Summer days call for a perfectly chilled glass of vino. But whether you’re heading to the park, off to a friend’s barbecue, or relaxing in your garden with a book, frequent trips to the fridge just won’t cut it.
You need a wine cooler to keep that bottle perfectly frosty – equally refreshing whether you take the next glorious sip in one minute, or in one hour.
When choosing a quality wine cooler, there are two main considerations: how quickly and effectively it cools, and how long it maintains the chill.
Some bring down temperature fast, but fail to maintain it – that’s no biggie if you’re powering through a bottle with mates, but annoying if you’re savouring it over a long evening’s dinner.
Others might not actively chill, but keep wine at a consistently cool, drinkable state for hours on end. The holy grail is, of course, a wine cooler that does both.
Priorities depend on your drinking style, and on your occasion – so we rigorously tested all styles, and price points, for our roundup below.
We also, to a lesser degree, considered looks in the equation. Highly effective wine coolers often look clunky; not ideal if you’re serving a splash-out bottle on a swanky date night.
Finally, decide how much you care about portability. Some coolers double as decorative centrepieces, designed to showcase a bottle while cooling discreetly – but they won’t be useful past your garden. Others are lightweight, fold flat, and squeeze effortlessly into a picnic bag for use on the go.
We tested all these coolers multiple times, with room-temperature bottles – seeing how effectively and quickly they chilled – as well as with pre-refrigerated wines, to ensure that they could maintain coolness too. Here are the results…
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
PackIt freezable wine bag
Simple, effective, delightfully portable. We love PackIt for many reasons, including its ability to hold two bottles of wine or bubbly (or, for the more modest among us – one bottle plus tumblers, napkins and a petite picnic for two). It’s versatile enough that you don’t have to feel like you’ve spent almost £30 on a wine cooler alone.
It’s well designed, too. A wipeable interior means you needn’t worry about the occasional splash from open bottles or empties – including red wines. The double straps are long enough to sling over your shoulder, ideal if you’re carrying lots to a picnic or festival. And despite its generous size, it folds flat enough to stuff into most freezers for pre-chilling.
And oh, how it chills! Because the entire bag is lined in thin cool packs, the bottle is attacked by frosty air from all sides – plunging temperatures faster than typical coolers that leave the bottle’s neck exposed. In an hour, our room-temperature wine was cooled by four degrees; 90 minutes later, by eight.
Buy now £28.10, Amazon.co.uk
Nude glacier wine cooler
This is one stunner of a cooler. Crafted from handmade, pure lead-free crystalline glass, it’s the kind of timeless piece you’ll want to keep forever, and looks effortlessly glamorous in every setting. Better yet, it’s the ultimate showcase for a fine wine or Champagne – you can read the label through the perfectly transparent glass, even at peak chill (handily it doesn’t seem to frost up). Clever ergonomic dimples in the side make it easy to grip and move around, too.
Glacier is a classic ice bucket-style cooler, so how quickly it chills wine largely depends on the size of your ice, the amount you use and how well you position the bottle over the cubes (top tip: nestle that fella in). Fill it with big ice chunks as we did, and you can expect a pre-chilled bottle of fine wine or Champagne to stay cool far longer than it should take any reasonable person to drink it.
Buy now £52.00, Johnlewis.com
Vacu vin active wine cooler
We were seriously impressed at how quickly this affordable wine cooler worked its magic – in our first test it dropped a room-temperature wine down four degrees in an hour. We put this down to the design; the inner sleeve, which you pre-chill in the freezer, hugs the bottle closer than most. The downside to such snugness? The wine can be a bit tricky to yank out of the cooler once it’s in place.
Saying that, the simple black exterior is light, so you can get away with picking up the whole shebang to pour – even if it’s not the most elegant look. All things considered, for £15 this is a really solid buy, even if it does just come out for casual garden parties or – if you use the sleeve sans-case – for an occasional picnic.
Buy now £14.99, Lakeland.co.uk
S’Well calacatta gold wine chiller
The triple-layer, vacuum-insulated interior of this stainless steel chiller reminds us a bit of a giant thermal flask, cut in half – and that’s basically how it works. Pop in a pre-chilled, 750ml bottle of wine (sadly fizz bottles are a shade too big) and it’ll maintain the cool for hours. When we added in a frosty bottle straight from the fridge, it still hadn’t warmed to room temperature 18 hours later.
The marble-effect exterior is a bit divisive – our tester liked it, but others weren’t so keen on the faux nature (the print isn’t quite as convincing in real life as it is on the website). And, of course, you need to start with a chilled bottle, because it doesn’t actively cool. But so long as you start with a bottle of properly cold wine, S’Well will keep you going through a day’s worth of sipping. And that’s impressive stuff.
Buy now £35.00, Swell.com
Personalised copper wine cooler
Part of why we use wine coolers is for theatrics – to elevate a fabulous wine to special-occasion territory and show it off with every sip. This trendy copper wine cooler, personalised with your own name and (very short) message, really does work to make even that Tuesday night pour feel special.
How does it cool? It’s double-walled, so if you pop in a pre-chilled bottle of wine – even Champagne – it will keep it at temperature for a little while as-is. Far better yet, stuff in some crushed ice, and it can actively chill the wine further as you drink.
Buy now £29.99, Gettingpersonal.co.uk
A vacuum-insulated flask designed especially for wine – this is a festival-goer’s dream. Decant a pre-chilled wine bottle into the easy-grip (and fairly hard-wearing) container, and it’ll keep cool for hours on end. Just the thing for when you don’t want to lug the heavy glass bottle, or a corkscrew, out with you.
The colder the wine you pour in, the more effective it is. Filling it with wine chilled to six degrees, even six hours later (sitting in a room temperature space) it had only nudged up a tad. We gave it a go with icy vodka too: filled with minus six degree liquid, 24 hours later it registered at a still-very-drinkable nine degrees.
It doesn’t leak, so you can toss it in a bag without worry. Add on the lifetime warranty, and the fact that the stainless steel doesn’t absorb smells – so you could use this for hot coffee as well as wine – and this versatile flask is well worth its £40.
Buy now £39.95, Greavessports.com
Cooling wine typically takes a bit of patience. But this clever frozen wand cuts the time down by chilling not through the glass, as most wine coolers do, but by tackling the liquid directly. Simply pour out a small taster-sized splash of your vino (this bit is a benefit or downside, depending on your philosophy), then insert the pre-chilled frozen spike into the bottle and let it work its magic.
Because you’re not cooling the glass itself, the staying power of the chill is limited – a couple of hours max. But the effects on the liquid are almost immediate, and pouring our wine (right through the device – it also handily acts as a cork stopper and pourer) it was noticeably cooler after just half an hour’s wait.
Finally, we liked how compact it was – you could fit this in any freezer, no matter how small or overstuffed, so it’s always ready to go when needed.
Buy now £19.99, Cellardine.co.uk
CaddyO bottle chiller
Let’s get out of the way the stuff we don’t like: for a portable cooler, it’s on the heavier side, with a cooling cylinder that takes up a fair bit of freezer real estate. But on the whole, this is a good, premium-looking cooler, perfect for picnics or festivals.
A sturdy, grippy bottom keeps the bottle upright on slightly uneven surfaces; the carrying case is hard-wearing – even coming with a waiter’s friend bottle opener built into the strap. And thanks to its cooling cylinder, it does chill bottles quickly and maintains temperature. The best thing? The removable cylinder can double up as a simple black chiller for use at home, so in effect, this cooler is a bit like buying two wine coolers in one.
Buy now £29.99, Cellardine.co.uk
Chill & Warm wine bottle wrap
The USP of this wrap? The ability to warm as well as cool – just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds, and away you go. And if you’re wondering when you’d want to warm up wine, in truth there are many occasions. Fridges keep wines (even whites) several degrees below what you should actually drink them at, so wrap this around an over-chilled bottle to bring it to prime drinking temperature (7-13 degrees, depending on the wine) tout-suite.
As for the cooling action – it’s reliable. Testing it on room-temperature bottles, it brought them down an average of six degrees within the hour, holding it there for a further few. The wrap was generous enough in size to hug a fat Burgundian-style bottle and was pliable even straight out of the freezer (where you pre-chill it before use). Our only gripe: the dark red exterior isn’t exactly the most elegant.
Buy now £10.99, Lakeland.co.uk
Tala silver wine cooler
This budget option costs about as much as a cheap bottle of vino – so if you only use it to keep a bottle drink-ready en route to a friend’s BBQ, you needn’t feel like it’s a major investment (nor weep when you accidentally leave it behind).
As you might expect with an option this affordable, there are a few quirks. Not the most generous in girth, used straight from the freezer when at its stiffest, it’s a squeeze to fit around some bottles (Champagne or Burgundy-style in particular). And it was so icy to the touch that it left our fingertips feeling numb while trying to manoeuvre it.
But, wait for it: it loosens up after a few minutes. And as it does, it chills the bottle reasonably, if not miraculously – we observed a two-degree drop from a room-temperature bottle over half an hour. It works best when keeping something already cold staying that way, while you transport it from A to B. And for the price, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Buy now £6.50, Talacooking.com
The verdict: Wine coolers
For drinking on the go, it was a toss-up – but the PackIt is so versatile, and effective, we can’t fault it. Even if you’re only using it to drink it in your own garden, it works a dream.
For sipping wine inside the home, S’well is the one to beat. We’d love it even more if it could hold Champagne bottles, but even still it ticks so many boxes with its tidy appearance and ability to keep pre-chilled bottles cool for hours without needing to resort to ice.
Finally, if you’re not bothered about your cooler being uber-stylish, Vacu Vin does the job brilliantly, and cost-effectively. Despite hugging some bottles a little too snuggly, it chills quickly and keeps wine staying as you want it: deliciously, refreshingly drinkable.
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