How Long Does Frozen Wine Last?

How long does frozen wine last

We all have forgotten a bottle of wine in the freezer once or twice. We might think it’s a good idea to pop a bottle of wine in the freezer to quickly chill it. We also might throw food in the freezer to try to keep it for longer, the same thought might occur for a bottle of wine. 

How long will a bottle of wine last in the freezer?

A bottle of wine could easily burst in the freezer, but if it doesn’t, the wine will last in the freezer for a long time without change. However, once you remove the bottle of wine from the freezer you should try to drink it within 12 to 18 hours, similar to if you had opened the bottle. 

We’ll explain what happens to wine as it freezes, what happens when it thaws, and what to look out for when drinking a wine that has been previously frozen. 

What Happens to Wine When Frozen

While water freezes at 32°F, pure ethanol alcohol freezes around -173°F. Since wine is a mixture of the two it will freeze at slightly lower temperatures than water, depending on the alcohol content. Wines with higher alcohol contents, will freeze at colder temperatures. Depending on the alcohol content and the temperature set point of the freezer, a wine could completely freeze in as little as four hours, to as long as eighteen. 

Since water freezes at a higher temperature than alcohol, the alcohol and water may begin to separate. Other solid particles in the mixture will also separate. Many brewers, including beer and winemakers both, may use a cold filtration process. At lower temperatures sediment will fall out of suspension. This process is sometimes called “cold crashing,” but is usually done after fermenting the wine, not after bottling. Some of the sediments will mix back into the wine after thawing, but others will not, as we’ll discuss later. 

Liquids expand as they freeze into a solid, as most people will see when using an ice cube tray. The volume of water expands roughly 9% as it freezes. Since wine is mostly water, if you assume that the whole bottle of wine will expand similar to water, 750 ml of wine will expand to 817 ml. 

The air space where the cork sits is called an ullage. The ullage may vary based on the winemaker, but may only be between 5-10ml of extra volume. The wine will push into this ullage and start to pressurize. Since water is slightly compressible, the bottle of wine will build up with pressure as the expansion of the wine is restricted to the total volume of the bottle. This could cause the glass to break. 

If the bottle hasn’t broken, the cork has likely been pushed out. If pushed out far enough, the wine may leak out of the bottle, which could create a mess to clean as it thaws. 

However, a bottle of sparkling wine should never be frozen. Like a beer or soda can, sparkling wine is more likely to explode in the freezer.  The carbonation in the sparkling wine comes from dissolved carbon dioxide, which is much more compressible than air. The higher compression will cause more pressure to build up in the bottle. The process of freezing will also cause the sparkling wine to lose all of its carbonation, therefore all it’s bubbles.  

What Happens When Wine is Thawed

Before thawing your wine after leaving it in the freezer, double-check that the bottle has not broken or cracked. Use a flashlight to see if any light reflects off of spiderweb cracks inside the bottle. Once the wine returns to liquid form, the wine could leak from the cracks. Moreover, glass fragments could contaminate the bottle. 

As wine thaws, the total volume of the wine will reduce back to the original volume, as long as none has leaked in the process. If the cork has been pushed out, it will not return back to the original position. Therefore, there is a chance that air has leaked into the bottle. Additional air in the bottle can cause it to go bad, by oxidizing the wine and making it taste vinegar-y. Try to drink the wine within a day after taking it out of the freezer. 

You may find crystals inside your bottle after it has thawed. If you’ve double and triple checked the bottle hasn’t broken or cracked, these crystals are likely tartaric acid crystals. These crystals are potassium bitartrate, otherwise known as cream of tartare. These crystals form when tartaric acid, naturally found in grapes, binds with potassium at cold temperatures. As mentioned previously, other sediment and solids in the bottle may re-mix after thawing, but these crystals will not.

Tartaric crystals are safe to drink. However, if their appearance is bothersome, they can be filtered out. Let the wine thaw in the refrigerator completely and you may notice sediment or crystals at the bottom of the wine. Similar to helping a wine breathe, decant the wine into a decanter, stopping before the sediment flows out. If there is still any additional sediment, you can use a coffee filter to help finish clarifying the bottle. However, sediment is usually safe to drink. 

A wine that has been frozen generally will not change noticeably in flavor, as long as air hasn’t gotten into the bottle. Some wine connoisseurs may notice some loss of aromas or delicate flavors. Some freezers may also impart a “freezer” smell to the bottle, so it is recommended to decant the bottle even if there is no sediment. Check out our other posts on What Wines Need to Breathe?

It may be hard to tell if the cork has been affected though. Again, it’s recommended to drink the bottle of wine soon after it’s thawed, treating the bottle as though it’s already been opened. The wine will have the best flavor before 12 to 18 hours after thawing.

For other ways to properly chill a bottle of wine quickly, you can see our other post Is Frozen Wine Ruined?