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saving wine for more than one night: freezing//fridge -- initial experiments w/small bottles

Inspired by a discussion several years back on this board and the recent discussion about extending open bottle life with gases, I went ahead and purchased a set of six small (5 oz) bottles. I've now finished a few simple experiments with two wines. The results were very encouraging.

All that I did was to immediately poor the opened bottle of wine into the small bottles till they were completely full, then put them into either the fridge, a dark room temperature space, or the freezer. Of course I also enjoyed a glass of the wine right after the opening. The filled volumes should prevent oxygen from getting into the small bottles -- as was pointed out in the previous discussion.

After nearly a week, we did comparison tastings of the wine in the small bottles kept at different temperatures. The fridge and freezer kept wines (both reds) were nearly as good as the original. The room temperature sample was a bit decreased, but not nearly as badly as a wine kept in the bottle for the same length of time.

So, I'll keep exploring this, but wondered if anyone else on this board was also playing with this idea or had other comments.

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  1. I keep the "leftover" wine in 187.5 ml bottles, pouring it in there as soon as the bottle is opened and then having one glass for myself. I keep the bottles in the fridge. I had a couple of questions for you:

    Do you fill it literally all the way to the top or do you leave a small gap in the bottle? I have a very small space between the wine and the cap.

    Did you have any problems with bottles breaking because of being in the freezer?

    And, was there any difference between the fridge and freezer-stored wines? You didn't make a distinction and I was wondering if you could tell the difference. Thanks!

    1 Reply
    1. re: monkuboy

      I feel like we're still optimizing on how best to do this -- the first efforts I've filled the bottles all the way to the top. They are marketed as 4 oz bottles, but when filled to the top, it's closer to 5 oz. My thinking on this is to completely eliminate any room for oxygen and get a good tight seal. Why do you leave a gap?

      So far there's been no problems with wine in the freezer -- it doesn't freeze all the way (as near as I can tell and similar to the other posts). Of course that may change as we experiment with this more, but for now, the freezer seems just fine.

      Lastly, there was no difference in quality that we could tell between the freezer held wines and the fridge held wines. We put both of them into water baths at room temperature for a few hours before drinking, so they were sipped at the same temperature for the taste comparison and we couldn't tell any difference. The wine that we'd stored at room temperature (for nearly a week), that one we could tell as starting to get worse. But, even that one was much better than the wine kept in the nearly empty bottle.

    2. I tried freezing wine because I figured it would be a good way to save some wine for deglazing pans and such. I didn't think ahead about the alcohol content and tried to make wine cubes, but all I got was wine slushy. Did you thaw the frozen bottles first? What types of bottles/caps did you use?

      I need to figure out a way to save about half a bottle's worth since I'm the only wine drinker around and want more variety than a huge box offers.

      5 Replies
        1. re: Lixer

          So far we'd suggest that either freezing or the fridge will work about the same. We brought all the samples to the same temperature simply by immersing them up to the bottle cap in a large pot of water. So, yes, all the wine samples were thawed to the same temperature.

          Our thinking on this is similar to yours -- We're still learning our way around the wine world and the ability to have say four glasses of different wines by keeping multiple wine samples around in these bottles seems really appealing. Even if there's some degrading, it seems its already much less than leaving it in the bottle. It would mean that we don't have to finish every bottle that we open.

          In terms of our bottles, as was pointed out on the list, it probably doesn't matter that much. I went ahead with two sets of six glass baby bottles for $12/set that I found on Amazon. While they might not be for everyone, they are nicely thick and sturdy bottles and the right size for what we want (basically each holds about one glass of wine). I can post the Amazon link if you want it. What I also like about them (so far) is that they are easy to clean and have a good sturdy seal on the cap.

            1. re: PolarBear

              Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001...

              Note that there's a cap that comes with this, so there's no extra air space when filled to the top and sealed -- that said this is marketed mainly for babies, so while a good price, there are obviously many possible bottles that could be used. I settled on this one for the initial experiments, since the lab bottles are quite a bit more expensive.

              1. re: PolarBear

                Just another note on containers, I discovered today a distributor with good prices on glass jars and have ordered some 2 oz jars to complement the 4 oz ones. These should also be good for 4 oz or other sizes. The prices (with shipping) are about $1/jar, so not too bad:

          1. I would imagine that because of the alcohol and residual sugar content, the wine doesn't really freeze. Besides, when I decant wine into smaller bottles to keep it for later, I leave the red wines out at room temperature, and put the white wines in the refrigerator. This has done well for me.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Tripeler

              I wonder if you live in a cooler climate? We've had a really hot (95-degrees or so and humid) summer -- so leaving this out for us this last week at room temperature did seem to lead to some degradation -- still not as bad as it being left in the original bottle though --

              1. re: tb_baltimore

                Well, in think the weather here in Tokyo is similar to yours in the summer. If it is really hot indoors (with the a/c off) then I will put all the decanted wine in the refrigerator.

              2. re: Tripeler

                While I've not tried freezing fortified wines, every wine I have put in the freezer -- including some 15% heavy-hitters -- has frozen solid.

                1. re: carswell

                  That's pretty amazing.
                  What benefits do you get from freezing wine?

                  1. re: Tripeler

                    I wonder if its slower to freeze than water -- in our freezer, over about a week, the initial wine didn't freeze solid -- but, if we'd kept it a month, maybe that would have happened. I'm tempted to rely more on the fridge though than the freezer, since its not clear if there are any benefits/problems with actually fully freezing it. Did you thaw any of the frozen wine to see if the taste had changed?

                    1. re: tb_baltimore

                      Think about how antifreeze reduces the freezing point when mixed into the water in your car. Same effect.

                      Kudos to you for doing this experiment!

                  2. re: carswell

                    I made my own Limoncello a while back and found that the alcohol content is a definite factor in freezing temp. I always keep store-bought Limoncello in the freezer and it stays liquid because of the high alcohol (same as with the old-school method of serving vodka in a block of ice). The batch I made for myself was done with 80 proof vodka, which was diluted to half-strength in the recipe (so about 40 proof)................... if froze into an unpourable heavy slush. The recipe called for 150 proof grain alcohol, so diluted it would have been about 75 proof??

                    "Proof" is double the % of alcohol by volume, so an average 13% alcohol wine is 26 proof. Low enough to freeze pretty solid, based on my limoncello 'experiment'.

                    One negative I've read about to freezing wine is the formation of tartrate crystals that can be off-putting. I've also read comments from people who feel that wine goes 'flat' when frozen. There are obviously differing opinions on that.

                    1. re: carswell

                      I've not tried to freeze port, but banyuls which is typically about 15 to 16% abv stays slushy. The occasional sauternes will not freeze solid as well.

                  3. Methinks one parameter here has been left out of this otherwise very interesting experiment: the quality of the juice.

                    Please remember "wine" is a very broad category.
                    In the low end, you have a mass-produced drink, that has been produced through a lot of industrial manipulations whose main purpose ( as all industrial manipulations concerning edible goods ) is to maximize shelf life and good looks. As a consequence, you get a very stable product, built precisely to withstand all sorts of stress. Such a product will be most unlikely to give any significant differences in your experiments.

                    The opposite extreme in the quality range is, to state the obvious, different.
                    Now, would I freeze a 1982 Chateau Mouton for scientific purposes?
                    I don't think so.
                    Not even using bailout moneys.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: RicRios

                      My inclination is to think you're right about that and was rather surprised to read a post here from Melanie Wong (a really wine-savvy and frequent CH'er) saying that she freezes wine all the time for tastings she does (not sure in what capacity). She knows her stuff, so that post really opened my mind to this, though I've never tried it myself. Maybe the line is somewhere below Chateau Mouton???

                      1. re: Midlife

                        Only way to know is trying. I'd say ( although I'm not gonna do it! ):
                        Take half dozen wines in a quality scale going up from the very bottom to the highest you can afford. Nota Bene I said quality, not necessarily price. For example, bottles from some biodynamic producers might be good subjects for the higher end, as long as the particular vintage at hand has not been highly stabilized using copper, sulphur or other ingredients that are biodynamically correct.
                        Then repeat experiment with each bottle.
                        If my dilettante instincts are not too far off, final "degradation" curve ( that is, a graph where the horizontal axis displays original wine quality, the vertical displays degradation by freezing -to be defined somehow- ) should go up ( linearly? exponentially? ) as the quality increases.

                        1. re: RicRios

                          Too much work. I developed a winery-grade Argon dispensing unit and use it all the time. Less work than pouring into smaller bottles and it does the job very well for a reasonable amount of time. Although............... I've never tried in on an '82 Chateau Mouton. :o)

                          1. re: RicRios

                            I'd certainly be happy to do this if the list wants to underwrite the effort :)

                            More seriously, I am going to keep experimenting on this, since as a relative beginner it does seem to open up more taste testing over more wine than we'd be able to do otherwise. I think even a little bit of quality decrease is alright for the learning. At the moment we'll be mainly using the fridge, since I think we'll be drinking before it goes bad at that temperature.

                            1. re: tb_baltimore

                              By the way, I should add that the total gamble here is only with one part of the total and so is less than some might imagine, even with an expensive bottle -- it's maybe 8% to 16%-20% depending on whether you're using 2 oz or 4 oz-5 oz jars. I've been viewing this as a tasting experience, so with an expensive wine, you could structure this experiment so that you're not risking all of that bottle as one item, only as if you'd offered a glass to someone that didn't appreciate it :)

                      2. me thinks my solution is simpler and certainly less expensive. i use an empty 375 or 500 ml plastic water bottle. pour in the wine that is wish to save, or what is left over and then squeeze the bottle until the wine comes to the very top and screw the cap on tight. store in fridge for up to a week. could be more but i have never let it go any longer. never noticed any ill effects from the plastic. this is particularly useful when there are odd amounts left in the bottle.

                        i admit i have never tried the freezer but suspect that some degradation is likely. tartrate precipitation would definitely be likely.

                        1. one-month in update:

                          We're really enjoying this method of saving wine, more and more with each day. There are currently eleven red wines saved in our fridge in 2.5 oz or 5 oz sizes. I checked our longest one against the control of the stoppered refrigerated bottle (small amount saved) last night, and the small sample in the fully filled bottle was still excellent, while the amount left in the bottle had spoiled and lost its taste (in this case becoming watery-like with a small amount of alcohol flavor over the month).

                          So, for those interested in comparison testing, this is letting us have two to four wines each night for comparison testing. I think we're really getting much better at what we like and why we like it. For example, the comparison last night was a Cannanou from Sella and Mosca versus the 2004 Bordeaux from Jean Gautreau (opened two nights ago). The Cannanou was the winner, for us, with a more interesting blend of tastes and a more complex aftertaste.

                          The main point in updating the board is that if you want to store a lot of wine for comparisons, this seems to be a very strong contender. The very last post, by Jock, mentioned storing in plastic bottles with squeezing the air out. That should work if you've not many samples. This way should be better if you're trying to be space efficient and enable cross-comparisons across different wines. It does require some fore-thought in having enough bottles and book-keeping to know what's in each bottle and how many you have left.

                          I'll not update all of our 'wine flight' experiences, but I did want to let you all know that this, really quite old, method of saving wine by using small glass bottles is working out exceptionally well for us.

                          19 Replies
                          1. re: tb_baltimore

                            Just to be sure what your control actually is................ can you be more detailed as to "stoppered refrigerated bottle"? Is this the original wine bottle partially empty? No vacuum pump; no gas preservative? Or a small bottle filled completely but only refrigerated vs. frozen??

                            1. re: Midlife

                              Sorry that I wasn't clear. Yes, the control was the original wine bottle with no vacuum pump, no gas preservative. It was simply a small amount that I retained in the original wine bottle, stoppered it back up with the original cork and then placed in the fridge section. That was not touched for more than a month. We are still doing some frozen as well, but with things keeping this well in the fridge, we may do less and less in the freezer.

                              That does mean that we can't comment on vacuum pumps or gas preservatives versus the small bottles over this time length. Perhaps I'll do that type of control later along, but for now we've not invested in any of the gas preservative measures nor in a vacuum pump.

                              1. re: tb_baltimore

                                No surprise that the wine was bad after a month in a bottle filled with air. It'd be interesting to see the results of a comparison between frozen wine and wine completely filling small bottles and kept in the fridge (preferably a wine fridge). Then vs. a partially filled bottle with enough gas (Argon first; also vs. Nitrogen) to completely fill the empty space, and kept in a wine fridge.

                                1. re: Midlife

                                  Curious as to why a wine fridge as opposed to a regular one?

                                  1. re: PolarBear

                                    Because a regular fridge is usually somewhere in the high 30­° range and a wine fridge is in the mid 50's. Wine experts will recommend the latter as the best 'cellar' temp for storing wine, saying colder is not good. That's why td_baltimore's freezing is very hard for most aficionados to believe really works.

                                    But.............. like everything else I encounter with wine, it's all about how the taster perceives the results. The 'experts' can say all they want but it comes down to what you like.

                                    1. re: Midlife

                                      Interesting, I've always heard that a colder (ie fridge) temp would slow the development of the wine but not be detrimental, at least in the short term. But then I've never experimented by comparing a wine that's been in proper storage with the same wine that has been over chilled then brought back up to the correct level.

                                      1. re: PolarBear

                                        Actually, you're probably right. I agree that wine stored for longer periods in a standard fridge will usually not continue to develop in the bottle. That's why wine fridges and 'cellars' are set in the 50's. But I have also been told that short-term storage is also best at that same temp, so I need to do some investigating.

                                        1. re: Midlife

                                          Big difference between saving wine in an open bottle and storing wine in a non-opened bottle.

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            Agreed. But my point was in an apples to apples comparison - opened bottle vs. opened bottle.

                                            BTW, I recently got into a bit of a skirmish on another board with someone who insisted that leaving a bottle open for more than a little while (he said an hour) would render ANY attempt at preservation useless. Do you have any personal knowledge of absorption rates of air into wine or any other experience in this regard? I don't know the science but think that, while many wines will certainly change in that hour, preservation of some type is still very useful. I'd think someone's palate would have to be incredibly sensitive to oxidation for that not to be the case.

                                            1. re: Midlife

                                              I was referring to this statement from you, "It'd be interesting to see the results of a comparison between frozen wine and wine completely filling small bottles and kept in the fridge (preferably a wine fridge). Then vs. a partially filled bottle with enough gas (Argon first; also vs. Nitrogen) to completely fill the empty space, and kept in a wine fridge." I don't see the point of keeping an open bottle at wine fridge temperatures.

                                              As to your question, it all depends, e.g., age of the wine, tannin structure, alcohol level, pH, etc. Even before a bottle is uncorked, the wine is still changing just at a slower rate, so one could take the extreme position that no wine can ever be preserved. The best we can do is hope to slow down the process as much as possible and hope to catch the wine at a pleasant drinking point.

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                Thinking out loud. If we open a bottle for an hour for dinner..Drink some of it, then pour the rest into a sterile 375mL so that it's full...add some SO2 and cork it up, the wine should also last a long time.

                                                Of course most people don't have potassium metabisulphite laying around their house along with an accurate scale.

                                                1. re: Cary

                                                  Good thought experiment, Cary. I do recall talking to someone some years ago who did this at home. The problem is that to save a small quantity of wine, even a small amount of potassium metabisulphite tends to be too much and the wine tends to be over-reduced. But that's not a problem if you can give it a good airing or wait a long time afterwards to taste it again.

                                                  Do bear in mind that pouring wine into another vessel introduces a lot of oxygen. Even when you fill it to the top so that there's no head space, the wine has been aerated considerably in the pouring process.

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    I guess it should be simple enough to toss the half bottle in the back of the cellar and open it up again a few month or so later to test. Reduction could be a problem, but would blow off probably.

                                                    I'm introducing more complications, but using a plastic/rubber hose and siphoning the wine into the new bottle would work to reduce air exposure. Of course then we have to worry about making sure the hose is sterile...and we might as well have a small winemaking lab in each house... =)

                                                    In any case, I've frozen wine in the past, and it's been fine. Hardest part for me is waiting for it to defrost and come up to temp. =)

                                                    Reverse question: how about microwaving the frozen wine bottle, at the thawing power settings, to speed up the thawing procedure? I think it sounds worse that it actually is...but I haven't tried it either

                                                    1. re: Cary

                                                      Yes, I microwave wine . . . didn't mention this cuz I didn't want to freak out my fellow wine geeks even more. :-)

                                                      I haven't microwaved to defrost a frozen bottle. But I have microwaved a red wine that's spent the night in fridge for a few seconds at a low setting to take the chill off and bring it up to cellar temperature for drinking.

                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        Guilty here too!!! Same exact crime.

                                                      2. re: Cary

                                                        Instead of microwaving I just run the bottle under hot water. It melts it rather quickly yet in a controlled way that doesn't overheat the wine. I warm it for a half minute, shake the bottle to break up the ice, warm it again and repeat. it usually only takes 2-5 minutes depending upon how frozen it is and the alcohol percentage, but it also avoids the 'hot spots' that microwaving might cause. Your first glass might be slushy still, but just imagine that you are at the best Dairy Queen in the world. It's all about expectations and perception.

                                                        After that first slushy glass, the rest will be a better temperature.

                                                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    The wine fridge thing came from some input I got from an 'aficionado' who insisted that standard fridge temps were too cold and could damage the wine. I'd always thought the colder the better for preservation............ except there's something about the idea of actually freezing the wine that just doesn't seem right. I know you do it (actually yours was the first mention of the technique I'd ever seen or heard)but it just sounds like it 'shouldn't' work. Obviously that's not the case.

                                                    1. re: Midlife

                                                      Freezing does damage wine. But it damages it less than leaving opened wine at room temperature does.

                                                      I started freezing wine after a discussion with Ronn Wiegand, Master Sommelier and Master of Wine, a decade ago. He's frozen thousands of wines. But again, not every wine is a good candidate for this.

                                            2. re: PolarBear

                                              You are correct. Once a bottle has been opened, the goal is to try to reduce the further oxidation of the wine. The colder the better, which is why freezing is superior to refrigeration temperature to preserve the quality of a wine that has been exposed to air.

                                              Wine fridge temperatures are intended to allow a wine to develop gracefully in the bottle. Two different purposes here.

                                2. Great post, and thanks for the experiments. I have been freezing wine for about a year now (when needed) and I am much happier with my stored wine quality. I usually only do this with 'nicer' bottles though and don't put it into smaller bottles, though I have wanted to start doing it that way.

                                  I also usually do that inert gas thing with 750mm bottles, then put the whole bottle in the freezer (or fridge).

                                  Just some thoughts though.

                                  (1) I do get impatient about unfreezing my wine.
                                  (2) I have started drinking colder reds because of this (and kind of like it during the summer).
                                  (3) Freezing wine has never broken a bottle for me, but the corks have been pushed out

                                  1. Another update: We've found that not all the small bottles are 'equal'. Maria Lorraine and others had suggested that anything with a tight lid should be fine. Jock has suggested plastic as well. Our initial tests used either glass lab-jars from speciality bottle or glass baby jars. Last night we realized that the smaller speciality bottles were not holding the wine as well. Wine stored in them after about 3-weeks has started to go flat. In contrast, the wine stored in the baby food bottles has lasted six weeks or more without much change (to our tasting). This means that anyone wanting to try this route would be well advised to experiment some with the type of small bottle to use. We didn't try the Wheaton bottles that Maria Lorraine first mentioned, those should do as well as the baby bottles, would be my guess. There is nothing obvious with the speciality glass bottles that suggests why they would be less good for this -- probably the seal is simply not tight enough and/or the glass not thick enough.

                                    In doing a bit of web searching, there is a thread in the seed preservation community on finding the ideal containers. What they suggest is that water content in their containers as well as temperature is important. I'm not sure that there's a direct comparison to wine storage, but it may be interesting reading for some of you:


                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: tb_baltimore

                                      I can't find any post by maria lorraine in this thread. Was it removed?

                                      1. re: RicRios

                                        sorry, no not removed, but in the earlier thread under saving wine with Private Preserve or other gases -- that's where she'd mentioned the Wheaton bottles -- this idea of freezing wine is also under other earlier threads, so if you want more on that as well you should search under the archives.

                                        1. re: tb_baltimore

                                          No, nothing removed in this thread. Here's the permalink to my post about storage bottles:

                                          BTW, I've had great luck freezing white wine this summer. Little fall-off in flavor.

                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                            "Argon forms a layer" - debunked.
                                            "You can't freeze wine" - debunked

                                            Heck of a summer!!!!!

                                            1. re: Midlife

                                              "Argon forms a layer" - debunked. [snip]"

                                              I remember that "battle" we had.

                                              If only we had unlimited funds to buy as much as we wanted, and not care about preservation.

                                            2. re: maria lorraine

                                              I haven't looked back at my old post on this topic to see if I stated it or not, but yes, white wine fares better, especially young, acidic white wine. Some degradation in aroma, but they come thru quite well. Any tartrate crystals that might develop can just be decanted off.

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                As we've played with this more, it's really true your observation Melanie that some reds do fine with this while some have problems. Our initial tests were with 'lower quality' reds, so this may also reflect that some of the more mass-produced wines are also more robust. I'd say about 85% of those reds we've frozen have been similar to those kept in the fridge section alone. So, our current sense is that if you're under about six weeks of preservation time the small bottles filled to the top and kept at the fridge temperature will work for all the reds that we've tried. The other, larger than we'd realized, variable here is the quality of the small jars. Jars that do poorly in the fridge section also do poorly in the freezer. In this case its a factor of two more poorly in storage time. (The 2 oz bottles let the wine spoil within three weeks). This is probably not surprising and was also pointed out in the article about seed preservation. I'd be curious if anyone else has played with different types of jars for the storage, since I'm now feeling that this is a significant factor in the quality of the preservation. In regard to letting the wine stay out for an hour or more before pouring to preserve it, I should add that we've been opening the new wine bottles and immediately pouring into small bottles and putting them in the fridge or freezer. That may help them to keep longer, but we didn't experiment with trying it in different ways. It might be interesting to expose the wine for different amounts of time and then to fridge/freeze it.

                                                1. re: tb_baltimore

                                                  The advice that I got from Ronn was to freeze only those wines that had the stuffing and structure to hold up overnight in the fridge and still be palatable.

                                                  Here's a piece in the SF Chronicle from a few years ago that summarizes his method as well as the advice of others on saving wines.