It's happened to the best of us. You left a bottle of wine outside in the winter to chill, or maybe you forgot about it in your trunk, and the next thing you know your favorite bottle is frozen solid. Is all lost?
Here's a look at what happens when wine freezes, when you might freeze wine on purpose, and if wine is still good after it thaws out.
Why Does Wine Freeze?
The more alcohol in a beverage, the lower the freezing point. Unlike hard liquor, wine freezes because there isn't enough alcohol in it to prevent it from freezing.
Wine freezes at a slightly lower temperature than water (at about 20 degrees F). It will take about five hours to freeze in a typical freezer set to 0 degrees F. The University of Illinois created a helpful chart to show the temperature at which alcoholic beverages freeze.
Wine won't freeze completely though. It will become wine slush, not solid wine. According to the University of Illinois, "When some ice starts to form, it contains almost pure water, leaving the remaining liquid with an increased concentration of alcohol, and hence a lower freezing point. Pure alcohol has a freezing point of around -117 °C."
You never want to freeze a full bottle of wine because as it freezes it will begin to expand, and this will put pressure on the cork and the bottle, possibly creating a dangerous situation if the bottle breaks.
Will Wine Go Bad if Frozen?
According to Advanced Mixology, freezing wine can change the taste. When wine is frozen the acid content turns into insoluble tartaric crystals (compounds that cause your wine to be tart). They are called tartrates or “wine diamonds,” by wine connoisseurs. You may notice them when you drink thawed wine. They also release carbon dioxide which can alter the flavor of the wine.
Freezing wine can also push the cork out and expose the wine to air, causing freezer burn. This will also speed up the process of oxidation. Just as if you had opened the bottle on your counter and put it into a decanter. If wine is not exposed to air in the freezer, the taste won't change too significantly.
Bottom line: Wine won't go bad if frozen, it will just taste like a slightly lesser version of what it was supposed to be (reset your expectations).
Why You Might Freeze Wine on Purpose
There are a few reasons why you might freeze wine on purpose.
You might have leftover cooking wine that you want to save to use to cook with again. Instead of freezing the bottle, pour the wine into ice cube trays and put the ice cube tray into a large freezer bag. An ice cube is about two tablespoons of wine. Use within a few months.
Wine slushies are a fun way to mix up your summer beverage. Check out our post about how to make wine slushies! The gist? Mix a bottle of wine in a pitcher with fresh crushed fruit and freeze. Mix pineapple with white wine, and strawberries with red wine.
How to Properly Chill Wine
Put your wine in the sink in an ice bath to chill it and then transfer it to a wine sleeve or the fridge. Avoid the temptation to add ice cubes to glasses of wine as the melted water will change the taste of the wine.
Too long, didn't read? The bottom line:
Wine will freeze after about 5 hours in the freezer. Never freeze wine in the bottle. It's dangerous (think popped cork and broken glass).
Freezing wine won't significantly change the taste. You can still drink it once it thaws, but the wine won't be as good as it once was, especially if it was exposed to air in the freezer.
Freeze leftover cooking wine by putting it in an ice cube tray and freezer bag.
Freeze wine to make a wine slushy and enjoy it right away for the best taste. Mix wine and crushed fruit in a pitcher and enjoy after 4 hours in the freezer.
Cheers to your next glass of wine served at the perfect temperature!