Chill that lukewarm bottle of wine in a hurry

Image: AP Photo/Eric Risberg
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It’s a weekday in midsummer, you’re preparing dinner, and you suddenly really want a glass of wine. A cold glass of wine. But the bottle you have on hand is as warm as bathwater, and that sounds, well, not optimal.

How do you chill it quickly?

Ice cubes in wine are totally acceptable, but if your bottle of wine is at room temperature on a hot summer day, they’re going to melt pretty quickly and water it down more than you might like. (Also, the ice cubes in my freezer are often not very good tasting.) The internet is also full of strange tricks such as using frozen grapes, wrapping your bottle in a wet paper towel, or strapping on ice packs.

But here’s the bottom line: An ice water and salt bath is the fastest way to chill wine. It’s much faster (and has less risk of freezing your bottle solid if you forget about it) than just putting your bottle in the freezer.

Step one: Get a tall pitcher, a large pot, or whatever kind of vessel you have that you can fit your bottle into. Maybe you even have a proper wine bucket. You want it to be deep enough that the shoulders of your bottle will be submerged, but narrow enough that you have enough ice to mostly fill it.

Step two: Do not put that bottle of wine in there yet, please. Get all the ice you have. Dump it in.

Step threeAdd cold water. You want the water to surround the bottle as a means of thermal transfer and to allow the ice to circulate, but you really want more ice than water, if possible. Leave enough room for the bottle itself.

Step four: Add a third to a half cup of salt. (If it’s a huge vessel, use roughly a cup per gallon.) The salinity of the water lowers its freezing point, allowing the liquid surrounding the wine to get colder.

Step five: Put your bottle in the ice water. If the water does not cover the shoulders of the bottle, add more. Set a timer or your phone for 15 minutes if you want it quite cold—which on a Thursday night at home with a random bottle of rosé, you probably do—10 minutes if you’re okay with a gentler chill, or if you’re drinking a chilled red. (This is not proper Wine Temperatures for the advanced sommelier. This is a get-your-wine-cold-in-a-hurry cheat sheet.)

Bonus: If you gotta have your wine right now, and you gotta have it cold, this Ziplock bag tip from Bon Appetit really sees you. Follow steps one through four, then open your wine. Pour it into the bag. Seal that bag well and immerse it in your ice water bath. Wait two minutes. Now drink. From a glass, if you’re fancy.