fun with a bottle and a towel

I decided to do a little experiment last night. I took an empty screwcap bottle and filled it to mid neck with cold tap water. I wrapped the bottle in a hand towel and placed it inside a small cardboard box. There was no other insulation or protection and I did not seal the box closed. I placed the box on an elevated table out in the open in my back yard. It was 13-15 degrees F overnight here in Portland. I retrieved the bottle just before the sun came up. 12 hours under pretty much worse case conditions and there wasn’t even a single ice crystal in the bottle. Just another exciting Wednesday night in the suburbs of Portland!

It was on the BBQ [pillow-fight.gif]

It is a magic towel.

I am going to mail a similar bottle, wrapped only in the hand towel and placed inside a small cardboard box, via UPS ground to a friend who lives in a very, very cold northern town. This time it will be a cheap bottle of plonk that has a real cork. I’ll report back.

You must be wrapping it in a Sham-Wow.

Also, the freezing point for wine is lower than that for water. So no worries with cross country shipping.

On another board a member was worrying that if she put a bottle in the freezer to chill it quickly for immediate use, she worried about a block of ice forming.

I assured her that it would take a LONG time for that to happen, and your experiment supports that. I wonder how long though? Probably more like 24 hours at the temperature you mention.

I -have- left stuff out on the balcony (our “spare refrigerator” in winter) and had it crack open and spill from freezing, but generally that is because we forgot it was out there and had a freeze for several days. Not wine, but I think I did something like put pot likker from collard greens out there until we figured out what to do with it (it tasted too good to throw out) and never quite figured out an answer…

PS from the header I was really expecting THIS

I left a bottle of cheap sparkling wine in the car for the last couple of days. I have to admit that I was expecting disaster when I went to get it out of the car this morning (car sits outside and the temperature was 9 degrees). No worries - not frozen. Surprised the hell out of me.

Ground shipping is Lookin’ Good!
Good as 3 day- 2 day Air - $$$

Take Care

If it gets to 13F in S Florida, my ass will be leaving Central Florida. Screw that!

Actually, from the subject heading, I was expecting something for the NSFW forum…

I think people get too worried about low temps; thanks for the scientific data point.


The freezing point of most wine varies from the high teens to low twenties (F) depending on alcohol percentage. But owing to the complexities of water-alcohol mixtures, wine won’t freeze solid when cooled a little below its freezing point even if held there for a long time. Crystals start to form, but the crystals contain more water and less alcohol than the original mixture. This raises the alcohol percentage in the remaining mixture, further lowering the freezing point. So, it forms a slushy mixture. As you drop the temperature, it becomes slushier, ie more ice crystals and less liquid. It won’t freeze solid until it’s dropped to very low temperatures. This effect can be used to distill wine into a low alcohol brandy (technically, maybe not legally). If enough crystals form in a bottle of wine, the pressure increase in the bottle will push the cork. That’s the biggest risk.

In addition to the effect mentioned above, it takes a significant time for the liquid in a bottle in a shipper, or even in an exposed bottle, to drop to the temperature of the outside air. Somewhat less intuitively, the temperature in a bottle in a well insulated shipper may continue to drop even after the outside temperature starts to rise. This is similar to the situation where buried pipes can freeze well after the coldest part of the winter. But I suspect this isn’t a large effect for wine shippers.


This experiment reminds me of my last trip to Lambeau Field in December some years ago - the temperature was 10 below, the windchill roughly 25 below. My wife had a beer spilled on her back (on her full length down coat, which was over probably 3 other coats) and, since it was not very much, never made it down her back. I watched it freeze as it flowed down…that’s how you know it is cold.

My obligatory cautionary reminder; just don’t experiment with a bottle you love.

And here I thought you DIDN’T have blonde hair…

I’ve inadvertently been conducting the same experiment here in Portland.

Last weekend I went out to the wine country, before I left I dropped two water bottles in the back seat of my car. Every morning I look at them and marvel that they are still entirely liquid, despite temps in the low teens. Yesterday I pulled a bottle out to show a coworker the magic of non-frozen liquid, but as I moved it it suddenly froze. Not solid, but into a very dense slushy.

Odd. Science is so bizarre.

Steve (a born towhead) froze it!

And my obligatory response (which I will evidently never stop having to make) to this slander is that after allowing said bottle to thaw, it drank perfectly well.

Move along folks, etc, etc.


Yeah, welll…

Melissa, did Steve eventually make it home last night? After we conversed about having fun with a bottle and a towel he seemed in a daze.