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Does Wine Freeze? And, If So, Should You Freeze Wine?

June 22, 2020
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Scott
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Some people freeze wine by accident. Other people freeze wine on purpose. What is one person’s great transgression is another person’s chosen strategy.  And when those two types of people meet at a party, it is exceedingly awkward.

Just kidding. They get along just fine. Because freezing wine isn’t a big deal. Doing it on accident won’t ruin your wine. And doing it on purpose is perfectly acceptable. We wrote this post to explain why.

First, we’ll cover the basics of wine freezing points. Then we’ll get into whether or not it’s a good idea to put wine in the freezer. And, if you choose to, what the best uses for that frozen wine are.

Wine Freezing Point: What Temperature Does Wine Freeze?

The freezing temperature of wine is about 22 °F. But that wine freezing point depends on the wine alcohol content.

The more alcohol a wine has, the lower its freezing point is. The very fine and smart folks at the University of Illinois put together a chart that shows freezing points by ethanol percentage. In the context of wine, ethanol and alcohol are the same thing. Freezing wine is also more complicated than water because wine is acidic.

Ethanol % 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
°F Freezing Point 32 25 15 5 -10 -25 -35 -55 -75 -110 -175
°C Freezing Point 0 -4 -9 -15 -23 -32 -37 -48 -59 -73 -115


12.5% is the average alcohol content of most wine. That means the average freezing temperature of wine, using the above chart, is around 22.5 °F. It won't be exact because some of the sulfites and other non-alcoholic compounds in wine may affect the freezing point. And those vary by wine. But the chart is about as close to general wine freezing temperatures as you can get. To find your bottle’s wine freezing point, determine its alcohol content and use the chart. Easy!

What Happens When Wine Freezes?

When wine freezes, it expands. Just like any other liquid. But wine, to prevent oxidation, is sealed in bottles. That means there is virtually no room for it to expand. And if the seal breaks, oxidized wine can result. Frozen wine can also suffer from freezer burn like any other food frozen for too long.

Oxidation

The expansion of frozen wine can cause a wine bottle’s seal to break in two ways.

The first and most common way is pushing the cork out of the bottle. Or, if the bottle isn’t corked, breaking out of the screw cap or other seal. Oxidation is good for wine in the right environment and done quickly (that’s what wine aerators do). But leaving it exposed to air for too long compromises the wine’s flavor.

The second and more inconvenient way frozen wine breaks its airtight seal is breaking the wine bottle itself. In addition to oxidation, this obviously presents other challenges to enjoying your wine.

Freezer Burn

Freezer burn relates to oxidation. In terms of food, freezer burn refers to items exposed to open, freezing air for too long. But, unlike regular oxidation, this exposure has lasted so long that the items begin dehydrating.

Frozen wine can lose some of its water content through dehydration, too. If kept in freezing temperatures for very long periods of time. Freezers are a poor place to age wines. With enough time, the flavor profile and aroma become completely altered and flattened. The alcohol and tannins in wine can turn it into vinegary mess, too, making it not even suitable for cooking.

Also, really cold temperatures tend to flatten out flavor profiles. But that’s a problem easily solved by not drinking the wine at extremely low temperatures. 

Can You Put Wine In the Freezer?

Yes, you can put wine in the freezer. Freezers are dark, so they minimize the effects of light on wine. That’s one benefit, at least. But should you really put wine in the freezer? Sometimes, with some caveats. Let’s take a look at some common questions around the topic and clear some things up. Freezing will also slow the ability to recover from bottle shock in wine, so be sure to store it for sufficient time.

Is Wine Ruined If It Freezes?

Freezing wine does generally not ruin it. There are many stories of intrepid wine lovers just like you who, having accidentally frozen their wine, unfreeze it and enjoy it. It will not become entirely unpalatable. Its flavor profile may change slightly, but if the bottle or cork hasn’t broken and the wine hasn’t become oxidized, it shouldn’t be a huge deal. If the cork has been pushed out of the bottle or the bottle broken—and the wine left in the freezer for weeks or months—it’s probably wise to consider it ruined. Unfortunately, freezing wine won't change the number of calories in a bottle of wine.

Can You Drink Frozen Wine?

Yes, you can drink frozen wine. Assuming you thaw it, of course. Heh. Jokes aside, it’s not ideal. 

It all really depends on what you’re trying to get out of your wine. A thawed wine is not the best idea for an environment with high wine expectations. Pairing such a wine with an expensive meal or using such a wine for a wine tasting are good examples of that. The wine won’t be the exact same wine the winemaker intended. It’s finer tasting points will be compromised. You can still crack it open and enjoy it—it won’t hurt you. Maybe just not with a $50 steak or your sommelier friends.

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Can I Freeze Red Wine?

Yes, you can freeze red wine. Any wine can be frozen. It’s not the color of wine that dictates whether or not it can be frozen. It’s the wine’s alcohol content. Because red and white wines have similar average alcohol content, they behave similarly in freezing conditions.

And if the cork or the bottle itself aren’t compromised—and the wine not kept in freezing temperatures for more than a few days—it’s perfectly fine to thaw and drink. It won’t be the exact same wine as before. Its flavor profile will change slightly. But it won’t be disgusting or poisonous.

So, are there any situations where freezing a wine is ideal? There are.

Frozen Wine Uses

There are plenty of uses for wine that don’t depend on using a wine dictionary to talk about its subtle flavors and aromas. Those are cooking, mulling, and slushies. You can also pick up a book to learn about wine and decide the best wine to freeze.

Can You Freeze Wine For Cooking?

Yes, you can absolutely freeze wine for cooking. Using frozen cooking wine is not only okay. It’s downright ideal. Even wine that is a bit oxidized and freezer burned can be used for cooking.

Nobody is putting cabernet in a stew and trying to tease out its dark fruit finish while shoveling beef and carrots into their mouth. Nobody is putting chardonnay in a fondue and meditating on its oakiness through gobs of cheese. Any damage that mild oxidation and freezer burn do to a wine is basically moot when that wine is cooked at high temperatures and combined with other robust flavors. When wine is used for cooking, all we’re really after is the wine’s general flavor profile, not its nuances. Freezing wine won’t affect that.

A cool pro-tip is to freeze wine in ice cube trays. An ice cube from a standard ice cube tray is about two tablespoons, or an ounce. This makes cooking with it especially convenient.

Can You Freeze Mulled Wine?

Yes. You can freeze mulled wine. Mulled wine is usually made in batches. Big batches. Which means there’s often a lot leftover. Unless your holiday party was particularly raucous. And the good news is you can freeze it.

The majority of mulled wine’s flavor comes from steeped spices. Freezing mulled wine won’t do too much damage to those flavors. They’ll come out on the other end a little duller, sure. But it won’t be a game-changer.

One great way to use leftover mulled wine is to freeze it and make mulled wine sorbet. We like Jamie Oliver’s recipe for it.

Speaking of using frozen wine to make frozen treats...

Can You Freeze Wine to Make Slushies?

Yes. Oh yes you can freeze wine to make slushies. It is, in fact, the most virtuous and perfect usage of frozen wine in existence. You'll end up with a delicious treat for dessert due to the sugar in wine.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Put wine in a freezer-safe container in a standard kitchen freezer for 4–6 hours
  2. Take it out and use a fork to break it up
  3. Serve in wine glasses with spoons

Here’s a crazier, fruitier version:

  1. Put the frozen wine in a blender
  2. Add berries and blend for 20 seconds
  3. Serve in wine glasses with spoons

How to Best Freeze Wine

You’re going to do it. You’re going to freeze some wine, then. It’s not a bad decision. Some may even say it’s a good decision. Here’s how to do it.

How Long Does It Take Wine To Freeze?

Wine will become solid in around 5 hours in a standard kitchen freezer. A standard kitchen freezer is around 0 °F. That’s much colder than most wine freezing points. And that’s why wines freeze solid in standard freezers in just a matter of hours. Interestingly, wine may never actually freeze solid if stored only at its freezing point and not below. That’s because, as the wine freezes, the water molecules in it freeze first. This leaves alcohol molecules behind. As more and more alcohol molecules are left behind during the freezing process, the unfrozen portion of the wine becomes more alcoholic. As the unfrozen portion’s alcohol content goes up, its freezing point goes down. That can cause wine to become a wine slushy instead of frozen solid. So, if you’re looking to freeze wine solid, store it at a lower temperature than its freezing point.

How Long Should I Chill Wine?

We’ve got a dedicated resource to wine temperature which covers white wine chilling. Ideally, you’re chilling your whites in an ice bucket. But if you’re going to use a freezer, it’ll take about 45 minutes for a red wine to get from room temperature to serving temperature. And about 1 hour for white wine.

Use a Container That Allows for Expansion

The primary challenge with freezing wine is that most people freeze it in sealed glass bottles. Wine being liquid, that creates an issue. Your best bet? Use a container that keeps as much air out as possible but allows the wine to expand as it freezes.

Our recommendation is using a large silicone ice cube tray. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in a zip lock bag and freeze it. Pour your ice cubes according to standard wine pours and it’ll be easy to thaw out a glass when you’re ready. You can also use plastic freezer-safe containers with screw-on lids.

So, Can You Freeze Wine?

Yes. Freezing wine is fine. Your frozen wine won’t win any awards, but you’ll be able to thaw it and enjoy it just fine. That’s assuming it hasn’t been overly compromised during its trip to the tundra. If the cork has been pushed out or the bottle cracked, and it’s been in the freezer for a while, it’s probably best to say goodbye to it.

Beyond that, enjoy your slushies! If you happen to spill that nice red wine slushie, we can show you how to remove red wine stains or find the best wine stain removers!

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