Do You Refrigerate Wine? How to Properly Store and Serve Wine

Do You Refrigerate Wine? How to Properly Store and Serve Wine

McKenzie Hagan |

It's a question wine lovers can't seem to stop asking: Do you refrigerate wine before opening? Or do you refrigerate it after? Or both? Maybe you just drink it straight out of the bottle without ever even making it to the fridge? (We're kidding. But we're also not judging.) 

In this guide, we're sharing some top tips for refrigerating wine, including how to store it before and after you open the bottle, the best wine temperatures for different wines, and what to do when you need to chill your wine fast.

Does Wine Need to be Refrigerated?

There's no single answer to the question, "Do you refrigerate wine?" The more accurate answer is yes, but the "when" and "how" depends on which type of wine you're talking about. All wines require slightly different temperatures because they all have varying chemical compositions. 

For instance, white wines are marked by crispness and acidity, while the prominent characteristic of red wine comes from its tannins. Meanwhile, sparkling wine has carbonation, dessert wine comes with more residual sugar, and fortified wines have higher alcohol content

These factors play a role in when and how you chill your wine. But before we get into the details of refrigerating your wine, it's critical to know the rules of storing wine before you even think about serving it.

Should Wine be Refrigerated?

No matter what type of wine you have, proper wine storage is the foundation for maintaining its quality. If your wine bottle goes bad before you even pop it open, it makes no difference what temperature you serve it at. From white to red to rosé and beyond, keep your wine bottles in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. This will help preserve the shelf life and slow down the deterioration process. 

While having a wine cellar would be ideal, it's not exactly realistic for most people. Fortunately, you can make do with what you have. Consider putting a wine rack in a space that's removed from heat and light and cooler than room temperature

It's especially important to store wine bottles with a natural cork seal on their sides. Doing so helps maintain the cork's moisture so that it doesn't dry out and shrink, which lets in bacteria that could result in cork taint. (And you definitely don't want to end up with a bottle of wine that smells like wet dog!)

How to Chill Your Wine

Much like a wine cellar, a wine refrigerator would be an ideal storage solution. But unless you have a sizable collection of wine bottles or have the budget (and space) for a wine refrigerator, there's no need to buy one. 

Also known as a wine fridge, wine chiller, or wine cooler, these appliances cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars.

Instead, you can easily use your kitchen refrigerator — as long as you follow some basic guidelines on getting the right temperature. Let's review some handy tips for how and when to refrigerate wine.

Best Temperatures for Red Wine

Once upon a time, the prevailing wisdom was that red wine was best served at room temperature. But the truth is that the ideal red wine temperature is actually a bit cooler than that. Red wine that is served too warm can taste flabby and overly alcoholic.

In general, the ideal temperature for full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec is between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. It's the same for fortified wines such as Port, Marsala, and Madeira. Lighter-bodied reds such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Grenache are better served a little cooler than that at 55 degrees. 

Place fuller-bodied reds in the refrigerator for 90 minutes and lighter versions for 45 minutes. You can then open the bottle (and decant it if you like) to let it breathe and warm up for 10 minutes before drinking. 

Try Usual Red

Usual Red is bright, fruity, and best enjoyed with a slight chill.

Best Temperatures for White, Rosé, and Sparkling Wine

Keeping white wine, rosé wine, and sparkling wine chilled punctuates their delicate aromas, crisp flavors, and acidity.

Fuller-bodied whites like oaked Chardonnay are best when served between 50-60 degrees, which brings out their rich textures. Dessert wines also are great in this temperature range.

Lighter, fruitier, and drier white wines such as Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are ideal at colder temperatures, usually between 45-50 degrees.

Bubbly bottles such as Champagne, Prosecco, sparkling brut, and sparkling rosés should always be chilled to 40-50 degrees. These cool temps keep the carbon dioxide intact and prevent the bottle from unexpectedly popping open.

Store your white, rosé, and sparkling wine in the fridge for two hours. Then, 30 minutes before you open the bottle, remove it from the fridge and let it warm up ever so slightly. A wine that's over-chilled results in muted flavors and nobody wants that. 

Pro tip: If you frequently open your kitchen fridge (maybe you're hosting a wine tasting party and getting the food ready), don't put the wine bottles on the door. Instead, opt for space in the back or in the crisper to better regulate the temperature.

Do You Refrigerate Wine After Opening It?

Up until this point, we've focused on refrigerating wine that has yet to be opened. But what about open bottles? Do you refrigerate those? The answer is yes. Here's what you need to know in a nutshell:

  • Sparkling wine will last 1-2 days after opening
  • Full-bodied white wine will last 3-5 days
  • Light white and rosé wine generally last 3-5 days
  • Red wine lasts about 3-5 days; some even taste better a day after opening
  • Fortified wine will last at least a month after you open the bottle 

For more details on how long you can keep wine (even after its past its expiration date), don't miss our guide on preventing wine from going bad

Easy Hacks for Chilling Wine Fast

Do you refrigerate wine: Two red wines on display

While it's always best to plan things out, life doesn't always end up that way. So, when you're in a crunch for time, here are some simple hacks that will help both you and your wine chill out:

  • Salty ice bath: Find a container that's large enough to fit the entire wine bottle and fill it with water, ice cubes, and salt. (Yes, we said salt.) Then, fully submerge the bottle of wine. As it turns out, salt brings down the freezing point of water, which means you can chill your wine faster — in 15 minutes or so. (Didn't think you'd get a chemistry lesson, did you?)
  • Freezer: Another fast fix you may have already tried is throwing your wine in the freezer. Do this 30 minutes before serving. Just set an alarm to prevent the bottle from cracking or exploding all over your freezer.
  • Ice cubes: As much as it pains us to say this, if you're really desperate to quickly chill a glass of wine, throw in an ice cube or two. Because the ice cubes will dilute the wine taste as they melt, only use this for unoaked whites or rosés that won't suffer too much from the added water. You could also use reusable ice cubes, but they'll warm up after a while, so have plenty on hand.
  • Frozen grapes: A better alternative to ice cubes, try freezing some color-coordinated grapes that you can throw into your glass of white, rosé, or sparkling wine. They won't dilute your wine and they add texture to your drink. Plus, they look pretty!

Storing Wine in a Dual Zone Wine Cooler

If you have a diverse collection of reds, whites, and sparkling wines, a dual-zone wine cooler might be an excellent investment. These coolers have separate compartments, each with its own temperature controls, allowing you to store your reds at their ideal temperature while keeping your whites and sparkling wines perfectly chilled. This can be especially useful if you frequently entertain guests and want to have various types of wine readily available at their optimal serving temperatures.

Chill Out and Enjoy Your Wine

Do you refrigerate wine? In a word, yes. But as you've discovered in this guide, there are a few details to keep in mind. Along with properly storing wine (on its side in a cool, dark place), you must take into account the type of wine you're chilling. Contrary to what you might have heard, it's not just white, rosé, and sparkling wines that need to be chilled — red wines also get the cool treatment, albeit not as much. 

While refrigerating wine well ahead of time is ideal, not all is lost if you're short on time. From salty ice baths to frozen grapes, there are some simple ways you can cheat your way into a quick cool-down without compromising on taste. Next time you're ready to crack open a bottle of wine, use these helpful tips and get ready to enjoy it at its best.

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