5 Ways to Chill Wine Fast

by Fred Swan - Guest Blogger

A cold glass of wine is very refreshing on a hot Summer day. When the mercury is soaring, I’ll take a crisp white or a juicy rosé over beer every time. And Food and Wine Magazine recommends chilling certain reds. But what if you forgot to stock the fridge with wine? How do you get wine cold quickly?

It’s an emergency, but there’s no need to break glass or dial 911. Here are 5 tips for making your room temperature wine perfectly chilled in a jiffy.

1. Ice Bucket Options

Ice buckets are the most traditional way to chill wine, but burying a bottle in ice alone is not the most efficient way to get its temperature down.

Put water in the ice. An ice-to-water ratio of about 2:1 works great. The water chills quickly and surrounds the bottle completely, whereas ice has only a few points of contact.

Mix salt in with the water and ice. Salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, allowing it to get even colder.

Mix some vodka in with the water. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Vodka freezes somewhere between -15 and -40 degrees, depending on the alcohol percentage. Way colder! So, if you’re feeling the need for extreme chilling…

Bury the bottle completely in the ice water. Cooling will be slower if part of the bottle is above the surface.

By the way, if you’re concerned about the label getting wet, put the bottle in a thin, plastic bag. If you didn’t use a bag, wrap the bottle in a cloth napkin when you pour so that the water doesn’t drip all over.

2. Ice Bucket Alternatives

If you don’t have an actual, fancy schmancy ice bucket, any bucket will do. Or you can put a stopper in the sink and use that. If you’re lucky enough to be at a lake or cold mountain stream, you know what to do.

There are other devices which can be helpful, but are better for keeping wines cool, or giving them just a slight chill, than they are for getting warm wines really cold.

  • To use a marble chiller, put it in the freezer for a long while. When it’s good and cold, take it out and slide your wine bottle into it.
  • Terra cotta cylinders work with evaporative cooling. Soak it in water for an hour or so. Then, take it out and put in the wine bottle. As water evaporates from the clay, the wine will get cooler.
  • Plastic freezer sleeves are filled with a freezable gel. Slide a frozen sleeve over the bottle. The sleeves are a bit ugly, but work well if you’re taking your bottle on the road.

3. Other Ways to Chill Wine Fast

You can just put your bottle in the freezer. It will cool faster if you bury it in already frozen items.

If you’re in a big hurry, you can pour portions of wine into ziplock freezer bags. The wine will cool faster because of the smaller volumes of wine and lack of insulation by the glass bottle. Also, since the wine spreads out in the bag, there's more surface area which allows for faster heat transfer.

What if you have ice and plastic bags, but no freezer? Pour the wine into a bowl or wide-mouth jug. Put the ice in a clean, food-safe plastic bag and immerse that in the wine.

4. Chill Wine in Your Glass

Europeans are happy to drop an ice cube into a glass of rosé. That’s great if the day is hot and the wine isn't very interesting. But, if you don’t want to dilute your wine, you can use non-melting ice cubes. They are made from stone or metal and marketed primarily for chilling whiskey, but will work just fine for wine. Keep some in your freezer.

5. Chill the Glasses

Putting cold wine in a warm glass will take the chill off in a hurry. On the other hand, a cold glass can help cool down wine that’s a little warmer than you’d like.

There are two easy ways to chill a wine glass.

  • Put your glass in the refrigerator for a little while. (Putting it in the freezer is over-kill and could lead to breakage and/or frozen lips.)
  • Put ice cubes in the glass, then fill it with cold water.

It’s Time to Chill with some Wine!

If you don’t happen to have chill-worthy wines on hand, JJ Buckley can help you out. Here are a few in-stock wines that will be perfect for a hot day.

2016 Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rosé

2015 Mordoree, Domaine de la Tavel Rosé la Dame Rousse

2014 Palacio de Fefinanes Albariño (magnum)

2016 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc

2014 Sidebar Sauvignon Blanc

JJ Buckley guest blogger Fred Swan is a San Francisco-based wine writer, educator, and authority on California wines and wineries. His writing has appeared in The Tasting Panel and SOMM Journal. Online, he writes for his own site, FredSwan.Wine (formerly NorCalWine), PlanetGrape, and GuildSomm. He teaches at the San Francisco Wine School. Fred’s certifications include WSET Diploma, Certified Sommelier, California Wine Appellation Specialist, Certified Specialist of Wine, French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Professional, Napa Valley Wine Educator and Level 3 WSET Educator. In 2009, he was awarded a fellowship by the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. In that same year, he was inducted into the Eschansonnerie des Papes, the honorary society of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC.