Alcoholic drinks may not freeze as quickly but they can certainly develop ice crystals if kept for some time!
Can wine freeze? Yes, wine can freeze if it is kept at 0F overnight. Frozen wine is usually only reserved for cooking purposes. Even though the alcohol content in the beverage prolongs the freezing process, the water molecules present in the wine eventually crystalize and cause the wine to freeze.
Read below to learn more about the science behind freezing wine and how it affects the beverage over time!
The Myth About Freezing Wine
Many people erroneously believe that alcoholic beverages can resist freezing temperatures – and while this may be true to some extent, you can’t generalize this reasoning for every type of booze.
The ABV (Alcohol by Volume) percentage plays a huge role in determining whether a wine will freeze or not.
See, ethanol has a lower freezing point than water and most household refrigerators aren’t designed to cool food at very low temperatures – the maximum you can go on most fridges is about 0F – 2F.
This is why some highly alcoholic beverages like Vodka or virtually any type of drink with an ABV of 30-40% don’t freeze, even if it is kept for days in the freezer.
But things get complicated when you add water into the mix.
To understand how some wines resist freezing and others don’t we need to first dive into the basic wine-making process.
In simple terms, wine is just a combination of grape juice and yeast, which renders the sugars in the grape juice to create ethanol.
Wine can be prepared using any type of grape. For example, green grapes are used in the making of white wine while some special species of red grapes can be used to make red wine.
The journey of wine starts in the field where carefully grown grapes are harvested and then crushed in a large presser. The resulting juice can then be mixed with different types of yeast to produce subtly different-tasting wine.
It is important to note that grape juice itself contains a lot of water and winemakers use this to their advantage as this watery base provides oxygen for the yeast and adds volume to the mixture.
As the wine ferments, the yeast literally consumes all the sugars and leaves behind a blend of pure alcohol, grape concentrate, and of course, water.
Once the wine is finalized, it is then bottled in a special bottle that protects the beverage from air and light.
In normal conditions, an unopened bottle will survive up till the best-before date printed on the bottle. But once opened, any type of wine should be consumed within 2-3 days.
In some cases, you may be able to store fortified wine for up to 1-2 weeks but we recommend checking the storage indications just to be sure!
There are several types of wine, we will go through the three main types of wine and see how they get affected when exposed to freezing temperatures:
Freezing Temperature: 22F, ABV: 11% – 12.5%
White wines are popular for their rounded flavor which is prized in mixology and culinary use.
The reason why they have a transparent or light golden yellow color is that this wine is made without the skin of the grapes. In theory, you can create white wine out of any type of grape so long as your remove the skins of the grape which hold most of its color.
At room temperature, white wine will maintain its signature characteristics, and refrigerating it will not have any impact on its color, aroma, flavor, or aftertaste.
However, when subjected to freezing temperatures, white wine may slowly develop ice crystals that would eventually cover the entire mass of the wine.
The thing about this type of wine is that it usually has less ABV compared to other spirits that can boast an ABV of up to 40-50%.
This means that while the alcohol content in the wine will resist developing ice crystals, the majority of water content in the wine will give in which will freeze the wine all over.
With an average freezing temperature of about 22F, white wine can easily freeze in any household freezer within a matter of days.
Freezing Temperature: 22F, ABV: 12% – 13.5%
Red wine is similar to white wine when it comes to freezing.
Even though it has a slightly higher average ABV, this type of wine will also freeze relatively easily. It might resist the development of ice crystals slightly better, but if you leave it in the refrigerator long enough, it will likely freeze.
We wouldn’t recommend freezing red wine, though. This type of wine usually contains certain compounds that give it its characteristic color and flavor and freezing it may damage these sensitive compounds – but don’t worry, freezing it for a short time won’t have much effect (more on this below).
Freezing Temperature: 15-20F, ABV: 11% – 12%
Sparkling wine is more or less the same as both types of wines discussed above – with the only difference being that sparkling wines are carbonated and can have mild to intense fizziness.
If you are looking to freeze sparkling wine, then that would be a particularly bad idea.
Freezing sparkling wine, or any soda drink can cause the bottle to burst. As the wine freezes, the soda water expands beyond the confinements of the bottle and with enough pressure, the bottle may even break, leaving you with a surprise clean-up in the freezer.
Not only that but freezing sparkling wine can also cause it to change its flavor and texture, often dramatically!
As the wine thaws, it will become noticeably flat and you may not be able to enjoy all of its original flavor notes either.
Some sparkling red wines require the same care and attention when freezing. Needless to say, just avoid freezing sparkling wine in general for maximum quality.
Characteristics of Frozen Wine
Here are some important characteristics of frozen wine and what you should expect from the beverage once it thaws:
When frozen, white wine is the least likely to change in flavor or texture – but this also depends on how long you freeze it!
A freshly bought wine bottle kept in the freezer for a week will show no signs of deterioration in flavor. You will still be able to get the original flavor notes and aroma from the bottle!
But if you store it for about a month, then the wine will likely start to lose its original flavor notes as it thaws. For some, the difference might be negligible, but for aficionados, this minute difference may even be a deal breaker.
Red wine may require some attention and while you shouldn’t freeze it to maintain its quality, freezing red wine for a few days will have no impact on its flavor.
In many cases, you can easily freeze red wine for up to 5-6 days and then enjoy it after thawing it without any difference but if you store it for longer, then the wine may dip in quality, especially if you store an already opened bottle.
When it comes to flavor, freezing sparkling wine will not have any immediate effect on its flavor, but its fizziness and intensity may lessen which in a way may change the overall perception of the quality of the wine.
As mentioned, we do not recommend that you freeze sparkling wine at all, but if you end up storing it unintentionally, then the wine may survive up to 3-4 days in the freezer, without any changes – especially if it hasn’t been opened at all.
White Wine/Red Wine
Short-term freezing will have very little impact on the overall smoothness and viscosity of the wine. Even when it is frozen rock solid, once you thaw it properly, it will go back to its original texture without any noticeable changes.
This is why frozen white wine cubes are popularly used in cooking! Just make sure that you store the wine properly and it shouldn’t develop any noticeable changes.
The same can also be said for red wine, which will rarely develop any textural difference once it is completely thawed!
Frozen sparkling wine will likely become flat and unappealing. Please keep in mind that the most important factor of any sparkling wine is its fizziness.
If you thaw frozen sparkling wine, then it won’t have the same mouthfeel, this is especially true for subtly carbonated wines!
How to Freeze Wine
For this guide, we will assume that you are only freezing wine for culinary use since we have already established that freezing unopened wine for longevity is not worth it.
To freeze wine, you will need a high-quality ice cube tray with a lid.
We can’t stress this enough! Do not go with an open-lid ice cube tray as that is the worst way to store any type of wine. Not only that, but you will also expose the beverage to air and even risk getting that distinct “refrigeration smell”.
The best way to go about freezing wine cubes is to use a possibly airtight ice cube tray. Fill the wine equally in each cubicle and then gently tap the tray to release any trapped air bubbles.
Then put the lid back on and store the tray at the back of the freezer for about 2-3 days at 0F. Remember, the wine will usually freeze around 4F!
Once frozen, you can then remove the cubes from the tray and fill them up in an airtight bag. The cubes will remain good indefinitely, but we recommend using them within 1-2 months for the best flavor.
Storing Wine in the Fridge
If you do want a cold glass of wine, then it may be acceptable to store the wine in the freezer for about 1-2 hours to quickly get a glass of chilled wine.
This method requires some precaution though. Remember, most people tend to forget after storing wine in the freezer so you should put on a reminder or an alarm!
You can alternatively also store the wine in the fridge – this is the safest way to get a chilled glass without worrying about the quality.
Please refer to the storage indications on the bottle for a better experience.
Thawing Frozen Wine
Whether you intentionally or unintentionally stored wine in the freezer, there is an easy way to thaw it without damaging its characteristics.
Just keep the bottle in the fridge overnight and allow the wine to fully thaw in the fridge. Do not try to thaw the wine at room temperature or use any other heating method to quickly thaw it. We highly recommend that you give it some time and allow it to thaw naturally in the fridge before opening the bottle.
Please keep in mind that adding too much heat to any type of wine will likely affect its flavor and texture.
The only acceptable heating method (if necessary) is to pour warm water over the bottle to encourage a quick defrost.
Do not pour boiling water over a frozen bottle or you might end up with cracks on the bottle! Always start with lukewarm to medium-warm water – an indication of this would be to dip your finger in water, if it is too hot for you then it will likely also be too hot for the wine!
Tips and Tricks
We recommend following these tips and tricks when dealing with frozen wine for the best experience:
- If you are storing an already opened bottle of wine, then we highly recommend that you check the seal and securely twist the cap so that air can’t get inside the bottle. Remember: air will do more oxidative damage to the wine than freezing temperatures!
- Please store the wine in a spot where there is less frost. Most household freezers accumulate a lot of superficial frost over the surface, which usually signals a circulation issue inside the refrigeration chamber.
This is why it is best to freeze wine in a no-frost fridge that automatically discourages the development of frost by managing the fan speed and temperature.
- Do not store the wine for more than 3-4 months in the freezer. Not only will this impact the overall quality of the wine when it defrosts but it will also likely affect its flavor.
- Avoid refreezing wine. Once defrosted you should consume it within a few days for maximum flavor and quality.
- A great way to use frozen wine cubes is to add them directly into a hot pan while cooking food. Do not wait for the cubes to defrost!
- Smell and sip a frozen wine that has spent a lot of time in the freezer. If you notice any off-putting aroma or flavor, then discard the bottle.
Freezing wine may not be the smartest storage method, but there are a few ways you can minimize the damage done to the overall quality of the wine even if you accidentally end up freezing it!
Now that you know all about freezing wine, here are some related questions:
Can you store frozen wine in a hot water bath?
Yes, you can store a frozen bottle of wine in a hot water bath provided that the water is only lukewarm. NEVER put a frozen bottle in boiling water. To make the most of this method, you can replace the water once it gets cold. Keep repeating this method until the wine thaws.
Can you microwave frozen wine?
No, you should never microwave frozen wine. Microwaving frozen wine may seem like a reasonable and quick way to defrost it but you may end up damaging the bottle, especially if you microwave with the cork on!
Also, even at the defrost setting the microwave may build up too much heat inside the bottle which will damage the quality of the wine before it defrosts.
Finally, here is a great video walking you through the steps of freezing wine the right way: