Best Wine Chillers

Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for best wine chillers

Enjoying a bottle of wine involves more than just finding the varietals and producers that you prefer. To truly take in all of a wine’s winning aromas and notes, it needs to be properly served. Good glassware is part of it, but the right temperature is critical. And most wine — not just white and rosé, but red as well — should be chilled before drinking.

Chilling can positively affect a wine in multiple ways. It may dampen the acidity of certain varietals or liven up the aromas of others. At higher temperatures, some wines may smell burnt, with the taste of alcohol being overpowering on the palate. What's more, a cooler drink is simply just more refreshing than a hot drink, particularly on a warm day.

Each type of wine has a specific temperature range where it is best served, and an easy way to maintain a wine’s cool temperature is with a wine chiller. Our guide will detail these rather simple yet important wine accessories, and share everything you need to know when shopping for a wine chiller.

wine chillers
When using a wine chiller, wrap a cloth napkin around the neck of the bottle. It will add a bit of elegance and can be used to prevent the bottle from dripping when you pick it up to pour.

Key considerations

Design

Most wine chillers are designed to hold a standard 750 ml bottle of wine. They’re crafted so as to contain the body of the bottle but leave easy access to the neck. They are slightly wider than the bottle so that it fits easily within; some allow for ice to be included in the chiller. They feature a flat bottom to offer a sturdy base.

Some more advanced insulated chillers feature two parts — the top and bottom twist apart so users insert the wine into the chiller and then securely add the top over the neck of the bottle. Some include handles or sport a lip around the rim to ease picking it up, but most are simple cylinders.

Material

Most wine chillers are made of stainless steel. This helps retain the cool temperature and provides a durable, long-lasting vessel. Glass and marble both have strong insulating properties and are used as the principal material in a smaller number of chillers.

Chilling method

Most wine chillers require ice to cool the bottle within. Ideally, you place a chilled bottle of wine within the chiller, then add ice around it. Crushed or chipped ice works better than cubes — with their smaller size, the shards more easily fit between the bottle and the chiller.

Some chillers don’t use ice, though, which offers convenience and produces less of a potential mess. In some cases, the chiller itself can be or must be cooled prior to use, in order to provide a temperature that subsequently chills a bottle of wine. Others utilize freezer inserts that slide into the chiller around the bottle.

The chill times among insulated or pre-chilled vessels that don’t use ice can be up to six hours, so planning ahead is necessary. Also, some models are intended more for maintaining a pre-chilled bottle’s temperature rather than taking a bottle from room temperature to refrigerator-cold.

A variation of a chiller is an ice bucket. These terms often are used interchangeably, but an ice bucket typically features a wider body and wider rim than a chiller. Ice buckets tend to be more ornate and traditional than chillers; many feature handles or even engraved designs.

Optimal temperature

  • Sparkling wine: Sparkling wine, including prosecco and Champagne, are best served between 38°F and 45°F. The colder temperature maximizes the effervescence for enjoyment of the bubbles. Higher-end bottles, though, should be served toward the warmer end of this range to avoid overly dampening more delicate aromas. Once opened, keep the bottle in the chiller until it’s empty.
  • White wine: These are best enjoyed between 44°F and 55°F. The more acidic or zesty a bottle is, the lower the ideal temperature. You can keep the bottle in the chiller until it's empty, or remove it after a couple glasses have been poured and allow it to warm slightly as you near the end.
  • Light or fruity reds: Wines like pinot noir, grenache and zinfandel should be slightly chilled, in the 53°F to 63°F range. Put these wines in a chiller for about 15 minutes before removing and letting them slowly warm up.
  • Full-bodied red: These should be served between 60°F and 68°F. If the wine was kept at room temperature, you can use a chiller to slightly cool it before opening. This makes a higher alcohol content less noticeable and tends to focus the flavors. Don’t keep these bottles in the chiller while consuming, or they will end up far too cold.

Most chillers obscure how much wine is left in the bottle. Depending on a chiller’s design, you can place a spent bottle upside down in the chiller to let others know it’s empty.

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Features

Aesthetics

While most wine chillers are stainless steel, some options provide as much style as they do functionality. Marble chillers are popular, though they tend to be pricier and heavier. There are also some insulated models made of glass, which allows users to see the bottle as well as the color of the wine.

Some insulated chillers may have decorations or engravings on them.

Stand

For those seeking the utmost elegance and convenience, consider purchasing a chiller or ice bucket that comes with a stand. These are frequently used at restaurants and can serve the same function at home — the wine is kept close but doesn’t take up the precious table space or risk anything on the table getting wet. A stand can be particularly useful when drinking outdoors in more intimate settings, like a bedroom or bathtub.

wine chillers
DID YOU KNOW?
Unless you’re enjoying a wine cocktail, avoid using ice cubes in your wine. The cooler temperature comes at the cost of diluting your beverage.
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Accessories

Wine opener: Brookstone Compact Wine Opener
Unless your wine bottle features the increasingly used twist-off cap, a corkscrew is a must. Brookstone is known for durable and easy-to-use (and sometimes pricey) products.

Wine glass sets: Riedel VINUM Chardonnay Glass Set
It’s important to match the right varietal of wine to the proper glass. For those who enjoy chardonnay and Chablis, this elegant crystal set is made by a perhaps the most trusted name in quality glassware.

Unbreakable wine glasses: FineDine Stainless Steel Wine Glasses
If you enjoy a bottle of wine outside, unbreakable glasses offer convenience and safety. These stainless tumblers from FineDine keep your glass cool and won’t shatter.

Pricing

Inexpensive: For just under $20, you can find a standard stainless-steel wine chiller that will be functional and likely require ice.

Mid-range: Most chillers cost between $20 and $30, with some variety available in terms of functionality and aesthetics.

Expensive: The most elegant-looking and advanced wine chillers wil cost over $30. These likely won't require ice. An included stand will raise the price even more.

When in doubt, it’s better to over-chill your wine rather than underdo it. It’s much easier to allow your wine to warm back up than to start to cool it down again.

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Tips

  • Keep a cloth or towel handy. Your bottle will get wet if you use ice, so employ a towel or cloth to hold the bottle when moving it to and from the chiller.
  • Invest in a thermometer. It can be hard to guess the right temperature just by feeling a bottle. A thermometer can give you a precise reading so you can hit your ideal number.
  • Take notes. In order to better understand your wine tastes and preferences, always take notes. Keep track of preferred temperature ranges as well as regions, varietals, and flavor profiles.
  • Use the stem. Holding a glass by the stem keeps fingerprints off the bowl and prevents your hands from warming up the wine. If you’re using stemless glasses, hold by the base to limit heat transfer.
wine chillers
When using a wine chiller, wrap a cloth napkin around the neck of the bottle. It will add a bit of elegance and can be used to prevent the bottle from dripping when you pick it up to pour.

FAQ

Q. How long should I chill my wine before I drink it?

A. If you’re starting with a bottle at room temperature, using an ice chiller is generally the fastest way to cool a bottle. It may take only 15 to 30 thirty minutes to obtain ideal temperatures for white wine, and slightly longer for sparkling. Chilling in the fridge may take an hour or two, while the freezer may cut that time in half. Ideally, store your white wine in a fridge until you’re ready to drink it. Red wine should be stored in a cool, dry place like a cellar or closet.

Q. What’s the best way to warm up wine if it’s too cold?

A. If the temperature drops too far, you’ll notice some of the flavors and aromas might be muted. If you have the time, simply allow the wine to warm up to an optimal temperature. If the wine is drastically colder than ideal (it’s easy to forget a bottle in the fridge or freezer), you can use a warm water bath to raise the temperature faster. Do not use any appliances like a microwave or stovetop to quickly heat up the wine.

Q. How can I chill and decant wine simultaneously?

A. Most red wine benefits from a bit of decanting, especially bottles with high tannins or lots of sediment. Wine aerators smooth out the bitterness to make the wine more enjoyable. In cheaper wines, aeration can also help enhance the flavors.

Since bolder reds are best served slightly below room temperature, you can decant first and then place the decanter briefly in an ice bath or even a fridge before serving. Most decanters won’t fit in a wine chiller, but some may fit into a bucket.

 

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