You’ve just finished a bottle of red wine with dinner and, instead of putting it into the fridge, you leave it in the cold car overnight. Is that safe? If you don’t have a cool place at home for the wine and you’re not planning to finish the rest of the bottle right away, will leaving it in your car be alright?
We do not recommend leaving wine in a cold car overnight if the temperatures forecast will be freezing. This is not because the bottle can explode. Frozen wine can be thawed without any noticeable change in flavor or wine integrity. However, if your wine bottle seal is broken, the thawing process can cause some issues.
Cars can get extremely hot during peak summer temperatures — but they also get cold on an average winter day. So can wine be left in a cold car or a hot one? Here are some tips on storing your favorite red wines to keep them from spoiling too soon.
Can Wine Be Left in a Cold Car Overnight?
Wine can be left in a cold car overnight but it is not recommended since it can lead to the freezing of the wine. Frozen wine in most cases is not spoilt and neither does the wine bottle break when frozen. It is possible for a bottle of wine to freeze in a car overnight in extremely cold temperatures, with the liquid temperature reaching 15-18° F but depends on the wine’s alcohol content.
This means that if the temperature outside is not markedly below 32F, it will take longer to freeze.
If you’re in a hurry, you can put the bottle in the freezer for about 20 minutes. However, even if the wine bottle freezes, it will not be ruined. Once the bottle thaws, you can continue enjoying the wine without any noticeable changes to flavor or wine integrity.
At What Temperature does Wine Freeze?
To freeze, a liquid’s temperature must drop below its freezing point, which is its transformation point from a liquid to a solid state. The freezing temperature for wine is when the liquid temperature is lowered to 15-18° F but depends on the wine’s alcohol content.
For wine, the higher the alcohol content, the lower the freezing point. Thus it will require a colder temperature for the wine to freeze
If a wine bottle is kept at a constant temperature below 32°F, it will eventually freeze. The average freezing point for water is about 32°F, but it also depends on the alcohol content present in the liquid. Because alcohol has a lower freezing point than water, the higher the alcohol content in a liquid, the colder it can get before it freezes.
How Long Will it Take to Freeze?
This depends on the temperature in the car, and the temperature outside. If it is 15°F outside, and the car is kept in the shade, it can take up to 8-10 hours for the bottle to freeze but the car insulation can prevent the wine from freezing.
As the temperature inside the car drops, it will take less time for the bottle to freeze. If it is 0°F outside, it can take less than 2 hours for the bottle to freeze. Thus, for such temperatures, the wine will definitely freeze even with the car’s insulation.
It is important to remember that the wine freezing temperatures and duration will also depend on the alcohol content of your wine. Therefore, it will need colder temperatures for alcohol with a higher alcohol content to freeze.
Therefore, the likelihood of wine freezing at 10° F maintained all night is 50% by the morning. The car insulation can prevent freezing or not. Moreover, it will depend on the initial temperature of the wine before it was left in freezing temperatures.
Most of the time, in freezing temperatures, we will have hot AC in the car. This means the baseline temperatures of the wine will be high as compared to if the wine was starting at a lower temperature.
What happens if wine freezes?
All liquids expand when they freeze. Wine will also expand when frozen but also the organic chemical compounds do crystalize, thus altering the wine flavor. Thus, when the wine is stored in the freezer in the original bottle it can break, and thus we should put wine in freezer bags or use an ice cube tray for storage in the freezer.
After a long period of time, the wine will be freezer burned and oxidized. This is because the freeing allows in the air that degrades the wine markedly. This also contributed to the alteration of wine flavor.
We need to recognize that the water and alcohol in wine have different freezing temperatures. Alcohol freezes at 114.7 degrees Celsius (-174.6 degrees Fahrenheit) while water freezes at 0 degrees C (32 degrees F.)
Thus, the water will freeze before the alcohol. The process may lead to the concentration of alcohol at the top or bottom of the wine bottle.
Some wines however undergo “cold stabilization”. The process of cold stabilization removes the chemical crystals for cosmetic reasons.
You can freeze both red wine and white wine. This is because it is not the color that influences whether you can freeze wine or not but the wine’s alcohol content.
Why is it a bad idea to leave wine in a car overnight?
The reason we don’t recommend leaving a bottle of wine in a car overnight in very cold temperatures is that the bottle could freeze and break, causing the wine to leak into the car’s upholstery. The chances of this happening are slim but prevention is better than cure.
This is especially true for people who live in colder climates and may leave their cars parked outside for long periods of time. There are many variables that come into play when you leave your wine bottle in freezing temperatures in your car.
If the temperature outside drops below freezing and your car is not properly insulated, the cold air inside your car can cause a bottle of wine to freeze, break, and leak out onto the car’s interior.
Hot temperatures are even worse for your wine. Therefore, it is not recommended to leave your wine bottle in a car.
Will the Bottle Explode if left in a cold car overnight?
No, the bottle will not explode if you leave it in a cold car overnight. If your bottle breaks, it is possible that it will make a mess, or you may need to replace the upholstery in your car.
A worry we find all the time is that your wine bottle like all other liquids in bottles, will explode when frozen. This is because some glass containing liquids explodes when left in the freezer by accident.
However, at Hopstersbrew, our surveys have no indication of shattered wine bottles when frozen in a car or in a freezer. This is because the wine bottles are made to withstand such extreme temperatures and even falls.
And since the wine bottles are closed using wooden corks, the cork will most probably pop off instead of the bottle exploding.
However, there is no risk of injury, and the wine will not be ruined by the breaking or leaking bottle. Most of the time, the frozen wine will be intact thus reducing the mess created by a broken wine bottle.
Is frozen wine ruined?
Frozen wine in most cases is not ruined since you can thaw it without spoiling its flavor, color, body, or integrity if done properly. However, you need to check the wine to ensure that it is still ok after thawing.
If you leave a bottle of wine in a car overnight and it freezes, you can simply thaw it at room temperature. You don’t need to warm it up, but you can certainly speed up the process by using a warm hair dryer.
Generally, thawing frozen wine is a simple process that won’t impact the flavor or integrity of the wine. With that said, the process does depend on a few factors. Some wine types can spoil when frozen and thus it is good to taste to check if there is any noticeable difference.
If the bottle breaks open due to the freezing, then you will lose some wine as a result. If this happens, you need to throw away the bottle to ensure you do not take any broken bottle pieces.
If the bottle does not break open, you can still thaw frozen wine at room temperature. It will take 2 or 3 hours for the wine to thaw completely. You may want to shake the bottle to help distribute the liquid inside.
How to Properly Thaw Frozen Wine
To thaw your frozen wine properly, you need to let the frozen bottle of wine sit at room temperature for about 2-3 hours until completely thawed. Using this method ensures that you do not ruin the flavor or integrity of the wine.
You can use the slow thawing technique for a wine bottle that is frozen in your car or fridge. This process enables the wine to slowly melt to liquid without separating solids and liquids.
Faster thawing like in a microwave or oven can break the bottle or spoil the wine. The addition of heat spoils the chemical integrity of wine thus damaging the wine. Moreover, the other challenge is that part of the wine will be in a liquid state while the other is in a solid state thus spoiling the wine.
If the bottle breaks, you will want to clean up any spilled wine as quickly as possible. This breakage can easily happen when you change the temperature of the bottle rapidly from freezing to very hot.
Defrosting in a microwave is also not recommended for your frozen wine. However, some people recommend blowing the bottle with a warm blow drier or placing the bottle in lukewarm water to speed up the thawing process. However, do not apply excessive heat to the bottle since wine and heat are mortal enemies.
To clean any broken wine bottle, you can do this with baking soda or a mixture of water and vinegar. You can also place the broken bottle in a bag or wrap it in paper towels and put it in a container or sealed bag in the refrigerator to help retain any lost wine.
If you don’t want to deal with cleaning up the mess, or if the bottle doesn’t break, you can simply let it sit at room temperature until it thaws completely.
How to store wine in a cold car
1. Wrapping your bottle in blankets
If you are going to leave a bottle of wine in your car, you can wrap it in a blanket to help insulate the bottle. A thick blanket will help keep the cold out and the heat in, which is exactly what you want when storing your wine in a car.
If you use a blanket like a quilt, it’s important to make sure it does not have a zipper or buttons. These items can leak rust into your wine. A blanket made from a cotton or flannel material will work best.
2. Using an electric blanket as insulation
An electric blanket can help significantly reduce the temperature inside your car, which will make it ideal to store a bottle of wine. You can turn the blanket on before you leave for the day, or whenever you are planning to leave the bottle in your car.
If you live in a very cold climate, you may need to leave the blanket on for most of the day to get the desired temperature inside your car.
However, you want to make sure the blanket is off when you are ready to go home. The last thing you want to do is leave an electric blanket inside your car all night.
Can you leave wine in a hot car?
If you leave wine in a hot car for a short time- like leaving it in a 90-degree car from buying it to consumption in five hours in most instances will not destroy the wine. However, you should note that exposing it to sunlight reduces its lifespan and changes its flavor.
Leaving your wine in a hot car can damage wine pretty quickly since the liquid will expand when exposed to hot temperatures. To note is that not all wines have the same reaction to temperature. Therefore, we do not recommend leaving white or rosé exposed to high temperatures and light for months.
Therefore, you can leave your wine in a hot car or another hot environment for a short period of time. Otherwise, storing it in a hot environment spoils the wine rather quickly. Do not leave your wine in a car with temperatures above 75˚F for more than a few days.
However, if your car temperature is above 80˚F, you will risk your wine spoiling with each passing hour.
You can leave a wine bottle in the car overnight if it is freezing but it is not recommended. Keeping a bottle of wine in a car can be tricky, especially because the inside of a car can get very cold in the winter. But it is possible, as long as you take the necessary precautions to make sure it doesn’t freeze.
There are a few ways to keep your wine from freezing in a car, including wrapping it in a blanket, using an electric blanket as insulation, or keeping it in a bag in the trunk.
Effects of heat exposure on wine quality during transport and storage: Journal of Wine Research: Vol 23, No 1 (tandfonline.com)