We've all had that "yikes!" moment: Friends are walking through the door for a dinner party or cocktail hour, but there's no white wine waiting in the fridge. You'll find no lack of suggestions online for those times when you need to chill a bottle pronto, but don't click over to Pinterest just yet. And don't bother with the most obvious move of all: sticking the bottle in the freezer. Freezers will chill an entire bottle of wine in about a half hour—but older, less-efficient models can leave you hanging for 45 minutes or more before the wine is cold enough, and woe to the party host who forgets to retrieve the wine. It will freeze solid and potentially explode!
Your best bet is one of the following methods, all of them tested with a room-temperature (68˚F) bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. They all succeeded in getting a wine bottle nice and cold in 15 short minutes:
- The absolute best weapon against warm wine is probably not what you'd think: It's a bunch of grapes. Keep a stash in your freezer and you're mere minutes away from a cold glass of Pinot Grigio. Drop four frozen grapes into a 6-oz. glass of wine to chill the liquid 20 degrees in three minutes; that's less than the time it takes to light your tiki torches on the patio.
- If you have an ice cream maker with a freezer bowl, fill the bowl with ice water and place a bottle of wine in the water, submerging it as much as possible and twirling the bottle often. It will reduce the temperature of the wine by 20 degrees in 15 minutes.
- Wrap a bottle of wine with a wet paper towel and place it in the freezer; our bottle of wine dropped 17 degrees in 15 minutes.
- Submerge a bottle of wine in a tub of water mixed with ice and one or two tablespoons of salt, and twirl the bottle often. Salt water has a lower freezing point than plain old water, which helps the wine's temperature drop more quickly; our bottle cooled from 68˚F to 53˚F in 15 minutes.
- Place a clean plastic or gel freezer pack in a tall pitcher, then open the bottle of wine and pour it over the pack. Swish the freezer pack around frequently to distribute the wine all over it; the pack will cool the wine by 10 degrees in 15 minutes.
- If you're willing to shell out a few dollars in your quest for cold wine, the Corkcicle series of icicle-shaped stoppers act like freezer packs inside your bottle. They work best with already-chilled whites and will maintain the wine's temperature, but stashing one in your freezer isn't a bad move.
What doesn't work so well? Keeping a wine glass or a clean, empty wine bottle in the freezer, and pouring wine into it whenever you want to chill some. Although a glass or bottle you've kept in ice-cold storage will feel cold in your hands after you've poured the wine into it, it still won't chill the wine poured into it by more than five degrees.