Pictured: An ideal ice bucket
I originally wondered whether or not to add this one to the list – how much can one write about a plain old bucket? Then I remembered all the occasions where I had been left with a white or sparkling wine that had died in the bottle because I was too slow a drinker, or a red that had warmed up too quickly due to the weather. In this respect, an ice bucket is like an umbrella – it’s better to have one and not need it, rather than the other way around.
It’s generally accepted that sparkling wines should be kept chilled. Bubbles in sparkling wines remain stable instead of boiling away at room temperature. For still wines, keeping them at a lower temperature will ensure it stays fresh and crisp, allowing you to observe the evolution of aromas and flavours as you swirl the glass. Otherwise the wine may quickly oxidise, evaporate and die in the bottle.
Choosing an appropriate ice bucket seems simple, but there are a few factors to keep in mind. As ever we have the two highest considerations – function and form.
Obviously, the function of the ice bucket is to keep a bottle of wine chilled. To do this we must maximise the transfer of heat away from the bottle, and to do this we must ensure the maximum surface area of the bottle is in contact with the cooling agent.
To start with we have a bottle in an empty bucket, exposed to the air. Air is a poor conductor of heat, so the bottle will eventually reach an ambient temperature dependent on it’s environment.
When we add ice the air will be displaced, but not completely. Now most of the surface of the bottle is in contact with ice, but there will still be gaps of air between the individual ice cubes
Now we add water into the bucket. The water fills up the gaps and maximizes the surface area in contact with the bottle. Any heat will now be transferred away from the bottle, through the water and into the ice. This is the ideal situation to keep your wine chilled.
With the above to consider it stands to reason a functional ice bucket should be the right size to contain a wine bottle and enough ice and water to keep it chilled.
I have seen these tiny metal tubes and have always wondered how they were supposed to function. With no room to add extra ice and water, I cannot see how it can achieve the result it was designed for.
For personal use avoid using one large container for multiple bottles of wine. Use multiple smaller buckets instead that will be easier to store, transport and clean.
The ice bucket should be simple in design, nothing too ostentatious – the focus here is on the wine, not the table pieces. That function can be fulfilled by the decanter.
I suggest sticking with metal ice buckets, as plastic feels too cheap and glass will be too fragile. A metal ice bucket can also double as a spit bucket during more formal and studied tastings, and will be easier to clean at the end of the night. Finally, look for something with simple handles to minimize the chances of slipping and dropping. The image above, and the one at the very top of this post, should give you an idea of what to look for.
For some more weird and wonderful wine chillers check out this article from TheDrinksBusiness.com – Top 10 luxury Champagne coolers
Read More: Essential #1 – The Decanter