There are many expensive wine fridges available on the market which offer a controlled cool range of temperatures, and allow you to chill multiple bottles at the same time, but as well as cost, they can take up a lot of space, and they are not portable. So what else can you use when the alternative (ice) makes a lot of mess and is not ideal?
We’ve spent many years experimenting with different wine chilling and cooling options and thought the time was right to briefly share our learning.
The first type of affordable wine chillers are gel filled sleeves which are kept in the freezer until you need them, then removed and slipped over the bottle of wine 5 minutes or so before opening. There are a number of big name suppliers in the market offering this solution, perhaps the best known being Vacu Vin, whose sleeve needs to be put in the freezer for 6 hours or more before use http://geni.us/vacuvinwinecooler. These ice sleeves are fine, but they are not our preferred route, we’ve found the sleeves haven’t chilled wines down quite well enough, even when tested in a variety of freezers. We also find in many instances, contrary to the manufacturers claim, that they don’t hold the wine’s chill for hours.
There are also wine chilling sticks, which work to a similar principle to the sleeve (needing to be placed in the freezer before use). These are simply sticks that are placed inside an open bottle, sometimes doubling up as a pourer. They are not great in our experience as they displace the wine in the bottle, need to be cleaned, and we’ve found them to be quite fragile.
Our own preferred option are double walled wine coolers. They look a little like ice buckets, but importantly no ice is needed, and the acrylic see through (cheaper) versions look smart and have proven to be robust and easy to use for us. Yes you need to pre chill the wine in a fridge before you use these wine coolers (for at least 2 hours, preferably 3) but if you like sipping a bottle over the course of an evening, or plan to have a white wine, sparkling or dessert wine out of the fridge for a long time, we’ve found they can’t be beaten http://geni.us/winecooler.