a ‘cave de service,’ a small standalone wine cellar that preserves bottles of wine at the proper temperature for daily use. (photo r.)
Do not be timid: Keep in mind that restaurants depend upon the handsome margins from wines to realize a profit. There is no reason to be reticent. In fact, the more demanding that you are the more respect you will merit from the waiter or sommelier.
In Gordes, there are two restaurants that employ these solutions. The wine bar and restaurant L’Estaminet on the main square of Gordes places its red wines in ice bags, which are also for sale to customers. The Casa Rosario, which serves pasta and salads, keeps its excellent wines in a cave de service.
Casa Rosario: Lunch service from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. July and August. Route de Murs (80 feet from main square up the hill on the right) Gordes. Tel: 04-90-72-35-56
L’ Estaminet: Gordes, Main square, center of village, Gordes. Tel: 04-90-72-14-45 (photo l.)