Confession: My fridge currently has 5 bottles of wine – 1 open bottle of White Port, 1 unopened Champagne, 1 open bottle of Merlot, 1 unopened bottle of Chardonnay, and 1 open bottle of Sherry. No, I don’t own a special wine fridge.
Yes, you need to refrigerate many kinds of wines including white wines, light red wines, open bottles of wine, sparkling wine, rose wines, and fresh styles of dessert wine, like ice wine. It’s easier to list what wines you don’t refrigerate. Don’t chill full-bodied red wines or red Ports.
Here’s what you need to know about your fridge and wine. But first a small rant…
Why Wine Serving Temperature Recommendations Are Unhelpful
Unsolicited Opinion: I think it’s silly how wine books list optimal temperatures for serving wine down to the degree. For example:
If you ask the internet what temperature to serve Champagne, the response is: 43–48˚F.
Seriously. Who’s sitting at home with their meat thermometer sticking out of a Champagne flute checking the temperature and waiting for the little monitor to tick off 45˚F?!?!? Recommended serving temperatures for wine down to the degree are just stupid for everyday people drinking wine at home.
In the real world for normal people like you and me, we have these 5 options:
- Really, really cold (take it out of the fridge, pour immediately and drink)
- Cold (Take it out of the fridge, let it sit for 10-15 minutes, pour and drink)
- Sort of cold (Take it out of the fridge, let it sit for 20-30 minutes, pour and drink)
- Room temperature (No fridge)
- Hot (mulled wine) (No fridge – common sense)
So, do you refrigerate wine?
As you can tell from the list above, 3 out 5 wine categories benefit from some type of chilling in your refrigerator. But exactly what wines do you need to refrigerate?
- (It may be helpful to know that the average refrigerator is 37˚F (2˚C))
Here’s a basic go-to list for what wines need to be refrigerated:
Category 1 – Really, really cold – take out of the refrigerator and serve immediately
- Sparkling wine
- Moscato d’Asti
- Gruner Veltliner
- Pinot Grigio
- Sauvignon Blanc
The ‘very cold’ category of wines will naturally warm up as you sip them. You may notice a change in aromatics – the wines will become more perfumed while you drink. If this happens, you may decide to let the wine site for a few minutes before sipping your next glass.
Category 2 – Cold – take out of the refrigerator and let sit for 10-15 minutes
- Full-bodied white wines
- Chenin Blanc
- White Rioja
- Ice wine
Category 3 – Sort of cold – take out of the refrigerator and let sit for 30 minutes
- Light-bodied reds
- Pinot Noir
- Unoaked Grenache
- Basic Chianti
- Most Sherries
- White Port
Room temperature – No refrigerator
- Big, full-bodied reds
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Cabernet Franc
- Petite Sirah
- Red blends
- Touriga Nacional
- Ruby/Tawny/Vintage Port
For the room temperature wine category, if you think your wine tastes flat or flabby, the bottle that you’re drinking may benefit from a little chilling.
Stick an empty wine glass in your freezer for 10-15 minutes, take it out, pour a small amount of wine into it, and see if that changes the wine’s flavor profile for the better. If so, then you have a full-bodied red wine that can benefit from a slight chill.
How to Quickly Chill your Wine
If you forgot to stick your white wine in the refrigerator overnight, you can still chill it down quickly. Here are some options for chilling down your white wine in a hurry:
- Salt Water Bath: Fill a bowl with ice cubes and salt water. Place the bottle in the bowl so that all sides of the bottle are touching the water. Rotate the bottle so that all of the wine inside swirls around and comes into contact with the sides of the bottle. The saltwater and ice bath will take about 15 minutes.
- Freezer: Stick the bottle in your freezer for about 30 minutes. Set an alarm so you don’t forget it’s there, otherwise the wine will freeze and expand, pushing out the cork and shattering the bottle making a mess to clean up. (I’ve done this a few times. Oops).
- Wet Towel: Get a damp hand towel and wrap it around the bottle and stick it in the fridge. This will take about 1 hour to chill down your bottle but is safer if you have the time and don’t want to mess with the freezer option.
- Ice Cubes and Ice Water: Chill your wine glasses down with ice cubes and ice water while your wine is in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Pour out the water and ice cubes, then pour wine into the chilled glasses. This will help keep the wine cool.
- Wine Chill Wands: This cool little gadget works by keeping it in the freezer just for occasions when you need to chill wine quickly. I got one of these as a present and use it regularly. Here’s the chill wand I own:
Note: You MUST pour out about 1/2 glass of wine (drink it!) before inserting the wand because of the liquid displacement. (I didn’t read the directions and made a mess on my counter – oops, sometimes you have to learn the hard way…)
Do You Store Your Wine In The Fridge?
You can store wines with screwcap closures or synthetic corks (plastic) in the fridge without any problems, but you shouldn’t store wines with corks in the fridge long-term. The cooling mechanism in your fridge sucks out moisture. This cooling system will dry out natural wine corks causing them to crumble when you try to remove them, or, worse, cause them to fail and air to get in through the cork, ruining your yummy wine.
Of course, cork failure will take quite a while to happen, so don’t worry if you’re just keeping a bottle with a cork in the fridge for a few weeks, but you wouldn’t want to store your wine with a natural cork in the fridge for months or years.
What’s the Best Way to Store Wine If Not in the Fridge?
The best way to store wine bottles is on their sides in a cool area of your house away from major temperature fluctuations (I’m looking at you, kitchen stove). Ideally, we would all live in Italian villas with hand-hewn stone wine caves, but in the real world, you may just have a small space in your closet.
Remember these 3 important wine storage rules:
1) Keep your wine away from light (natural and artificial),
2) Avoid temperature fluctuations, and
3) Keep it as cool as possible without freezing
I keep the wine in the back of my bedroom closet that’s on an interior wall of the house so it doesn’t experience major temperature fluctuations.
Do You Refrigerate Wine After Opening?
You always want to refrigerate your wine after opening. Cool temperatures slow down the chemical reactions of oxidation that spoil the wine. The colder you keep your wine, the slower those chemical reactions, and the longer your wine will continue to taste delicious.
Aside: This is why I have 5 bottles of wine in my fridge.
- Helpful Tip 1: If you only drink 1 glass of red wine a night, then you want to open your red wine, pour yourself a glass, and then re-cork and store it in your fridge. The next day, pour yourself another glass about 30 minutes before you want to enjoy it, and immediately stick the bottle back in the fridge. Stick a small lid or plate on top of the glass to keep the aromatics in and limit air exposure while your wine warms up.
- Helpful Tip 2: Keep an empty half-bottle (375 ml) to pour your leftover wine into and put the half-bottle in the fridge. This limits surface area and, again, helps slow down oxidation.
How Long Is Leftover Wine Good For?
If you keep your leftover wine on your kitchen counter and do nothing special, your wine will be good for about 2-3 days. 3 days is pushing it…
Quick Tip: As the only wine drinker in my household, I’m keenly interested in ways to keep my leftover wine fresh for as long as possible. So, I wrote this exhaustive post that looks at how acid, alcohol, tannin, and storage tricks can help keep your leftover wine good for 5-7 days, and how different wines will stay fresher longer.
How do you know if your wine is bad?
If it’s been more than 2-3 days and you didn’t keep your leftover wine in the fridge, is your wine bad now?
Here are 3 telltale signs that your wine is bad:
- Smell. Newly opened wines have strong aroma profiles that leap out of the glass. These aroma compounds, called esters and thiols, fade when exposed to oxygen. Over the course of several days, they power of your wine’s aroma will diminish until it’s really hard to smell anything at all, even when you swirl the wine vigorously.
- Taste. Wine that’s been open for too long will begin to taste like vinegar. Take a small sip. Let your tastebuds be your guide. Some people like the balsamic quality of slightly off wine, but others are sensitive to the taste.
- Color. White wines exposed to oxygen become dull and develop a brown tinge to them. Red wines exposed to oxygen likewise move from ruby to garnet to brown. This may not be obvious, especially if you spend more time guzzling your wine than gazing at the nuances of its color qualities.
Helpful Tip: Go over to this post to find out how you can tell if your white wine is bad.
Final Thoughts – Almost all wines are destined for some time in the refrigerator
Whether it’s a light red, sparkling, or leftover bottle, most wine styles will spend a least a short amount of their life in your refrigerator.
The fridge is a wonderful tool for wine lovers who want to get the most out of each and every bottle.
Thirsty for More?
If you enjoy wine regularly, then make sure you check out this post on how long leftover wine is good for after you open a bottle.
And, just in case, here’s a quick post on how to know if you’re serving your white wine too cold.