white wine and old jug

A staple in the wine section of many high-end kitchen stores, terra cotta wine coolers are an elegant option for wine lovers who prefer their wine chilled. Typically shaped like a tall and narrow pot, they’ll blend in unobtrusively with your table’s décor. You can go even fancier and buy a personalized wine chiller if you really want to impress guests at your next gathering.

If you received one as a gift and it didn’t come with instructions, it might have spent some time collecting dust on a kitchen shelf. Don’t worry—they’re easy to use. After trying it once, you’ll see why a terra cotta wine cooler deserves a spot on the table for your next dinner party.

How do terra cotta wine coolers chill wine?

Terra cotta has been around for centuries, used in sculpture and housewares. It has great insulating properties, which explains the ridge-shaped roofs you saw on your last trip to Arizona. One of the most popular and oldest versions is the original Suffolk wine cooler, made in England since the 1800s.

These coolers absorb moisture through the porous, burnt orange-colored clay to keep wine cool. Over time, the vino fresco wine cooler releases the moisture it has retained, which keeps the bottle cold. They’re best used with wine that’s already been chilling in your fridge rather than being used to chill a warm bottle.

There's a reason terra cotta wine coolers have been popular for so long—they're a relatively cheap and effective way to chill wine. If you've been looking for an excuse to crack open a new bottle of wine, just claim that you had to try one out.

How to use a clay wine cooler

If it’s your first time using your clay wine cooler, wipe down the inside with a damp cloth or paper towel. A clay wine cooler isn’t fired or glazed, so the natural clay can release dust that you don’t want in the water or ice you’ll use to fill the cooler later.

Then, fill your sink with cold water and submerge your terra cotta wine cooler. Make sure that it’s completely covered and allow it to soak for 20 minutes. If your cooler doesn’t fit in your sink, just submerge one end in the water for 10 minutes and then flip and submerge the other end.

Next, if you’re short on time, you can finish the chilling process in your freezer for another 20 minutes. No room in the freezer? Put it in the fridge for an hour. It’s now ready to hold a bottle of vino. All you have to do is pick out your favorite wine.

What if I want my wine to be colder?

The best dinner parties last for hours as guests linger around the table with wine and good conversation. To keep your wine chilled for even longer, fill the bottom of your terra cotta wine cooler with ice. Replace the ice as it melts. Add already-chilled bottles of wine once you’ve gone through the first bottle.

A terra cotta wine chiller will be the perfect "guest" at your next party al fresco. Its contents, and the chiller itself, will keep the conversation flowing.