Freezing Wine: This I’ve Gotta See

An open bottle of wine and no time to drink it

Julian Schultz at the Oxford Wine Room has endured a lot of friendly, and not so friendly, needling to tell us about freezing wine. Not only can an opened bottle, that would otherwise be ruined by oxidation, be preserved by freezing, it will be improved by freezing. And vigorous shaking. I’m not making this up, and I don’t think he is either. His story starts almost two decades ago, with a particularly good bottle of wine that he couldn’t finish before an overseas trip. In the freezer it went. A month later, he thawed it out and noticed that the wine had stratified. After some energetic shaking, the wine was whole again, and though the color had faded it tasted much better than it did before. He’s since repeated this experiment and now freezes wine regularly. He’s even won over some skeptical friends.

A practical joke? Only one way to find out

I first came across this story by reading it on Jack Keller’s blog. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone interested in making wine or mead at home who hasn’t heard of Mr. Keller, but if you haven’t you should bookmark his site right away. He’s got the largest collection of wine recipes on the internet, and I think of him as the Dean of home wine makers. He tried Mr. Schultz’s freezing method and got the same result. For all his expertise, he’s also got a wry sense of humor (they both do, as a matter of fact), so I’m torn between the trust that he has rightly earned and the very close resemblance of this wine freezing idea to the perfect practical joke. This is one I’m going to have to see to believe.

Update 5/21/2008 – Freezing wine really does improve it!

Seeing is believing – try it for yourself!

Update 1/16/2010 – What happened to the Oxford Wine Room?

Julian Schultz’s original article, http://www.oxfordwineroom.com/freezingwine.asp, has been taken down. Inf fact, it looks like the Oxford Wine Room is no more. Does anyone know what happened to them?



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7 thoughts on “Freezing Wine: This I’ve Gotta See

  1. FleckE

    Erroll,

    This is good ole Eric, aka ” Wiglaf the Mighty “. I thought that I would cast that name away. When I read the title of your post a thought popped up in my mind that has to do with this topic. As I have stated before I make mead…oh no the honey debate LOL…anyways, also another drink that I am passionate about making is cider.
    Cider is a wonderful drink that I can make and in about a week to a week and a half can be drinking it either calm or with the bubbily.
    With that said, I had made some cider a while back and read on Wikipedia ( I love that site ) about ” fractional crystal-
    lization ” or ” freeze distillation “…basically you distill the brew by freezing it causing the pure alcohol to settle and the water to be frozen out of the brew. With cider they call it ” Applejack ” and it is very yummy.
    So, in a side note to the freezing of the wine, it would, I think in my humble opinion, if you wanted to a sort-of back woods brandy if you separated the ice from the frozen wine??

    Here are a couple of sites to check out on the subject:
    http://www.eckraus.com/wine-making-applejack.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractional_freezing

    Now, I have been reading mixed reviews on the fractional freezing. On, some sights they list it as illegal, and then some list it as dangerous because I guess that ” freeze distillation ” can produce bad alcohol’s. But, as far as I have had with my cider ( Applejack ) it has been just fine. From a 5% – 8% cider I can usually get a jack that is 12%-14% after distillation. Then again I might be arrested for doing this…lol!!! I think I hear sirens…gotta go.
    Eric

  2. Erroll Post author

    Hi Eric,

    I’ve heard of freeze distillation, but I’ve never done it. One thing that comes to mind is that there couldn’t be any more “bad alcohol,” like methanol, in the Applejack than there was in the cider. There would be less Applejack than cider, and all the alcohol in it would be more concentrated, but no new alcohol would be created by the process.

    Erroll

  3. FleckE

    Erroll,
    I think that where I got the idea reguarding the term ” Bad Alcohol ” was that when you freeze distill alcohol it produces ethanol, methanol and fusel alcohols, and the fusel alcohols are bad, from the research that I have read, at least on Wikipedia. It states that by heat distillation it can get rid of the fusel alcohols due to different boiling temps, but that freeze distillation doesn’t get rid of it…it concentrates it more and that is bad. My question on their theory is that why is drinking the concentrated alcohol more dangerous than drinking it mixed in the original state??

    Only if you have time please check out this small info page and tell me what you think…I would greatly appreciate it…you are probably like, ” Why won’t this kid leave me alone!!!! 🙂 ”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusel_alcohol

    Thanks,
    Eric

  4. FleckE

    Erroll,

    An update: I wrote an email to E.C. Kraus about this topic as they had an article on it on their website. I asked the same question(s) and this was their response:

    …quote…
    Dear Eric,

    You are correct. This type of distillation will concentrate the bad alcohol along with the good, however the ratio of good verses bad alcohols remains the same. If the apple cider’s alcohol was 2% “bad” and 98% “good” before distillation the same percentages will still exist after the distillation.
    With this in mind, it is safe to assume that you will become sufficiently “buzzed” [for lack of a better term] before you consumed enough bad alcohol to make a difference. The only concern would be if you were a raging alcoholic and able to drink whiskeys and other spirits like soda pop. Then it may be that you can drink enough to make you sick, but 4 or 5 ounces at a time won’t matter.

    I hope this helps you out.
    …end quote…
    So I guess this is what you were thinking all along??
    Thanks,
    Eric

  5. Erroll Post author

    Hi Eric,

    Yes, that’s what I was thinking. I’m glad you checked it out, though, because I don’t have any experience with distillation.

    Erroll

  6. Erroll Post author

    Hi Wine Lover,

    I didn’t know much about him, except for what I read on the original web site, but I feel like the world has lost someone special. Thank you for letting me know.

    Erroll

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