Summer is just about here, and a change of wine preference is in order. Most of us tend to favour fridge-worthy wines at this time of year – lively whites, refreshing rosés, ice-cold sparkling wines and, yes, sometimes even reds.
Wine transforms at cooler temperatures; the acidity sharpens and the bouquet of aromas fully reveals itself only at the right temperature. Preserving a chilled wine’s temperature on a hot day is just as important as reducing it in the first place. The summer challenge then is twofold: to cool wine in record time for those spur-of-the-moment evenings and to maintain that chill throughout the night.
I tried a few methods and sought advice on others. Here’s the low-down on the different wine-cooling methods:
The ziplock method
The ziplock method involves pouring the wine into a ziplock bag and swirling it in an ice bath.
Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly says, “This method works by increasing the surface area of the wine to ice-cold water. The larger the ice bath, the more wine you can chill quickly. Also, the less wine you pour in the bag, the faster it will chill.”
Being a big fan of Madeline, I gave it a go, and it does work, but I hesitate to pour wine out of a ziplock bag for myself, let alone my friends.
The kitchen paper and freezer combo
Next, I tried wrapping a bottle in a few layers of wet kitchen paper and then stuck it in the freezer, hoping it would chill in 15 to 20 minutes. I set a timer on my phone, waited and then extended it six times! The wine’s temperature fell, but it took well over 90 minutes to do so.
The salty ice bucket method
My favourite method involves a bit of science. First, fill a metal bucket with ice, adding some cold water so that the bottle doesn’t sit awkwardly on top of the cubes. Next, pour in three to four tablespoons of salt. Salt lowers the freezing point of water, so as the ice melts, the temperature stays under 0ºC. In goes the bottle, ideally dunked up to the neck. If you have time, turn the bottle around like a spinning top in the ice bath. The temperature drops in less than 10 minutes – it is incredibly quick and satisfying.
The ice cube method
Many people like to plonk ice cubes in their white or rosé wines. If you must, follow seasoned sommelier Devon Lochhead’s advice and limit the practice to “your everyday cheerful wines that are not overly complex or expensive. Those special bottles should be shown the respect they richly deserve and be drunk in the way that they were intended.”
I prefer plastic ice cubes. They don’t dilute the wine, nor do they weigh down the glass.
When the fridge is too far, try a tabletop wine cooler. Vacu Vin and other brands make stylish single-bottle wine coolers that can maintain a wine’s temperature for hours. Some come with reusable cooling elements that can be removed and placed in the freezer, which I find work much better than the ones with double-insulated wall structures.
A word on reds
If you favour reds, it is quite acceptable to cool them. I asked Arnaud Bardary MS, Master Sommelier for Black Sheep Restaurants, to weigh in. “The ideal serving temperature for medium reds is 15 to 17 degrees Celsius, and full-bodied reds are best enjoyed at 17 to 21 degrees Celsius. When the wine is too cold, the aromas can close down; when too warm, we tend to feel the alcohol and astringency more.”
A red might be too cold straight out of a fridge or ice bath, but that’s not necessarily a bad option. “I would prefer to serve the wine too cold rather than too warm. The wine’s temperature will start to go up as soon as you pour the first glass. You don’t have to wait long to enjoy a glass at its right temperature.”
Arnaud, that’s great advice! I pop red wine in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes for a gentle chill. This gets rid of any soupiness, when the flavours are all muddled up.
There you have it, the quickest ways to cool wine, tried and tested.
How will you be chilling your wine this summer?
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