How to chill wine
What effect does chilling have on wine?
In warm weather we so often reach for refreshing white or rosé wines straight from the fridge, but many red wines are also best served cool when the mercury rises.
Temperature has a huge effect on our perception of wine. Chilling enhances its crispness and acidity while allowing its delicate notes to shine through, but if it’s served too cold these become muted and, while it is thirst quenching, the wine tastes flat.
As it warms, more volatile aroma and taste compounds are released, so we pick up more complex sensations, and both sweetness and the sense of alcohol are enhanced. Served too warm, wine becomes claggy and/or soupy.
At what temperature should wine be served?
Domestic fridges are set at around 6C, which is about as cold as you’d want for light, fresh whites and rosés; richer whites are better a bit warmer to allow their complexities to show best. Take them out of the fridge 15 minutes or so before serving, and do the same for light reds – pinot noir, gamay and the like.
Optimal serving temperatures for other red wines are said to be 15-18C, but who has a thermometer as they reach for a bottle? If in doubt, err on the side of caution – most are better with 30 minutes or so in the fridge to sharpen up their edges and lift any jamminess.
How to chill wine
The fastest way to chill wine is in the freezer, of course. Alternatively, flexible sleeves filled with freezable gel are widely available – they’re stored flat in the freezer then slipped over the bottle to chill it in minutes, and keep it cool for several hours, so are brilliant for picnics and drinking on the move.
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Large containers filled with ice and water work well for parties – if you’re in a rush, throw in a couple of handfuls of cheap cooking salt to lower the temperature at which the ice melts, chilling the wine more quickly. And have a tea towel nearby to wipe the bottles when they’re cold.
Temperature is important but don’t get stressed out about it. Just remember, it’s easier to warm the wine in your glass than to chill it, so it’s better to start too cold than too hot. If the wine feels too cold, just cup your hand around the bowl of the glass and gently swirl it to increase the temperature. For wine geeks, it’s a really pleasurable experience to see how the wine changes as it warms. If the wine feels too warm, there’s nothing wrong with dropping in an ice cube, a trick that works for both whites and reds.