We all know we shouldn’t freeze wine. But we also should know at what temperature wine can free and how long it generally takes for the wine to turn solid. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, what should we do after wine freezes, and can it be saved? Let’s take a deeper dive.
What temperature will wine freeze? The wine typically freezes at around 15-20° F but wines with higher alcohol contents will have an even lower freezing point. Even at these freezing points, the wine will need to remain at steady freezing temperatures for an extended period for the wine to freeze solid. Wine freezing or getting too cold isn’t as bad as many people seem to believe, though far from ideal.
Freezing wine is hard to do because of the low freezing point for wine. You almost have to try to freeze it to succeed. Anyone with a baseline love and knowledge for wine wouldn’t allow this to happen unless they forget about it in the freezer as they are trying to chill it before serving.
Even after being frozen, most wines are not lost. You can still responsibly thaw and serve frozen wine. Some people report their wine was ruined but I have found little actual evidence to support this.
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What Temperature is Too Cold for Wine?
I would say that anything under 50° F is bordering on too cold. If you are storing wine in the ’40s or lower, you are storing your wine too cold for ideal storage. Now it is important to understand that storing your wine too cold is far less of an issue than storing your wine too warm.
While warm temperatures will legitimately damage your wine, storing wine in too cool of temperatures is thought to slow down the aging process. The cold won’t directly ruin your wine but it can throw off the aging process which indirectly detracts from its potential.
Now, what storing wine in too cold of temperatures can do is allow tartrate crystals to form which can be damaging to wine. As a solid guideline, store your wine in the 50-60° F range for the best long-term results. Any temperatures much colder or warmer can and will cause some issues.
For proper wine storage under ideal conditions, I would recommend a wine refrigerator if you can afford one. They are designed to keep wine at the ideal temperature and humidity ranges while also protecting wine from harmful chemical fumes and vibrations. They also keep wine-dark which can help it age gracefully.
At What Temperature Will Wine Freeze?
Wine will reach its freezing point at around 15-20° F depending on alcohol content. The stronger the wine in alcohol content, the lower the freezing point will be. Wine has a much lower freezing point than water.
The ethanol alcohol content of wine makes it a bit harder to freeze than water. The problem is ultimately what freezes first is the water in wine. Since wine is predominantly made of water, the water freezing dictates when the rest of the wine will follow suit.
Wine, even when it freezes, tends to take a long time. It can be quite hard to make your wine freeze solid unless simply forget about your wine in the freezer until the next day. Leaving it in the freezer for a few hours won’t freeze it solid.
You will need to freeze it at 6 hours, in my opinion, to freeze it through. Even if you do manage to freeze your wine solid, all is not lost. Wine can be thawed pretty easily and usually without damage to the wine itself.
Many people think that a frozen bottle of wine will explode and make a terrible mess in their freezer. I’m sure this has happened so I won’t completely discount it, but you really shouldn’t worry about it.
As the water in the wine freezes and expands, what relieves the pressure most often is the cork which is the weakest seal of the bottle. The glass usually won’t fail as it is much stronger than the cork is.
Even if the glass doe crack, it shouldn’t completely break so the mess will be minimal if at all. Don’t let your wine freeze but don’t assume all is lost if you do make that mistake.
How Long Does it Take Wine to Freeze?
The time it takes wine to freeze depends heavily on the alcohol content of the wine and the temperature inside your freezer but it is safe to assume within 12 hours, a bottle of wine should freeze in a standard freezer. The wine typically freezes around 15-20° F. If the wine is higher in alcohol content, it will have a lower freezing point and thus require a lower temperature to start the freezing process.
Obviously the colder you store your wine in the freezer, the faster it will freeze. For a wine to completely freeze through, it could take much longer than 12 hours. It isn’t only in a freezer where you can experience wine freezing.
You can experience wine freezing with your wine left overnight in a car during the dead of winter but it would need to be very cold outside to see such results since the car is somewhat insulated. Click here to learn more about the topic of wine freezing inside your car and how to save the wine once it has frozen.
Few people want to experiment with this test to find out. This weekend, I plan on testing this exact experiment with some cheap gas station wine to find out how long a bottle of cheap red takes to freeze. I will report back with what I find.
What Happens if a Bottle of Wine Freezes?
Contrary to popular belief, the wine typically isn’t damaged if it is frozen. As long as you thaw it responsibly, the wine will usually retain its flavor, color, and notes. There have been reports of wine being completely ruined once frozen but from most of the evidence I found, frozen wine can simply thaw and be back to normal.
Freezing wine is something you should never do as it will pretty much grind the aging process to a halt from which the wine may never recover. It can also cause crystallization to occur in the wine which can be damaging to the wine. The bottle may also sustain some damage as well.
The bottle usually will not sustain damage itself as the cork, which is the weakest point, will move to accommodate the expanding wine and pressure inside. Even if the bottle does crack, a complete explosion of the bottle is very rare.
Can Wine Be Salvaged Once Frozen?
Wine can be salvaged if it freezes. Occasionally wine will be damaged by freezing it leading to color change, as well as an altering of flavor and odor. If you pour your glass of thawed wine and don’t see any discoloration and it smells and tastes fine, go ahead and drink it.
On the other hand, if you notice your red wine is a brownish color or something about its smell or scent is off, just scrap it. Most of the time you can thaw wine and it will be fine but if it is ruined, just toss it for your safety and satisfaction.
You won’t enjoy drinking sub-par tainted or damaged wine. Make sure in the future to keep your wine well above the freezing temperature of 15-20° F.
Proper Way to Thaw Frozen Wine
If you find yourself with a bottle of wine completely frozen through, the best thing you can do is simply let it rest at room temperature to thaw. Doing this is the best way to thaw frozen wine. If you want to speed up the process some, you can run it under cool water.
Do not run it hot water as the change in water temperature on the outside of the bottle may cause the frozen bottle to splinter or break. Hot water can also damage the wine through exposure more than the simple act of freezing it can.
Heat is a lot more damaging to wine than cold is. Freezing wine isn’t great for it but it is far less damaging than applying any of heat source to it is. Don’t put your frozen bottle in the microwave, oven on the defrost setting.
Just don’t do this. Separate studies by Scrimgeour & colleagues (2015) and by Butzke & colleagues (2012) showed that exposure to heat is damaging to the color and flavor of the wine.
Most wine will start freezing once it reaches about 15-20° F. Alcohol content is what dictates the actual freezing point of the wine. The higher the alcohol content, the lower the freezing point, and the colder it will need to be to freeze.
From what I’ve read, Champagne has a very low freezing point, lower than reds and white though I can’t confirm this to be true. The water inside the wine is what freezes and as it expands, the pressure inside the bottle needs to be relieved.
Though the glass bottle itself breaking is possible, the much more likely scenario is that the cork will loosen and push out to accommodate the expanding pressure inside. I don’t think you have much to worry about when it comes to freezing wine.
It happens to the best of us. We all forget things. If you accidentally freeze your wine, don’t throw it out. Try thawing it at room temperature and it should be just fine.
Occasionally the wine will ruin, but as long as the wine looks, smells, and tastes good, drink it. Most people won’t even notice a difference. If you are that freaked out about it, then toss it out and pop the cork on a new bottle.
Scientific Literature Referenced:
Butzke, C. E., Vogt, E. E., & Chacón-Rodríguez, L. (2012). Effects of heat exposure on wine quality during transport and storage. Journal of Wine Research, 23(1), 15-25. DOI:10.1080/09571264.2011.646254 (via: Taylor & Francis)
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)