14 August 2023

Give me an instant coffee, but put a freeze on ice in beer

| Ross Solly
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Schooner of beer on an asahi bar mat with 16 beer taps in the background

Does adding ice to wine or beer make it taste better? Photo: Lucy Ridge.

I am, by nature, a simple man with very simple tastes. Some would say, with justification, that I am quite unsophisticated when it comes to what many call “the finer things in life”.

I can’t tell the difference between different types of coffee. Pods are completely wasted on me. I am, to the embarrassment of many, a drinker of instant coffee. If you were to put a mug of instant coffee alongside a mug of one of those expensive pod coffees, I would struggle to tell the difference.

I initially turned to instant coffee because I was concerned about the damage coffee pods are causing the environment. And also because my coffee pod machine never gave me enough coffee. I like a big mug of caffeine in the morning.

When I realised I couldn’t taste the difference, I stuck with it. In the office I know people are snickering behind my back, laughing at the country boy who can’t tell the difference between a skinny latte and a full-strength cappuccino.

Maybe years of boarding school food has trashed my taste buds? Because it’s not just coffee. I’m also useless at telling different types of wine apart.

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I don’t have a snowflake’s chance of determining a chardonnay from a sauvignon blanc, or a merlot from a cab sav. I am not a big wine drinker, which probably explains my lack of taste bud awareness.

At dinner parties and functions, while other guests are nodding knowingly about a particular vintage or a famous winery, I’m trying to tell the difference between a red and white wine glass.

What I’ve always strongly believed, however, is that there is no place for ice blocks in wine or, for that matter, beer. My brother-in-law swears by it. He does live in Perth, where summer temperatures regularly hover around 35 degrees Celsius, but even in winter he will surreptitiously slip a couple of cubes into his vino.

Turns out I am guilty of “culinary snobbery”. And these aren’t the words of my brother-in-law, although he has used less articulate words to describe my repugnance for his practices.

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No, these are the words of a Michelin star chef, no less. David Chang, an award-winning American cook, said he does it all the time, and when he does, it makes his wine “taste like gold”. Let’s ignore the fact gold probably does not taste great – we get what he means.

Wine and beer, the chef said, are not “cultural artefacts”. People like me are just snobs who don’t understand wine and beer are just beverages that should taste as nice and refreshing as possible.

Yes, Chang said, people like me make him feel like a leper every time he does it. But I, and others, need to get over ourselves and just embrace what tastes good.

David Chang’s views about people who turn their nose up at putting ice in wine and beer, reflect my views about people who think drinking instant coffee is repulsive. But even though we are kindred spirits in this regard, I’m not convinced sticking ice in wine or beer doesn’t water down and dilute what we are supposed to be enjoying.

Vignerons around the world are, of course, pouring scorn on Chang. But he has more Michelin stars then all of them put together. Stay strong, David. People like you and me need to stand tall in the face of the culinary snobs.

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