How to Correctly Chill Wine

Posted by Barterhouse on June 24, 2020

Chilled wine is always a refreshing choice for a summer beverage, but the idea of chilled wine isn’t as simple as you might believe. You can’t simply toss a bottle into the fridge an arbitrary amount of time before dinner starts. We wish it was that easy. Wine is an art that is quite difficult to master by design, and learning how to correctly chill it is not an exception to the rule. Each glass of wine has a specific chemical makeup that is either altered or enhanced by its temperature, which is why the rules exist in the first place. For those of you who might need a reminder, here are the dos and don’ts of chilling wine.

Whites and Rosé:
White wine is more commonly chilled than red wine because it requires a colder temperature in order to elevate the fragile, tender aromas stored inside. The wines that work best at colder temperatures are the ones that are lighter and fruitier in flavor. Wine rarely needs to be colder than about 45°, so stick to this rule of thumb when serving the lighter wines, like Pinot Grigio. You can likely achieve the perfect temperature for wines in this range by sticking them in the fridge for 2 hours before serving. Sparkling wine also needs to be chilled at this temperature because CO2 is usually preserved better in colder temperatures. Fuller-bodied wines and dessert wines should be chilled to around 55°. Anywhere between 50° and 60° works well. If it is chilled below that, there’s a risk that the flavor might become subdued, which is not ideal.

Red wines are often considered to be wines that are typically not chilled. However, this isn’t true across the board. The reason why this is so widely believed is because chilling a red can dull the flavor. This is true, especially for full-bodied wine like Cabernet, which is tannic. Wines that are more acidic should be lightly chilled. This can usually be accomplished with 30 minutes in the fridge. As a general rule, reds should sit anywhere from 55° to 65°. In other words, don’t place a red in the fridge as a means of storing it, because that doesn’t do any good for when you actually want to sip it. Conversely, you can utilize the fridge on a particularly hot day, when the room temperature is not serving the wine.

Ways to chill wine:
We’ve been talking bout using a refrigerator to chill your wine, but there are various methods. There are, however, some universal things you want to avoid. For example, using ice cubes is not a great idea because it dilutes the flavor of your wine, which takes away from the experience. Chilling a glass also doesn’t work well because there’s simply not enough surface area to chill your wine correctly.

Our favorite way to chill wine is with an ice bath. Add table salt to an ice bath to allow it to freeze below 32°. You can also utilize your freezer, but you’ll want to make sure your bottle is never in the freezer for more than 30 minutes.

The easiest way to handle chilling wine is to get your timing right. Stick whites and sparkling wines in the fridge a couple of hours before dinner and stick reds in there an hour or less before you’re ready to have a glass. Avoid placing them in the refrigerator door if you’re going to be doing a lot of opening and closing before mealtime.

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