In order to serve wine correctly, you are often told to chill it. This is because many wines taste best when mildly chilled.
However, some people drop a bottle in the freezer to chill it fast, risking a freeze.
But can wine become too cold? Can you freeze wine?
In this blog post, we will discuss at what temperature does wine freeze and what effect freezing temperatures have on wine. We will also give you some tips to store wine.
At What Temperature Does Wine Freeze?
Wine with an alcohol content of about 12.5% is likely to freeze at about 22 degrees Fahrenheit, or between 15 and 22 degrees Fahrenheit as a more general rule.
The freezing point depends on the alcohol content.
Because wine also has water it will freeze, and the big risk is that the bottle pops the cork and the glass cracks exposing the wine to oxygen.
Why Don’t All Wines Freeze at the Same Temperature?
So it isn’t likely that you will accidentally freeze your wine while icing it to serve. Still, what accounts for the temperature range?
These are the 3 main factors:
- Alcohol content
Let’s explore these in-depth so you can make an educated guess about how low that bottle of vino can go before it’s frozen solid.
Alcohol has a much lower freezing temperature than water.
If you tried to freeze both water and pure ethanol, your water sample would freeze at about 32 degrees F, whereas your ethanol sample would never freeze.
In fact, ethanol does not freeze until about -175 degrees F. That’s cold. Much too cold for a residential freezer.
The reason for this has to do with the attraction of molecules.
The forces that attract water molecules are powerful, so hydrogen and oxygen make a strong bond. But that makes them easier to freeze.
Alcohol molecules by contrast are not so attracted to each other, so it takes lower temperatures to make them stick together.
All this is simply to say that the more alcohol a wine has, the harder it will be to freeze it.
If you know the ABV, you can make a better guess at how long you can leave it in the freezer before it’s solid.
Acidity and Sweetness
Alcohol is not the only thing that affects the freezing point. A wine’s relative acidity and sweetness can also affect the freezing point.
Wines that have a higher acidity, or higher tannins, tend to have a lower freezing point.
High tannin wines tend to be red, but white wines like chardonnay can also have higher levels of acidity.
Sweet wines, however, tend to have a higher freezing point.
Of course, sweet wines in general (excluding fortified wines like madeira or port) also tend to have lower alcohol content.
How Does Freezing Affect Wine? Does it Make it Taste Bad?
Freezing wine doesn’t “harm” the wine, but it does produce changes that you may not like. The flavor and aroma may be altered from the original intent of the winemaker.
For cooking wine this isn’t a big deal, because heat dramatically changes the flavor of wine so most people don’t use their really good wine for cooking anyway.
Freezing can be an excellent way to store wine that’s a bit too oxidized for drinking but still good for cooking.
When unopened wine freezes, the water inside the wine expands and creates pressure inside the bottle.
This pressure can push the cork out or even break the glass. It’s best to chill unopened wine in the fridge.
What is Thawed Wine Like?
If you want to thaw frozen wine, it is best to simply let it stand on your kitchen counter and allow it to slowly come to room temperature.
Once the wine has thawed, it will have large crystals of tartaric acid in it that you don’t want in your glass.
Once they’ve formed they won’t dissolve again. They look like shards of glass or rock candy.
This is because by freezing your wine you have inadvertently performed a technique called cold stabilization.
Some winemakers use this process to prevent these crystals from being visible to clients.
They freeze the wine, then strain out the crystals which is what you’ll have to do because they won’t just go away.
You can decant the bottle before serving or pour very slowly after allowing them to settle.
The tannins in red wine may also become more pronounced, making it taste astringent.
The color, aroma, and flavor balance can also be quite changed after freezing, depending on the wine.
Wine that has been frozen is not necessarily bad, but it is not ideal either.
We have no problem with freezing cooking wine, but we make it a rule to not freeze our drinking wines.
What is the Best Way to Store Wine?
Wine is a complex drink that is best enjoyed at the proper temperature.
However, if you don’t plan on drinking your wine right away, you’ll need to store it properly to ensure that it doesn’t spoil.
The first step is to find a cool, dark place to store your wine. Cellars and basements are ideal, but any cool room will do.
You’ll also want to make sure that the room is well ventilated to prevent the growth of mold.
Once you’ve found a suitable location, you’ll need to choose the right rack to store your wine bottles on.
As long as the bottles are sealed and stored properly, your wine can last a long time.
Since most wines don’t necessarily get better with aging, you shouldn’t buy more wine than you can consume in about 3 years, and keep rotating through your bottles so you’re enjoying them fresh.
When it comes to freezing wine, people have all sorts of reasons for doing it, but we just don’t do it with drinking wines.
Drinking wines are crafted to be enjoyed fresh and usually chilled to taste their best.
Cooking wine is different. Freezing it is a great way to stop pouring wine down the drain because it’s gone to vinegar.