Is it OK to freeze wine and drink it later?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

We put a bottle of Chardonnay in the freezer to chill it, but promptly forgot all about it. Hours later, the cork had popped out and the wine was frozen solid. Instead of throwing it away, we let it thaw—and it tastes fine. Is it OK to freeze wine and drink it later?

—Kyle, San Francisco

Dear Kyle,

There’s nothing wrong with freezing wine. In fact, it’s a favorite way for some wine lovers to save leftover wine. I’ve done some trials, and it’s rather remarkable how fresh the wine tastes after it thaws. And for home cooks, a few ice cubes of wine are handy when you want to deglaze a pan without opening a new bottle.

There are two things to keep in mind, and it sounds like you may have figured out the first already. Just like water (and wine is mostly water), the wine will expand as it freezes. If it’s a full, unopened bottle of wine, that means the freezing wine is going to run out of room pretty quickly, at which point it will either a) leak out around the cork, b) push the cork out, c) cause the bottle to crack or d) all of the above. As a precaution, always freeze wine in a container that permits expansion.

Second, once the wine thaws, you might notice tartrate crystals. They’re harmless, but they often form when a wine is subjected to very cold temperatures.

I should also warn you that frozen-then-thawed sparkling wine would likely lose its carbonation.

And the next time you’re trying to quickly chill a bottle of wine, submerge it in a bath of ice water.

—Dr. Vinny

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