Most people understand that wine should never be frozen but stuff happens. But determining how long it takes to freeze wine can make a big difference and could help you save your wine before it hardens solid. Plenty of wine bottles are forgotten in the freezer or left out in the car overnight during a snowstorm. We are not here to shame anyone but merely save the day once the wine does freeze.
How long does wine take to freeze? How long wine takes to freeze depends largely on the temperature of the freezer and the alcohol content of the wine but wine typically freezes I about 4-6 hours inside a standard kitchen freezer. Generally speaking, the wine starts to freeze once it reaches 15-20° F for a regular alcohol content wine. If the wine has a higher alcohol level, it will take a bit longer to freeze or freeze at a colder temperature.
The topic of freezing wine or allowing the wine to freeze is a taboo topic among many wine drinkers. I hold no such biases and I wanted to bring you simply the facts and maybe a little humor too about the topic. In this article, you’ll learn all about my wine freezing experiment (gasp!) and how to save wine once it has become frozen.
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Hopefully, this next section does not ruffle too many feathers but I decided to purposefully freeze a bottle of wine. Don’t worry I used very cheap gas station wine so it wasn’t that big of a crime.
I bought two bottles of extremely cheap Merlot at the gas station and placed one in the freezer above my kitchen refrigerator and the other I would leave at room temperature to compare against afterward. I placed a food thermometer in the freezer for 4 minutes to see what the temperature inside it was.
Not the most scientific way of determining my freezer’s internal temperature but I got a reading of 2° F. I figure that is probably average for a kitchen freezer. I placed one of the bottles of Merlot into the bottom level of the freezer so in case it did leak or exploded, the mess would be more contained than if it was on the top level.
Of course, I put the bottle on its side as any good wine drinker should. I checked back periodically on the bottle to see its progress. By 3.5 hours the liquid inside was moving a lot less and was starting to gel up. By 5 hours, my bottle of wine was frozen solid as far as I could tell.
The bottle didn’t explode or crack and the cork didn’t push out due to pressure inside. I took the bottle out and placed it on my dining room table to thaw at room temperature. The next day, I pour 4 glasses of wine for my girlfriend and me to test. I tried to make it as blind of a survey as I could.
Honestly, I couldn’t tell any difference at all, and neither did she. The color in all four glasses was consistent and the flavor and scent were good enough for a gas station wine.
I don’t think freezing the wine did much of anything to it. I wouldn’t recommend freezing wine because bad things can happen but in this test, nothing bad happened.
Alcohol Content & Freezing
Wine has a much colder freezing point than water but since wine is made of mostly water anyway, it is the water inside that freezes. The average wine will freeze at 15-20° F depending on alcohol content. Generally speaking, the stronger the wine the lower the temperature needs to be to freeze it.
The alcohol content is directly correlated to freezing temperature and the time required for a wine to fully freeze solid. I have heard some people claim that freezing wine can affect the wine’s alcohol content. I have not found any real scientific evidence to back this claim up.
I can see why some people would believe that but freezing wine and thawing it does not chemically alter the structure of the wine nor does it increase or reduce the ethanol content inside. This may be true but I have found little to no scientific or anecdotal evidence to support it.
What Temp Does Wine Freeze?
As we mentioned earlier, most wines reach their freezing point at around 15-20°F. Alcohol content strongly correlates to the freezing point and duration of time required to freeze the wine. The stronger the wine the longer it will take to freeze and the lower the temperature needs to be.
Generally speaking, the stronger the alcoholic beverage, the colder the temperature needed to turn it solid. If you want to learn about accidentally leaving your wine overnight in a freezing car and what do to save that wine, check out this article I wrote.
Is Cold or Heat Worse for Wine?
Many people think that freezing wine is much worse than storing it in too warm conditions or applying direct heat to the wine. I’m here to tell you that without question, heat is much more damaging to wine than cold is. Scientific studies performed by Pérez-Coello & colleagues (2003) and by Scrimgeour & colleagues( 2015) confirm that storing wine in warmer temperatures can negatively impact wine.
You can freeze wine and as long as you thaw it responsibly, it should maintain its integrity, flavor, and color. Heat, on the other hand, is very different. Heat is very damaging to wine. Even storing a bottle of wine at 10° higher than is recommended long-term can have noticeable consequences.
Do not apply any heat sources to wine during the storage progress and do not try to defrost a frozen bottle in the microwave or run hot water over the bottle. Nothing good will come of it and you could also explode or crack the frozen wine bottle by apply hot water to it.
Can Wine Be Saved Once Frozen?
Wine absolutely can be saved once it has frozen solid. Freezing wine is less-than-ideal for the health of your wine but it is not a death sentence as many people will have you believe. As long as you properly thaw wine by letting it rest at room temperature, the wine should be perfectly fine to drink in a few hours.
Generally speaking, wine usually will not go bad if frozen. But it can certainly happen. To check your wine after you thaw it for signs it has turned, check the color, the scent, and the flavor.
If your red wine is no longer purplish-red but instead is more brownish, it likely has turned. If the wine smells sour or tangy and tastes similarly or just not as you want it to, just toss it out. It sounds like your wine has crossed over to the dark side.
Proper Thawing Process & Time it Takes
To properly thaw wine after it has frozen solid, the best way to do so is simply leaving the wine to thaw slowly at room temperature. This is the ideal way to thaw wine. If you need it thawed much faster, you can run it under cool or room temperature water which can help speed up the process some.
Honestly, if you need wine thawed right now, you shouldn’t have it freeze in the first place. Just go buy another bottle as that will be a lot quicker than letting it thaw. Whatever you do, do not apply any heat sources to the wine such as microwave defrost or warmer water.
This is a sure-fire method of ruining your wine. Speaking of keeping wine at room temperature, learn here if it is a good idea for long-term storage to keep wine at room temperature.
How Long Does It Take to Chill Wine in Freezer?
Before serving, wine generally takes about 10-40 minutes inside a kitchen freezer to chill enough for optimal serving temperature. The best way to store wine long-term is inside a climate-controlled wine refrigerator but if you are storing wine at room temperature in a wine rack, it should be chilled slightly before serving for the best experience.
Will frozen wine explode?
The water inside wine makes up a huge portion of the wine. As water freezes and expands, it could cause a wine bottle to explode. This does happen though it is a lot less common than many people fear. The cork is the weakest part of a wine bottle and usually, the work will simply loosen or push out to accommodate the expanding wine. Rarely will a wine bottle crack or even explode under the pressure but it is possible.
Why should you put wine in a freezer?
I don’t think you should put wine in your freezer except for one specific reason. That reason is to chill Champagne or white wine before serving. Wine can be chilled quickly in a freezer for about 20 minutes and make excellent serving temperatures. That said, countless frozen bottles started merely as bottles chilled for serving and were forgotten about. Just be careful.
Scientific Literature Referenced:
Pérez-Coello, M., González-Viñas, M., Garcı́a-Romero, E., Dı́az-Maroto, M., & Cabezudo, M. (2003). Influence of storage temperature on the volatile compounds of young white wines. Food Control, 14(5), 301-306. doi:10.1016/s0956-7135(02)00094-4 (via: ScienceDirect)
Scrimgeour, N., Nordestgaard, S., Lloyd, N., & Wilkes, E. (2015). Exploring the effect of elevated storage temperature on wine composition. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research, 21, 713-722. DOI:10.1111/ajgw.12196 (via Wiley)