Does freezing destroy wine?

Freezing wine is a controversial topic among wine enthusiasts. Some swear that freezing wine ruins it, while others claim freezing can help improve certain types of wine. As with most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The Effects of Freezing on Wine

When wine freezes, the water inside turns to ice crystals while the alcohol remains liquid. This can alter the texture and flavor of the wine in a few key ways:

  • Expansion – As water freezes it expands, which can rupture the cell walls of the wine grapes. This causes tannins and other compounds to leak out.
  • Dilution – The frozen water gets left behind when the wine thaws, lowering the alcohol content and diluting the flavors.
  • Oxidation – Freezing can introduce extra oxygen into the wine, speeding up oxidation reactions that alter the wine’s flavor and aroma.
  • Haze – Compounds in the wine can clump together when frozen, creating a haze when thawed.

These effects seem like they would ruin most wines. However, the impact depends heavily on the type and quality of the wine in question.

How Does Freezing Affect Different Wines?

Not all wines are equally susceptible to damage from freezing. Here’s how different wine varieties tend to fare:

Fine Red Wines

Freezing causes the most damage to premium reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Merlot. The tannins and flavor compounds in these delicate wines get thrown off balance when frozen. Opening a bottle of frozen Bordeaux often reveals a muted aroma, diluted flavor and lack of complexity. Most experts advise never freezing fine red wines.

White Wines

White wines generally withstand freezing better than reds. Their crispness comes more from acidity than tannins, so they aren’t as dramatically altered. However, cheaper whites don’t always hold up well. More delicate whites like Riesling or Chardonnay can develop off-flavors when frozen. Basic table wines are most likely to turn unpleasant.


Rosé tends to fall somewhere between red and white wine when frozen. Less expensive rosés made in large batches are often bottled to drink young, and have little complexity to lose. More subtle rosés from smaller producers can decline in quality when frozen, like lighter reds and whites.

Sparkling Wines

Bubbly wines like Champagne, Cava and Prosecco tend to withstand freezing quite well. The effervescence remains intact, and the refreshing crispness of young sparkling wines is largely unaltered. Many champagne producers even store bottles upside down in freezing cellars for aging.

Dessert Wines

The very sweet dessert wines like Port, Sauternes and Ice Wine do not suffer much damage from freezing. Their high sugar content acts as an antifreeze that prevents dilution. In fact, some winemakers intentionally freeze grapes on the vine to concentrate sugars when making Ice Wine.

Fortified & Strong Wines

Freezing has little effect on wines with higher alcohol content. The alcoholic strength acts as protection against freezing damage. Fortified wines like Port, Madeira and Marsala can be frozen with minimal impact, as can full-bodied reds over 13% alcohol.

Does Freezing Improve Cheap Wines?

A common myth suggests putting cheap wine in the freezer can make it taste better. The idea is that freezing concentrates flavors by separating out just water, improving the wine. So does freezing really improve bad wines?

The reality is freezing concentrates all compounds in wine, not just water. While this can intensify the flavor initially, it throws off the wine’s balance and chemistry. Key subtle notes are lost, leaving just the most basic components behind. Freezing might make bad wine taste stronger, but rarely better.

What About Cooking Wine?

If you only use wine for cooking, freezing makes more sense. The complexities that matter in a drinking wine don’t impact how it flavors a recipe. Since you aren’t drinking it straight, freezing cooking wine to concentrate flavors can be beneficial.

Most experts recommend against freezing wine you plan to drink. But if you have an open bottle of cooking wine leftovers, freezing can be worthwhile. Just be sure to label it clearly so you don’t accidentally defrost it for drinking later!

Proper Wine Freezing Technique

While not generally recommended, circumstances sometimes dictate freezing fine wines. If you must freeze wine, use these tips to minimize damage:

  • Use air-tight containers to minimize oxidation.
  • Freeze quickly at very low temperatures.
  • Store wines upright to keep corks wet.
  • Minimize temperature fluctuations during freezing.
  • Thaw slowly in the refrigerator.
  • Consume within a few days of thawing.

Freezing in glass is risky, as expanding ice can shatter bottles. Rigid plastic or stainless steel containers are better choices. Wrap glass bottles in towels or polystyrene to reduce breakage risk if glass is your only option.

Does Refreezing Affect Wine Quality?

Refreezing wine after initial thawing introduces more oxygen and potential crystallization damage. Each freeze/thaw cycle extracts additional compounds from the grapes. Wine subjected to multiple freezes often ends up badly deteriorated.

For the best results, freeze wine only once if holding for longer term storage. Refreezing significantly decreases quality.

Can You Freeze Open Wine?

Once opened, wine immediately starts declining due to oxidation. Freezing can slow down this process for a short time. But freezing won’t stop oxidation completely. An open bottle will continue deteriorating in the freezer.

For short-term storage of a day or two, freezing open wine in a full airtight container can be acceptable. But don’t expect it to taste like fresh for more than a few days after thawing.

Does Wine Go Bad In The Freezer?

Over time in the freezer, wine will eventually go bad. Oxidation still occurs, albeit more slowly than at room temperature. More fragile wines like Chardonnay or Pinot Noir can start losing freshness after 6-8 weeks frozen.

Hardier wines like Cabernet Sauvignon may last up to 3-4 months before significant quality declines. Dessert wines and ports can even go 6 months to a year before spoilage in the freezer. But no wines last in the freezer indefinitely.

Can Frozen Wine Make You Sick?

Freezing wine won’t make wine inherently dangerous to drink. However, freezing can damage the cork, allowing more oxygen in. Excess oxidation can eventually turn wine to vinegar, which contains trace amounts of acetic acid. In rare cases, consuming high acidity vinegar can cause nausea or upset stomach.

As long as the wine hasn’t turned to vinegar, freezing alone won’t make it unsafe. But an oxidized wine could potentially cause some temporary discomfort when consumed.

Does Wine Explode When Frozen?

It’s a common belief that freezing wine makes bottles explode. However, liquid expanding is rarely forceful enough to shatter glass. The cork and air pocket in the neck provide enough room for expansion. As long as the bottle stays corked, bursting is very unusual.

That said, freezing can push the cork out slightly. This lets in oxygen that degrades the wine. A loosened cork also means leaks and seepage once thawed. So while exploding is rare, freezing wine can compromise the seal over time.

Can Frozen Wine be Salvaged?

There are a few methods that can potentially improve the flavor of frozen wine:

  • Fining – Adding agents like bentonite clay can remove some dissolved compounds and particles from oxidized wine.
  • Blending – Mixing in a small amount of fresh wine can mask flaws and reduce dilution.
  • Spicing – Spice extracts can enhance the flavor of wines degraded from freezing.
  • Sweetening – A tiny bit of sugar can help balance overly sharp flavors.

However, these remedies only go so far. A wine with significant freezing damage cannot be restored to original quality. But fining and blending can make it more drinkable as a cooking wine.

Key Takeaways on Freezing Wine

Freezing wine is risky business. To summarize the key points:

  • Freezing can damage flavors, aromas and textures of fine wines. Only freeze mature wines intended for cooking.
  • White and sparkling wines hold up better than most reds when frozen.
  • Cheap cooking wines can have concentrated flavor from freezing.
  • Repeated freeze cycles multiply damage to the wine.
  • Even in the freezer, wine will eventually oxidize and go bad.
  • Frozen wine is safe to consume, but may have declined in quality.

While not ideal, freezing wine can be an acceptable short-term storage solution in certain cases when proper techniques are used. But for most fine wines, the freezer should be avoided to prevent irreversible damage.


Freezing wine is a polarizing topic among wine lovers. In many cases, freezing does lead to declines in aroma, flavor, texture and overall quality. The wine grape cell structures can be damaged, oxidation increases, and volatile compounds are lost. Most connoisseurs advise against freezing fine wines you plan to drink.

However, freezing wine isn’t always detrimental either. Heartier varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, budget cooking wines, and wines intended for mixed drinks or cooking applications can withstand freezing reasonably well. As long as the wine hasn’t completely turned to vinegar, freezing alone won’t make it unsafe to consume either.

The reality is that whether freezing preserves or ruins wine depends on many factors. Proper freezing technique for the right style of wine can minimize damage for short term storage. But freezing sensitive wines for extended periods almost always has negative effects. Ultimately there’s no perfect answer, and freezing wine involves trade-offs. But armed with the right knowledge, wine lovers can make informed choices when freeze time comes calling.

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