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Jul 27, 2010 10:17 PM

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:

              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.