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Robin Garr

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Wine Advisor: What if my wine freezes?

by Robin Garr » Fri Jan 19, 2018 8:19 pm

(From this week's [30 Second Wine Advisor)

What if my wine freezes?
Last year was the second-warmest year ever (or at least since reliable record-keeping began 138 years ago), NASA scientists reported yesterday.

The only hotter year on record was 2016.

But climate is not weather, so we can't find any relief from fears of a warming climate in the icy reality that the past few weeks in the Eastern U.S. and Canada have been as cold as the proverbial well-digger's elbow.

The ice caps are melting, wildfires are raging, built-up coastal areas are threatened by rising water, and monster storms are threatening almost everyone.

But it's really cold outside right now, and this raises a serious wine-related question: What happens if I forget and leave a bottle of wine outside in my car when the temperature drops close to zero?

The good news is that wine contains alcohol, so – like antifreeze, only less so – it will not freeze at 32°F or 0°C. Depending on the alcohol level in the wine, it will start to freeze around 15–F, maybe even a little less so for a powerful wine like the Evodia or the Sherry featured below. What's more, unless you're stationed in Antarctica, it will likely freeze into a slushy slurry rather than a solid block of wine popsicle.

But this is not entirely reassuring. First, once the wine starts to freeze, particularly as the temperature drops below these margins, you run a risk that the cork will push out, or worse, the bottle will shatter, a bad thing not only for the wine but your upholstery.

Even at less threatening sub-freezing temperatures, though, there's a secondary risk: Cold storage, even a little above freezing, prompts tartrate crystals to precipitate out of the wine. You may have seen evidence of this in a collection of glassy white or pink crystals stuck to the cork of a bottle of wine, signaling that at some point it's been kept too cold. This is why fancy wine cellars try to maintain a constant temperature around 55°F (13°C) and set off alarms if the temperature significantly rises or falls.

Pulling tartrate out of the wine alters its acidic balance, rendering it less tart, more soft and bland. A small amount of crystals may not be significant, but longer exposure to cold will change the wine, and not for the better.

Broken bottle, lost cork or altered wine: These are not good things. If you ever realize around midnight that you've left a bottle stashed in the trunk, I recommend going out to get it, even if this does involve putting on a parka and snow boots.

Or remember to bring in your wine in the first place.
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David M. Bueker

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Re: Wine Advisor: What if my wine freezes?

by David M. Bueker » Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:45 pm

If it freezes you might get replacement bottles from the wine shop that did not check the weather.
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Re: Wine Advisor: What if my wine freezes?

by Robin Garr » Fri Jan 19, 2018 11:18 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:If it freezes you might get replacement bottles from the wine shop that did not check the weather.

If it freezes in shipment, for sure! If it freezes because you forgot and left it in your car, not so much ...
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Re: Wine Advisor: What if my wine freezes?

by David M. Bueker » Fri Jan 19, 2018 11:25 pm

Well don’t do that.
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Re: Wine Advisor: What if my wine freezes?

by Robin Garr » Sat Jan 20, 2018 9:08 am

That's kind of the point here, because in my experience (not me!) people are doing it all. the. time.

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