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A quaffer's quick guide for chilling whites

In long, intense summer heat, busy adults need something stronger than Gatorade to relax their weary bods: a good, cool buzz. When stress strikes and the urge to quaff takes hold, white wines are the perfect relaxing prescription. Not unlike Valium, whites are a misunderstood, underappreciated breed. As much as red wine snobs rebuff them, whites pop up as ubiquitous gems at every occasion, a precious liquid that can simultaneously de-stress and quench.

But what is the best way to chill a warm bottle before lounging on the back porch, by the pool or at a barbecue? Some think plunging a bottle of wine into really cold water will damage the fragile contents -- a debatable notion at best -- preferring to gradually chill it in a refrigerator. That's great for forward-thinkers, but planning is for the anal retentive, and Americans want it now. Besides, the impromptu poolside bash or after work de-stress session deflates with a plan.

What is the ideal chilling method if you're hankering for a spontaneous splash of white wine? Most recommend a bath of half ice, half water in a sink or wine bucket, swirling it around for about 10 minutes. This process emulates the fancy automatic wine chillers you find in upscale grocery stores. Swirling the water exposes more of the bottle to the cold temperatures, but is not necessary in the chilling process. Some restaurants add salt when they quick-chill a bottle of white. Adding salt, especially kosher or rock salts, melts the ice quicker, making the water colder, faster.

Be careful not to over-chill a white wine. If you serve it too cold, the temperature will kill the flavor. Perfect serving temperature for most white wines is between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (reached after 10 minutes outside the fridge or in an ice bath). You might experiment with tasting the wine at different temperatures to see what pleases most.

Once you've got a cold one in your hand, introduce it to summer food like shrimp cocktail, potato chips and smoked salmon. The acidity in white wines makes it food friendly, but some white varietals are better than others. Whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris love food, and balance spicy or protein-rich foods. But, contrary to popular belief, Chardonnay is not a food friendly wine, and its oak can mask a dish's flavor.

So next time your insides are all knotted up, forgo other solutions and reach for a sweaty glass of white wine. You might throw away other prescriptions forever.

Recommended Wines

Willakenzie 2002 Pinot Gris Oregon. . $16. Like touching your toe into a warm bath, this wine relaxes you. In fact, a bath would make a fantastic accompaniment. Green-grassy with a touch of sweet, perfumed honeysuckle. Pleasant touch of sugar, mixed with slightly acidic limeade on the finish.

Cinnabar 2000 Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains. . $25. A winner for those clamoring for an oaky, buttery Chard. Rich and thick with exotic, tropical fruit and melon. Even acids make it easy to slurp.

Chalk Hill 2001 Pinot Gris Block K Estate. . $31. Dee-licious wine, full of apricot and mature red apple. Not a wimpy Pinot Gris and nice to see this one from California. Not cheap, but worth the extra cash.

Rudd 2002 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley. . $22. New Zealand-like with ripe pear, tangy lemon and crisp, easy acidity. Thirst quenching.

Columbia 2002 Riesling Cellarmaster Columbia Valley. . $10. A bit thick with sweetness, but not so much that it numbs the tongue. Rich with honeydew melon, white peach and fragrant honeysuckle.

Have a wine question or comment? Contact Taylor Eason at corkscrew@ creativeloafing.com.

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