Wine in a Snowstorm
Temps for Serving / Storing Wine
My wine pages talk about the dangers of Cooling Wine in your Freezer - but on the other hand they explain that Using Ice Cubes to Chill a Wine isn't the ultimate of evils. So what if you fall into a third area - wine that manages to get really cold? What if you go out shopping in the bitter cold tundra of Alaska and by the time you get home the wine in your trunk is down around 20F? What if the power goes out in your house for a few days, and those bottles of wine in your basement are sitting at 32F for several days in a row? Is that wine now destroyed?
Certainly I have many pages here that talk about the ideal storage of wine. The key is you want to keep that wine at a steady temperature, somewhere around 55F, for proper aging. That way the pressure inside the bottle isn't going up and down, the cork isn't being pulled in and out by those pressure changes, and chemical reactions aren't being unnaturally swayed by the temperature. It gives a fine Bordeaux the best possible chance of aging 20 years into a delicious treat.
It's also true that a spike in temperature can cook and destroy a wine. If you had 105F temperatures in Arizona and left your case of wine in the trunk for a few hours while you watched a movie, that wine is probably now toast. The heat cooks the wine, and while you certainly COULD drink it without medical harm, your taste buds probably wouldn't appreciate the effort.
Interestingly, while heat seems to accelerate chemical changes in wine, cold in general seems to retard those changes. In fact when they make white wines they often use a technique called "cold stabilization" on the wine. You can read about cold stabilization on my Cold Stabilization Definition page. What they do here is they wrap a metal jacket around the vat holding the wine and they drop the temperature of the wine down to almost freezing (32F). They let the wine sit there for a few days. This allows the natural tartaric crystals to be removed easily, which is a cosmetic step many wineries take to make their wines more user-friendly. In any case, the important part here is that wine makers ROUTINELY subject their white wines to near-freezing temperatures for days on end, just to make it 'look prettier'. They wouldn't be doing that if it damaged the flavors.
In an odd way, keeping the wine too cold slows down its aging. When they did salvage work on the Titanic, they brought up bottles of Champagne from the depths. Those bottles were still sealed tightly - the corks had kept out the sea water for decades. The bottles were, of course, very cold - the water temperature in that area can be an amazing 28F! Yes, that's below freezing temperature! Apparently the salt in the salt water lets it get colder-than-normal without freezing. So those bottles sat for decades at that frigid temperature - and when they were opened they were still drinkable. I do want to caveat that they probably weren't "in top form" after all that time :). But they had not become awful tasting.
So, to summarize, do not panic if your wine gets too cold for several hours or even several days. You don't WANT to do this to your wine - but it's not a reason to worry too much if it happens due to events outside your control. Just get it back to the proper storage temperatures in a GENTLE way - don't heat it up quickly. The big fear here is that the pressure change inside the bottle could push out the cork, and that would let in air and the air would oxidize the wine. Heat it back up, slowly, to the correct temperature.
Proper Wine Serving Temperatures
Cooling Wine in your Freezer
Using Ice Cubes to Chill a Wine
Wine Basics Main Page
All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.