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Frozen Wine

Popsicles were never this good.

Bottle of white wine frozen solid.
Bottle of white wine frozen solid.

by Mike Supple
published: 02 Dec 2009
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If you're anything like me, you choose what you're going to drink fairly last minute. For red wines this isn't really a problem, but when it comes to white wines and bubbles it means I'm stuck waiting for the wine to chill. And I simply don't have the patience for that. As a result, on more than one occasion I've put a bottle in the freezer, grabbed some beer or red wine to tide me over, and promptly forgotten about the original bottle...for a couple of days.

People often talk about the dangers of heat when it comes to bottles of wine, and for good reason. Heat causes the chemical properties of the wine to change, making the bright, fresh fruit aromas and flavors turn to those of a cooked, stewed and burned mess. If I wanted to drink a glass of stewed tomato juice, I would have just prepared that in the first place - and for a lot less money than a bottle of wine.

Maintaining a constant temperature is important for wines that you plan on aging for many years, and heat is clearly a danger in the short term. But what about cold? Is my forgotten freezer bottle destined for the drain?

I put this to the test this past Thanksgiving. Thanks to an expensive bottle of Chardonnay left in a friend's freezer (intentionally this time) a few days beforehand, the stage was set. The day before Thanksgiving, I moved the frozen bottle back to the refrigerator so it could slowly thaw. I added a second bottle of the exact same wine as a control - this one having been properly stored and never frozen.

(For those of you wondering how I could drink Chardonnay on Thanksgiving after calling it out in a previous article, rest assured that the meal wasn't fully traditional. A full-bodied Chardonnay with a kiss of oak was the perfect match to our crab and artichoke dip appetizer.)

The frozen bottle was quite a mess. The wine, after expanding while it was frozen, had pushed the cork a quarter of an inch up the neck of the bottle. Some wine had leaked through as well, freezing between the cork and the capsule. Of course I discovered this only after ripping the capsule off and flinging drops of wine all over the kitchen.

Frozen wine forcing the cork through the capsule
This capsule didn't stand a chance.

A cautious sniff of the yellow liquid revealed inviting aromas of yellow pears, apples, lemons and a touch of vanilla oak. Emboldened by the surprisingly pleasant fragrance, I dove in and took a big gulp. Much to my delight the wine was delicious and there were no noticeable differences between it and its unfrozen mate.

Of course this doesn't mean we should all rush to store our wines in the freezer. Any time wine escapes from the bottle it means that air also gets in. Air and wine are not friends, but it seems that the short-term contact mixed with the cold freezer/refrigerator temperatures slowed any adverse reactions, keeping the wine fresh and delicious. If you do end up accidentally freezing a bottle, don't throw it away - but do move it to the fridge as soon as you remember, and drink that baby asap!

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