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Does Wine Freeze? [How It Works & What To Do With Frozen Wine]

Does Wine Freeze? [How It Works & What To Do With Frozen Wine]


9 minute read

We’ve all taken last minute shortcuts to prep for a meal or party, like finding a quick way to chill wine before the guests arrive. But, does wine freeze? Eventually, yes.  Wine will freeze depending on the length of time and the temperature of storage.

If you forget that bottle of wine in the freezer, or if you’re looking to save the rest of a bottle after dinner, don’t fret.  Freezing wine is not necessarily bad, but there are flavor and storage factors to consider.

Whether your wine froze by accident, or you’re looking for the best way to store leftover wine, Surely has tips, advice, and a warning for handling sub-zero wines.

So, can you freeze wine?

Yes, scientifically speaking, you can freeze wine.  If stored at cold temperatures for extended periods, wine will take on a slushy consistency. This happens because the water molecules will freeze before the alcohol in the wine. Both red wines and white wines will freeze. A wine with lower ABV, or non-alcoholic wine, will freeze faster, and become more solid when frozen.

Just like other liquids when they freeze, wine will expand, therefore we advise against freezing unopened bottles of wine.

How long does it take wine to freeze? In general it would take about 5 hours in a residential freezer for the average 12.5% ABV bottle of wine to freeze.  The alcohol content and bottle size would determine the freezing point of a specific wine. 

If wine contains alcohol, why does wine freeze but not vodka?  The freezing temperature of these beverages is determined by their alcohol by volume. Vodka has a much higher ABV (40%) than the average alcohol content of wine,  and freezes at a much lower temperature (vodka needs a dry ice type of cold for it to freeze).

This handy table shows the freezing point relative to ethanol concentration in liquids. Typically, wine’s freezing point is between 25 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

About Frozen Wine

Unlike freezing food, wine is not preserved well when frozen and can go bad if left too long in the freezer.  In fact, allowing wine to freeze in an open container speeds up the oxidation process, and can leave it vulnerable to freezer burn. 

Is it safe to drink frozen wine?

That forgotten bottle of wine you were chilling is 100% safe to drink, it will just pour as more of a slush.

What about thawing frozen wine, is wine safe to drink after it has been frozen? You can most definitely thaw the bottle at room temperature to use for cooking or drinking. Even if you notice little crystals inside the bottle after thawing, it will still be safe to drink. The crystals are called tartrate crystals. These naturally occurring “wine diamonds” are harmless. They form when tartaric acid is chilled.

But how will it taste?

One of the downfalls of freezing wine is losing two of the three main notes often looked for when tasting wine. Freezing wine may also result in bottle shock,  a term used to describe wine’s flavors and aromas dissipating. Winemakers take pride in the subtle nuances of their wines, and would hope to avoid bottle shock for their consumers.

A frozen bottle of wine has the potential to thaw and lose flavor or even taste like vinegar depending on the oxidation. Wine is also susceptible to moisture loss, resulting in  freezer burn the longer it is stored. Obviously if you plan to drink the wine before it thaws, you can also count on a very different mouthfeel. 

Other Ways to Chill Wine

There are a handful of other ways to chill a bottle of wine quickly. What is the best way to chill wine? For the serious wine drinker, investing in a proper wine refrigerator is be the best option for storing wine at low temperatures. We know that’s not an option for everyone, so here are 3 ways to quickly chill wine at home:

  1. Ice bucket and salt: use an ice bucket or similar sized container, fill it with ice, water, and salt. Put your wine bottle in the bucket to chill.  If you need that bottle chilled extra fast, spin the bottle in the bucket and it will be nice and cold in 5-10 minutes.
  2. Frozen fruit: freezing grapes to use as ice cubes in a fun way to chill your wine without watering it down.  Don’t feel like you need to stick to grapes, try frozen berries or citrus to add a little extra  flavor to your glass!
  3. Paper Towel Wrap: This method still uses the freezer but it works much faster! Wrap your wine bottle in wet paper towels, making sure to cover it completely and then stick it in the freezer.  Don’t go too far — this method cuts the chill time to just 20 minutes.

What can you do with frozen wine?

If your bottle of wine froze outside in the car overnight or you forgot it in the freezer hoping to chill it faster, don’t worry! There are plenty of uses for frozen wine.  

  • Cocktails & Slushies - Because cocktail and mocktails contain other mixers, the flavor loss of frozen wine is barely noticeable. This makes it a great option for spritzers, frosé, and fruity wine slushies. If you’re being mindful about your drinking, but a frozen drink sounds delicious, try chilling Surely’s Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Wine Cubes: Making wine cubes from leftover or thawed wine reduces waste and allows you to repurpose your wine! Wine can be redistributed into ice cube trays and once frozen, you can add the cubes to recipes in place of cooking wine, or use them to chill your room temperature wine without diluting it.
  • Vinegar: Oxidized wine eventually ends up smelling like vinegar.  In fact, it is only a few small steps from being your next homemade condiment. To make your own red wine or white wine vinegars, thaw frozen wine,  and add a vinegar mother. Vinegar mothers can be bought or grown at home if you’re willing to take a few extra steps. 
  • Jellies: Level up your next charcuterie board with a wine jelly! Cooking down frozen wine with sugar, lemon juice, and pectin will give you a wine lover’s perfect compliment to brie. Did someone say Pinot and jelly?

If You’re Going to Freeze Wine…

If you have leftover wine that you want to freeze, storing the wine properly is important to maintain as much of the flavor as possible. We recommend transferring the wine to ice cube trays or a freezer safe bag. If you use an ice cube tray, try a silicon tray with a lid, or wrap your tray in plastic to protect the wine’s flavor from oxidation. 

Freezing wine in the glass bottle can be dangerous whether it’s corked or has  a screw cap. Liquid expands as it freezes, and if it’s trapped in a glass bottle, it has the potential — at the very minimum — to cause a big mess in your freezer. 

If your bottle is unopened, the cork may be pushed out from the pressure, or worse, the bottle will crack from the pressure. There have even been cases of the bottles exploding when the liquid is not given enough room to expand. 

To that point, NEVER freeze sparkling wines.  Not only will the wine lose all the yummy bubbles, these wines are already under pressure from the carbonation and can become glass grenades if frozen.  

Any type of wine will freeze, but in general, white wines are stored at cooler temperatures. The best wines to freeze are table wines, where flavor loss may not be detected. Save the bottles from the charming wineries for drinking at the proper temperature so you can savor the bouquet and terrier the winemaker worked so hard to create..

Key Takeaways

Frozen or thawed wine is perfectly safe to add to your wine glass. You probably won’t catch a sommelier sipping a glass of frozen cabernet any time soon, but for most casual wine drinkers, it’s not going to impact the flavor very much. 

If you enjoy tasting the nuanced flavor profile of the tannins or sweetness in a wine, you might not want to risk freezing your nice new bottle. That doesn’t mean you cannot save leftover wine in the freezer to add to your next gravies and stews. Just remember to freeze your wine in freezer safe containers to avoid messes and freezer burn. 

Want a wine that tastes great and freezes fast?  All Surely wines fall under 0.5% ABV, meaning they freeze faster than other wines. A faster freezing wine means easy access to frosé! Join Surely’s Dry Month Challenge and consider freezing your wine to make it last throughout the month. If rosé is not your go-to, try a frozen sangria wine slushy, extra chilled white wine spritzer, or take our wine quiz to find the perfect wine for you!

Sources

  1. Freezing Wine

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