ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I've just read your answer about freezing wine, really interesting. But, each liquid has a freeze point. Vodka is about -25ºC (our freezers normally are -20ºC, that's the reason vodka doesn't freeze). This point has an alcohol dependency—vodka and whisky have 40º of alcohol. I think it's not necessary to freeze the wine, only close to the freezing point to conserve. Could you determine the wine freezing point?

—Luiz T., Brazil

Dear Luiz,

I got a lot of feedback on the previous question about freezing wine—most of it from horrified readers who are certain that it’s a terrible idea. Gentle readers, I have done several trials, including blind tastings of previously frozen wine vs. wine preserved in other fashions, and I have to confirm that it is indeed a good way to preserve wine, as long as you account for the “leaving enough room for the expanding frozen wine so your freezer doesn’t end up a sticky mess” factor.

Luiz brings up a good point, which is that while I was babbling on about how the water content is going to freeze first and those ice crystals are expanding, I didn’t point out when the alcohol itself will freeze. It depends on the alcohol content, but wine will freeze at about 15 to 20 degrees F (-9 to -6 degrees C) if it is at that temperature for an extended time.

It’s really not necessary for everyone to now go and figure out how cold their freezer is exactly; putting wine in a freezer and leaving it overnight should get you to the point of wine popsicle (or at least, wine slushie) that makes it a viable option for storage.

Some people wrote in about their own experiments with freezing wine, and they were concerned that as the wine defrosted, they didn’t like what they saw: tartrate crystals at the bottom of their glass. This doesn’t just occur in defrosted wines; you’ll notice them in a lot of different wines. They look like rock candy or even shards of glass—you might find them clinging to the cork—but they’re harmless (though unpleasant to bite down on). Because tartaric acid is susceptible to cold temperatures, some winemakers actually go through a cold stabilization process to separate these shards from the wine, purely for cosmetic reasons and to not freak wine drinkers out. So if you defrost your wine and find these crystals, congratulations! You’ve just cold-stabilized your own wine! You’re practically a winemaker!

—Dr. Vinny


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