We've all done it. We've all popped a bottle of white in the freezer to cool it down quickly in the belief we would pull it out 15 minutes later and serve the perfectly chilled white. Only we didn't pull it out. We left the bottle in the freezer for several hours after becoming distracted with guests or another great bottle and thought 'Ut ho! That bottle is still in the freezer'!.
If these thought dawns on you within a few hours you're probably fine, you have a wine slushy which may be exactly what the doctor ordered. If you wake up the next day and the dawning realisation hits you, you have a frozen bottle of wine and that can present a danger as liquid expands when frozen and you're in danger of the glass bottle breaking.
Assuming you didn't blast freeze a bottle of Meursault Premier Cru or Corton Charlemagne (did you?) then any damage that can really be done is fairly limited. However, does wine freeze, can you freeze it and should you?
Does wine freeze?
Yes. The freezing temperature of wine is between -4 and -7 degrees Celsius, so it takes a good while to totally freeze a bottle of wine in your freezer. The reason wine takes longer to freeze is due to the ethanol/alcohol in the wine, this ensures a lower freezing temperature than pure water.
At what temperatures does wine freeze?
Below is a table of different wine types, their typical alcohol levels and freezing points. If you've put a bottle of Port in the freezer (why, why would you do this?) then you have a few more hours to save it than if you put a semi-sweet Riesling into the freezer because the amount of alcohol in the Riesling is less than in the Port.
How long does it take to freeze a bottle of wine?
It can take anywhere from a couple of hours to half a day to totally freeze a bottle of wine. As per the table above, wines lower in alcohol will freeze quickly.
How long is ideal to quickly chill a bottle of wine in the freezer?
This answer also relates to the table above. However, if you have a white wine that you want to chill in the freezer, we recommend just leaving it for 15-20 minutes then coming back to check on the temperature. The outside of the bottle will always be cooler than the internal temperatures so to truly know the temperature of the contents in the bottle you will need to uncork/unscrew the bottle and pour a little. That's not a problem. You're planning on serving soon anyway so you can go ahead and do a taste test.
What happens to the properties of wine when you freeze it?
Well, the wine when frozen will expand and may break the bottle, this isn't great for many reasons so obvious we don't need to explain it here. If you really want to have frozen wine, pour the wine into a mould or ice cube trays.
However, if this is a fine wine, please remember, freezing causes the organic chemical compounds in wine to crystalize, which can change the flavour of the wine. That Meursault that was lovingly crafted by Coche Dury doesn't deserve such an end.
Does freezing a bottle of wine slow down maturation?
You can't Benjamin Button your wines. If you kept a bottle in a deep freeze for 100 years, yes, it wouldn't mature and develop tertiary characteristics, but it would alter the flavour in such a bizarre way as to be even worse than simply opening the wine young. Don't be afraid of ageing, its natural and in the case of wine, delicious.
How can I unfreeze my wine quickly?
If you froze your wine bottle and it's not cracked and broken, leave it on the side to defrost naturally. Just because you used a modern day appliance to freeze your wine and lived to tell the tale doesn't mean you should take another chance and pop the wine in the microwave for 30 seconds. If freezing your wine didn't break the bottle, microwaving it will.
What is the ideal serving temperature for white wine?
This all depends on the type of white wine it is. Dessert wine can be served at lower temperatures to be enjoyed at its finest expression than Grand Cru Burgundy for example.
As a rule of thumb, sweet wines and lighter alcohol wines can be served coolers and rounder, more voluptuously or more fine wines should be served closer to room temperature; however, this is really a matter of personal taste.
What is the ideal serving temperature for Champagne/Prosecco/Cava/ English Sparkling wine and Franciacorta?
Champagne and other sparkling wines should be served around 5-7˚C, fridge temperature basically.
What is the ideal serving temperature for rosé wine?
Ideally rose should be served around 12˚C, however, we all drink rose on the hottest of days and are perfectly happy with it at 5˚C!
My wine is frozen in my wine fridge?
This isn't good. Wines should not be frozen in a wine fridge even down as low as 2˚C (the lowest any wine fridges go) due to the ethanol preventing freezing and the freezing process only beginning for wine at -4˚C. If your wine is frozen in your wine fridge then something is wrong with your wine fridge.
If wine is freezing in your wine fridge we suspect there is ice build up in your wine fridge and you should defrost it and check the appliance is working as it should.
To conclude, putting your wine in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool it down is a quick way to get wines down to serving temperature, however, a terrible way to keep wines over the longer term and, if forgotten in the freezer for several hours/days, quite dangerous as the wine expands with the potential to break the glass. Let the wine thaw out and then open it. It's probably not as good a wine as when you put it in your fridge.