Whether it’s a holiday, a celebratory moment, or simply a slow Tuesday, Champagne and sparkling wine are the perfect way to elevate any of life’s moments into something special. So, when you need to get the party started sooner rather than later, it’s only fitting you pop a bottle of bubbly… unless it’s been sitting out on the counter all day because you forgot to put it in the wine fridge before company arrived. We’ve all been there.
But, luckily, not all is lost. We tapped several experts on all things vino frizzante to discuss some of the best, fastest, and most unique ways to chill your sipper. The best part? In about 10 minutes, you’ll be able to pour your perfectly cooled wine and toast the occasion with effervescence.
The Freezer Is Fine… With Caveats
When you want to cool something fast, the most logical thing one would think to do is to put it in the freezer. While this method definitely works quickly, there are a few things you should be aware of before doing so. According to Marta Casas, winemaker from Parés Baltà in Barcelona, Spain, the first thing you should keep in mind is time. It is not recommended to freeze sparkling wine for more than 30 minutes or so, and forgetting about it could mean disaster for your freezer. After three hours, says Casas, “the cork will get out or the bottle will explode.” Either way, it will make for a messy cleanup instead of a fun celebration.
However, there is a more serious issue to deal with when freezing wine, Casas notes. If a bottle of wine stays in the freezer for too long, the defrosting process can change the chemical makeup of the wine as it oxidizes. Not only does this cause a dulling of the aroma, but worse, it actually changes the flavor as well. What’s worse than serving a room-temperature sparkling wine? Serving a cold sparkling wine that lacks the flavor and aromas to impress your guests.
Marin Brennan, winemaker at Long Island, N.Y.-based Corey Creek Taproom, explains that she will pop sparkling wine in the freezer for only 10 minutes to keep the wine fresh while allowing it to cool down properly. “It gets cold enough that it won’t overflow, but not so cold that it covers up the aromatics of the wine,” she says. “Always set a timer if you place wine in the freezer.”
G.H. Mumm and Perrier-Jouët national Champagne ambassador Elise Cordell explains that if you absolutely must put a bottle of Champagne in the freezer (“Sometimes the desire for Champagne outweighs the risks,” she says), there’s a pro move that can help speed things up without losing too much effervescence.
“The towel method is all about surface area, so soaking a towel in water, wringing it out gently, and then wrapping the bottle in it before placing it in the freezer helps to draw the cold air closer to the bottle and liquid, versus just the ambient cold atmosphere,” she says.
Try These Ice Bucket Challenges
Aside from the freezer, there are several other ways to cool down your room-temperature wine that won’t impact the beverage on the nose or palate. Our experts explain that grabbing a bucket and some ice can easily go a long way. In fact, there are several ways to cool down your wine in an ice bucket, some of which are easier than others, but all will get the job done efficiently.
When using this method, Brennan fills a bucket about one-quarter of the way up with cold water. After that, she places the wine inside the bucket and fills the rest up with ice, making sure the bottle is completely surrounded for even chilling. The best part? It won’t take long until you’re sipping your bubbly booze.
“Give it the same amount of time as you would in the freezer,” she says. “If it’s a still wine, the bottle could be served earlier.”
And, according to experts, there are a few simple upgrades that make the ice bucket an even more efficient and safer way to chill your bottles in the freezer.
Casas explains that adding salt to the bucket along with ice and water will cool your carbonated wine choice in record time. “The salt melts the ice very quickly, so the water becomes cooler much faster. This transfers to the bottle and the wine, too,” she says. “A simple ice bucket will work, but it will be slower.”
Chrissy Whittman, senior director of winemaking at The Prisoner Wine Company, says this method is akin to making ice cream in a ziploc bag. “Adding a handful of salt to the water and ice will allow the temperature of the water to drop more quickly,” she says. “This will help keep the water cold and slow down the ice from melting too much.”
This method is one that Liz Martinez, general manager and sommelier at the Detroit-based Apparatus Room at the Detroit Foundation Hotel, also prefers. “It is safer [than freezing], and it actually works a lot quicker than you would think,” she notes. “The addition of salt lowers the freezing point of the water, making an exceptionally cold environment for the wine to chill in. You can hold several bottles in the bath, and it is easier to keep an eye on things.”
Jessica Green, sommelier and owner of Down The Rabbit Hole Wine Boutique in Sayville, N.Y., explains that making your ice bucket into a “human wine well” is another way to cool down your bubbles fast. But this method requires rolling up your sleeves — literally. First, place your bottle in a wine bucket, then fill it completely with ice from the bottom of the bottle to the neck. From there, it’s all in the wrist. “Roll up your sleeves and spin the bottle by the neck very fast for about a minute, then repeat in the opposite direction until at desired temperature,” she says. “This takes four to five tries.” Spinning the bottle allows more of the liquid inside to come in contact with the chilled glass. This not only cools it quickly, but more evenly as well.
When all else fails…
It may be that there isn’t a way to get your bubbles as cool as you want as fast as you want. But, having a Plan B can help avoid a sad sipping situation. Brennan explains that some sparkling wines don’t have to be chilled to be delicious, like pétillant naturel. It can be served at room temperature, so it’s an easy backup if you have a bottle on hand. But, if you’re really strapped, she says to buy yourself some time. Her favorite hack? Use a traditional transition to pop the bubbly, and no one will even know you forgot to chill it beforehand. “Start off with a different beverage, then when the sparkling is properly chilled, pour into glassware and make a quick toast.”
Or, notes Whittman, using grapes instead of ice can help chill the wine, save it from dilution and also make it look pretty, too. “Adding a few frozen grapes to your wine glass helps cool it down from within the glass,” she says.
But Cordell takes things to the next level when it comes to creating special moments with sparklers. “I’ve found that one of the best hacks is to always have a bottle at the ready in your fridge. Celebration is often spontaneous, and you can never be over-prepared,” she says.