Burgundy World

Chilling wine

Avoid the ice-box tragedies!
Published:  February 18, 2012

It's Saturday night and you've got a bottle of white wine or champagne you want to chill fast before the guests come around. What do you do?

There are a few tips and warnings to bear in mind on this icey, brittle, subject. First, if it's a good white wine (one you've spent quite a bit of money on...price is a reasonable measure of quality), do not pop it in the freezer. It will cork. If it's a good wine, put it in the normal fridge for 40 mins, and turn the dial up! If it's good and old, your friends can wait. You will all appreciate the difference.

Very young "drink now" wines will tolerate the freezer, especially if screw capped. (See here.) But even young juicy wines won't like the freezer for more than 30 mins, best then to transfer to a real cold fridge or a nice bucket of iced water. It will be well chilled by the time your guests have removed their coats, and made early light conversation.

What about just longer term chilling, like, keeping white wine or champagne in the fridge for days or weeks on end? Well, you should avoid that. Wine will cork if kept in the fridge for too long (even a few days...unless screw capped!). If you have a cool dark cupboard in your house, keep plenty of champagne and wine it there! And just chill when you need it. 

What if you have the urge to drink or serve a chilled cold wine right now, what then? Well, there are a few solutions. First, grab a cheap and cheerful young wine and put an ice cube in your first glass when the better bottle is chilling! Ice in wine can be very refreshing, especially on a semillon or a Gascony wine, but also on burgundy aligoté, village chardonnay, sauvignon and so on. Forget those that cry sacrilege: they probably put three cubes of sugar in their expresso!

Another solution is to keep a wine in the fridge that won't cork: Muscat from Rivesalt or any good Muscat will do the trick. These are quite sweet yet relatively complex fortified wines, and are not to be confused with sweet German plonk or (better) Alsatian Muscat. Rather, these well-priced mainly southern concoctions can be quite rich and fun to get to know, but to drink in moderation. And you'll be surprised that your guests will be thrilled to be offered a Muscat to start: they'll sip it slowly too and be ripe and ready for the better wine patiently blooming in the fridge.

Otherwise offer them a light beer, sherry, gin and tonic, something you found in Asia, or water: something else to distract from that chardonnay from Chablis or California! If your wine is a good one, it has taken a while (time, nature and skill) to get to its best and whereas haste will spoil it, 40 minutes of extra patience will reap a rich reward.

©Rory Delucenay-Clarke

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