We have all been guilty of forgetting to chill our wine, only to remember when we reach for the bottle that it’s been left out at room temperature. Popping the bottle into the freezer for faster results, we’ll turn to talk to our guests, get dinner on the table, or respond to a text. Next week, we’ll find that bottle still in the freezer.
Are frozen wines ruined?
Frozen wine is still perfectly fine to drink however a full bottle of wine may leak or the glass might break when frozen. To chill a bottle of wine quickly, use an ice water bath. However, if you want to freeze wine for use later, make sure to put it in a freezer-proof container.
We’ll explain what happens to wine when it is frozen, what you can do with wine after it was frozen, and how to properly, quickly chill a bottle of wine.
What Happens When Wine is 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, aka higher ABVs, will freeze at colder temperatures.
Most household freezers will range between 0°F-15°F, which is cold enough to freeze a bottle of wine. From room temperature, it may take over an hour for the wine to reach the proper serving temperature, depending on the type of wine or temperature of the freezer. For example, the recommended serving temperature for red wine is just 60-70°F, while a lighter white wine may need to be chilled down to 44- 50°F.
Liquids expand as they freeze into a solid, as most people will see when using an ice cube tray. The same thing will happen with a bottle of wine. A full bottle of wine does not have much air inside for the wine to expand as it freezes. As the wine expands, the wine could start to push the cork out of the bottle or even cause the bottle to break.
If the bottle hasn’t broken, the wine can be safely thawed in the refrigerator to drink once it can be poured. However, when the cork is pushed out, even partially, 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. 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.
Tartaric crystals are safe to drink. In fact, a wine that has been frozen generally will not change noticeably in flavor, as long as air hasn’t gotten into the bottle. It may be hard to tell if the cork has been affected though. Again, tt’s recommended to drink the bottle of wine soon after it’s thawed, treating the bottle as though it’s already been opened.
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 process of freezing will also cause the wine to lose all of its carbonation, therefore all it’s bubbles.
How to Quickly Chill a Bottle of Wine
Next time you forget to chill your wine before drinking, instead of popping it in the freezer, try an ice water bath:
- Fill a bucket or tall mixing bowl, even a stockpot, with a 50/50 mixture of ice and water.
- Insert the bottle of wine, making sure the bath comes up to the neck of the bottle.
- Sprinkle salt on the top of the bath, then use a spoon or butter knife to stir the water around the bottle
- Let the bottle chill in the ice bath for about ten minutes for red wines and twenty minutes for white wines.
The ice water bath without salt will stay about 32°F, but adding salt to the water lowers the freezing point of the water, allowing the whole mixture to stay colder for longer.
Stirring the ice water bath or spinning the bottle will help distribute the colder temperatures throughout the bottle. Make sure that the whole bottle is submerged, though, so that the bottom of the bottle doesn’t get ice cold while the neck stays room temperature.
Reasons to Intentionally Freeze Wine
Even though putting a bottle of wine in the freezer may not be the best way to quickly chill the bottle, there are a few good reasons to intentionally freeze wine.
One situation may be when you open a bottle, have a few glasses, but have a little bit leftover that you don’t want to throw out. Pour the leftover wine in a an ice cube tray or freezer-proof container. You can later thaw this wine to drink later or use it for cooking.
Another option may be to create a wine slushie. On a hot summer day, chilled wine may be perfect, but serving a wine slushie during your next summer barbecue or pool party would be a fun addition to your menu. Place a gallon-size plastic food storage bag in a pitcher then pour the wine to the bag. Once the wine is frozen, seal the bag and squish the contents around to distribute the ice crystals.
Finally, you could theoretically boost the alcohol content of your wine through freezing then straining the ice crystals. However, you would lose a lot of volume, as the alcohol content of wine is usually between 10-15% ABV. So while it’s technically possible, it’s probably not recommended.
So while freezing wine won’t technically ruin the wine, there are better and less risky ways to quickly chill a bottle of wine to the recommended serving temperature. However, if you accidentally forget the bottle, as long as the glass doesn’t break or crack, make sure you thaw and drink the wine before it spoils.