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james laube's wine flights

Can't Finish a Bottle? Freeze it

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: May 18, 2007 2:36pm ET

My friend Richard, who’s new to wine but catching up fast, asked me about how long you can keep an open bottle, which is an important consideration if you’ve spent a lot of money on a wine and don’t drink it all in one sitting.

I simply cork reds and drink them the next day. Whites can age longer if they’re kept cool in a refrigerator. I’ve had bottles last more than a week and still be in great shape.

I also rely on an old trick: freezing the wine (red or white). Just make sure that the cork isn’t in too snug and that you leave enough room for the wine to expand. (When you're ready to revisit the bottle, the wine will thaw like a can of orange juice, in a couple of hours at room temp.) I’ve kept wines for up to a week in the freezer, and they've tasted fine. I had to get through quite a bit of sediment in one hearty red, but other than that it was as fresh and lively as it had been the day I opened the bottle.

The subject of freezing wine came up again the other day. I was talking with Scott McLeod of Rubicon about the challenge of comparing wines made years ago with those made today. He wondered whether he could freeze a young wine, say his 2006 Cabernet, and keep it for 10 or 20 years as a way of comparing it to a future wine.

I’m not sure if anyone’s tried freezing a wine for years. But I would be interested to know if it’s possible and whether it would serve a winemaker’s desire to effectively freeze a wine in time.

David Schliecker
New York —  May 18, 2007 5:16pm ET
James - I had read about freezing wine too and have tried it with reds on a couple of occasions. One was a 1998 Clos do Marquis that I kept in the fridge for about two weeks to no ill effect. The other, a 1982 Chateau Coufran which I probably kept in there for a month. What was interesting about the Coufran, which somewhat over the hill t o begin with, is that I actually thought it tasted better after thawing out, losing some of the vinegar edge and smoothing out a little. However, that might be the exception to the rule and I have no idea about freezing a young wine for that long. Interesting experiment though. - Dave S.
Scott Oneil
UT —  May 18, 2007 7:03pm ET
?! I gotta say, I thought this was a joke or a mistake somehow. I've used the 'Private Reserve' gas and a fridge to slow down oxidation with good results for a few days, but the thought of actually freezing the wine to preserve it seems... well, at least counter-intuitive. Thanks, I'll just drink mine.
Greg Malcolm
St. Louis, Missouri —  May 18, 2007 10:23pm ET
I question whether actual freezing makes sense. However, vacuum freeze-drying is something that has been done with regular grape juice, with good results. Thus, I assume that it would work well for wine.
David Nelson
CA —  May 19, 2007 1:42am ET
James - freezing a wine is just wrong. I always gas an opened bottle if I can't finish it and it is generally good (if not better) the next day (except for Pinot Noir which seems to fall off the horizon if not consumed when opened).
Michael Culley
May 19, 2007 4:48am ET
Just a cold fridge works fine for us. We generally finish a wine the next day. I would especially drink a special and /or expensive bottle the next day. As the Scots say, "I think you've taken that too far."
Eric Vandervalk
Sussex Co., NJ —  May 19, 2007 10:51am ET
To the opponents of freezing: Have you had any bad experiences with this option, or heard about any negative aspects? Or does it just not 'seem right' to do? If James and others have had success with it, I'm looking for some concrete reasons against it. (haven't yet tried it myself). For all but the prize bottles, and if your spouse just doesn't like reds, it seems like a decent option.
Hoyt Hill Jr
Nashville, TN —  May 19, 2007 12:00pm ET
When I was in the restaurant business, I used to freeze dessert wines in an ice cream freezer and serve them as sorbet.Bonny Doon Muscat Vin de Glaciere sorbet is delicious!
Christopher J. Dollbaum
Seattle, WA, USA —  May 19, 2007 12:44pm ET
I like the idea! I suggest cryogenic freezing for long term vintage comparison. It works well for spermatozoa, which are 'alive'. (Is wine alive? I'd like to think so...).Regarding the freeze drying comment: Dear Greg, When you re-constitute your freeze dried 'wine powder' I must ask "What's wine without alchohol?"Answer: non-alchoholic wine.
John Rater
minneapolis minnesota usa —  May 19, 2007 3:16pm ET
I have frozen wine many times for a week and it always tasted the same when thawed out.
Michael Sautkulis
Norwalk CT —  May 19, 2007 3:43pm ET
Very interesting idea freezing wine. Do you know if there is any data as to how HOT a wine can get without it being damaged? I am wondering about the wine itself not damage do to shifting corks et al.Also, one of my favorite ways of getting a few extra days out of unfinished wine is to transfer it to a plastic water bottle. Then gently squeeze the bottle until all the air is out, then screw the cap on tight. No pumps, no added gasses- no oxidation. It looks a little low rent but works remarkably well.
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  May 19, 2007 3:45pm ET
I thought this was a joke as well. It just seems that some kind of havoc would be wrought on the wine at a molecular level. However, I'm going to try it! I usually just keep a couple of 375ml bottles around. If I know I won't need more than a couple of glasses then I fill one up, seal it with a vacuum plug, pump out the little air that's left, and then stick it in the fridge.
Timothy Feather
May 20, 2007 1:37am ET
I once put a bottle in the freezer to chill it down fast, then prompty forgot about it. When I remembered a few hours later the bottle had exploded ! (i guess this would not happen to a half full bottle)?
Marissa Ocasio
Connecticut —  May 20, 2007 11:23am ET
If I don't finish a bottle of red, I put the cork in it and put in the fridge. As for chilling in the freezer, I always use a timer so I don't forget.
Michael Fiore
Michigan —  May 20, 2007 1:27pm ET
Fascinating post. There's very little I haven't tried for wine storage yet. I have frozen left over wines from large format bottles after dinners, parties, etc. with good results. Some wines certainly fade (rather than improve) over night if left on the counter. I will frequently store these wines in the fridge with a vacuum top system for a day or two. Problem is you need to remember to take it out long before you intend to drink it, otherwise it is too cold. In these situations, I've poured a glass and popped it in the microwave for 5-8 secs just to get the chill off of it. It works amazingly well. I continue to be fascinated by how fragile, yet resilient wine can be.
Brent Rupnow
Valley Village, CA —  May 20, 2007 8:59pm ET
A friend of mine put a bottle of 1982 Heidsieck & Monopole 'Diamant Bleu' in the freezer a few weeks ago to chill it out and forgot about it overnight. There was a little leakage but it didn't explode. We just had it this Friday and it was terrific.
Mr Andrew J Green
May 20, 2007 9:14pm ET
I do something simpler. When I know we are not in the mood to drink an entire bottle, I fill a half bottle, and cork that, while we drink the remaining half. This mimimizes exposure to air, and, while I don't think I've ever waited longer than a week, keeps the wine perfectly fresh, with or without refrigeration.
Greg Malcolm
St. Louis, Missouri —  May 20, 2007 9:23pm ET
Christopher -- Good point! You are correct. The alcohol would be evaporated along with the water. My mind was on a single track -- thinking about regular grape juice -- and I forgot about the alcohol.
Abi Thompson
Washington, Dc —  July 18, 2007 10:56pm ET
I brought home a half-bottle of pour-wine from my winery the other day, stuck it in the freezer to chill down but promptly forgot about it. I found it two days later and decided to give it a go - it was a Sauvignon Blanc - I thought it was pretty much as good as it normally would be after being opened a few hours. I wondered if perhaps I was just deluding myself, but I'm glad to hear it works for reds too. I've got access to a ridiculous amount of odds and ends of assorted wines, so I will experiment and report back!

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