Did you forget to chill the wine before your guests arrive? Or do you want to taste the bottle your dinner guest just brought as a host gift? Chilling wine properly takes time and preparation… or does it?
We’ll walk you through a few techniques commonly used to chill wine fast and then we’ll show you our winemaker’s secret, scientifically proven, fastest way to chill wine!
Let’s quickly run through common ways to chill wine to serving temperature? (62-68 degrees for red wine and 49-55 degrees for white wine)
- Damp Towel Method
- Ziploc Method
- Ice Bath Method (Horizontal)
- Salted Ice Bath Method
- Spinning Method
With all of these methods, pay close attention to the time! Leave your wine in too long and you’ll be researching ways to warm your wine back up!
DAMP TOWEL METHOD
Putting your bottle in the freezer can decrease the wine’s temperature. But should you wrap it in a damp towel to help speed its cooling? Unfortunately, this cute method is counterproductive to quick cooling! Wet or dry, a towel wrapped around your bottle will actually insulate it from cold freezer temps instead of speeding the cooling process, unless you happen to have a blast chiller… which you don’t. Sans towel, a bottle of room temperature (70°F) wine will take about 40 minutes to cool to 50°F in a -0°F freezer. Add 3-4 minutes if you wrap it in a towel.
Pro Tip: This method has some rustic charm if guests are watching, but that’s where the benefits stop.
Conclusion: Not fast or time efficient for chilling lots of bottles.
What this method lacks in aesthetic appeal, it makes up for in speed. Prepare an ice bath. Pour your bottle of wine into a re-sealable zipper storage bag. Put the bag in the ice bath and wind your watch. In as few as 2 minutes you can have wine chilled to 58 degrees. Brrrr…
Pro Tip: No Way, Jose. Any points you scored by serving wine at the right temperature will be lost if they see “the bag”.
Conclusion: Lightening fast but kills all wine mystique. Not great for multiple bottle chilling. Transactional and the opposite of sexy.
ICE BATH METHOD (HORIZONTAL)
Place your wine bottle in a dishpan and cover completely with ice and then add water. Simple, effective, and used by households worldwide, the ice bath method will take about 11-13 minutes to drop your wine to the appropriate serving temperature. Want to know why horizontal arrangement cools faster in an ice bath? Look up “high aspect ratio cooling”.
Pro Tip: Add wine first, then ice around the body of the bottle, then add water to the vessel. Ideally, liquid inside the bottle should be at the same height or level as liquid outside the bottle.
Conclusion: Pretty fast. Good for chilling multiple bottles simultaneously.
SALTED ICE BATH METHOD
Some sources recommend adding 3-4 tablespoons of salt to your traditional ice bath, however, this amount of salt isn’t sufficient to significantly lower the freezing point of the water/ice mixture. You will need at least ½ pound of salt to drop the temperature of the water and salt mixture from 32 degrees to 10 degrees. If you have a significant salt stockpile to utilize, you’re looking at a 6-8 minute chill time.
Pro Tip: Salt does not easily dissolve in cold water. If you’re going to use this method, dissolve your salt in the ambient temperature tap water before adding ice. AKA Don’t add salt last.
Conclusion: Really fast if you have enough salt, and great for chilling multiple bottles. Add salt to your horizontal ice bath for accelerated chilling
What is the fastest way to chill a bottle of wine?
THE SPINNING METHOD
According to SAMsARA Winemaker, Matt Brady, “spinning” a bottle in heavily salted ice water will bring it to cellar temp in 2-3 minutes!!! Really? Why? Matt says, “It works because… Science?”.
Well Matt, what you know from years of experience is true and we will explain…
Science, more specifically Physics and Convection, are why spinning a wine bottle in super cold water will bring down its temperature more rapidly than nearly every other chilling method without destroying the mystique of the wine…
What is convection? Convection is defined as the movement within a fluid caused by the tendency of warmer, less dense liquid to rise, and colder, denser material to sink under the influence of gravity, resulting in the transfer of heat. This picture should help illustrate how convection works.
By spinning a bottle of wine in a super cold ice bath, you introduce multi-directional, accelerated convection to the wine inside the bottle and to the icy water outside the bottle, thus increasing the rate of heat transfer by a minimum of 20 times!
How to Chill Wine Fast:
- Put water and 1/2 lb of salt in a large bucket and mix thoroughly to ensure complete dilution of the salt.
- Add Ice to the salt water and mix until you have a thick slush.
- Completely submerge your bottle(s) of wine into salted ice water mixture.
- Grab bottle(s) by the top and spin while keeping fully submerged.
- Spin for 2 minutes for red wines and 3 minutes for white wines.
- Remove the bottle from the ice water, pull the cork & enjoy!
Pro Tip: Spinning more is better, but spinning some is better than none. “Nervous Nellies” should rejoice… You’ve got a job to do at every party!
Conclusion: Lightning fast and can work on multiple bottle applications depending on the number of spinning hands you have available. Don’t mind super cold hands? Arrange your bottle(s) horizontally in a salted ice bath and spin for even quicker results!
What about chilling Champagne and other sparkling wines with the spinning method?
Will spinning a bottle of champagne cause an unruly explosion because of agitated bubbles?
No. In fact, champagne and sparkling wine is more likely to pop and foam when chilled using a more traditional method.
Champagne foams when tiny bubbles build up around the inside of the bottle and release into the wine itself. Since the contents of champagne bottles are held under pressure, when they are opened the tiny bubbles shoot through liquid to the surface to equalize pressure.
By spinning the bottle during the chilling process, all the tiny bubbles are pulled away from the walls of the bottle to form one large bubble at the top. When the container is opened, the bubbles don’t have to go through the liquid to equalize the pressure, resulting in no dramatic “pop” or foam.
While it takes 40 minutes to chill a room temperature bottle of wine in the freezer, it takes a fraction of that time using other readily available methods: 11-13 minutes when cooled horizontally in ice water, 6-8 minutes in salted ice water, it will only take 2-3 minutes by spinning it in heavily salted ice water.