Short-term Wine Storage - How cold is too cold?

I have outgrown my small wine cellar, but I won’t be in a position to buy a second one until after the holidays. Meanwhile, I have case box of wine that is slowly filling with stuff I don’t want to abuse. The wine and cellar are in the north-facing garage of our 2-story home. I don’t have a thermometer out there, but it stays pretty cool-to-chilly. During the winter, I would guess the ambient temperature fluxuates between the mid-40’s to lower 50’s. If we get a cold snap, I would imagine the garage could dip into the low 40’s by early morning.

My question is, am I at any risk of somehow damaging the boxed wine as a result of exposure to these low temperatures? (Right now, it’s got stuff like Ridge Lytton Springs and some nice St. Joseph in it.) I should have another cellar by the end of January. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks!

DOH! I think I just answered my own question. It’s really not much different than sticking some red wine in the fridge for a couple months, is it. Well, except for the fluctuation part.


Don’t mind me. Have a great Tuesday, everyone!

Down to 20 or 25 F is fine.

You might put it in some Styrofoam shippers or a cooler to reduce the fluctuations.

Good thought! I’ve got a couple of those…somewhere. Thanks.

You could see some tartrate precipitation from extended cold temps, but not much harm.

Someone above posted 20 to 25 F is ok. I disagree. At 24 F for an extended time, wine can–and will–freeze. It might not hurt the wine, but the bottle could break and/or the cork will push out.

Ethanol freezes at -170ish F. Water freezes at 32F. Wine is around 10% alcohol (low amt, really 13-14%). So 10% at -170 + 90% at 32 = 12 degrees.

If wine is stored at 12 degrees, or even 15 degrees (some mixing and slush issues with freezing mixed liquids) for a prolonged period of time (days) the wine could freeze or become slushy. At 24 degrees, I don’t care how long it’s at that temp, it will not freeze or become slushy enough to increase the volume and raise the cork.

I’ve been meaning to ask a related question . . . any damage from longterm storage at refrigerator temps for screwtop bottles?

So I’m having some storage issues, and moved a few cases of Austrian Rieslings to the fridge. I’m hoping the only effect is slowed maturation, but I’m a little fearful there might be something more damaging. And I really love these wines.

Seems like this should be how it works, but it doesn’t. Solutions have what is called “freezing point depression” when something (a solute, in this case ethanol) is added to the liquid (solvent, in this case water) of interest. The drop in freezing point temperature, at least for relatively small concentrations of solute, is just the product of the concentration and a constant for the particular solvent called the “molal freezing point depression constant.” For water, that constant is k=1.86 degrees C / molal. So for a 10% abv solution of ethanol in water, that would be about a 6.4 degree (F) drop, to 25.6 degrees. For a 14% abv wine, it works out to about 9.4 degrees drop in freezing point, or roughly 22.6 degrees F.

Alan. Love this. So for a 13% abv wine (common for red and white burg / certainly red Bordeaux), around 23.35 degrees. So at 24 degrees, I imagine it could sit for weeks with no probs…

Put all of your Parker 100-point reds out there. Wine will only freeze at the North and South Poles when the alcohol level of the wine is 15% or higher…

Try it and get back to me with the results, and I accept your apology in advance. [tease.gif]

My numbers are approximate (I rounded off my calcs a bit), but should be reasonably close. Here’s a phase diagram (fancy name in this case for the melting point vs mixture composition) of water and ethanol. I found it by searching, can’t vouch for it, but it looks about right. This is the same principle used in your car radiator to raise the boiling point and lower the freezing point of water (by adding ethylene glycol). Salting roads is another example, where an impurity mixed with water lowers the freezing point.

Note that this diagram has % by weight along the horizontal axis, not ABV, which is different. I used ABV in my calculations. And the temperature is in degrees C.

For salt, I would expect the “curve” to be pretty straight. For ethanol, it is more complex due to the hydrogen bonding interactions between water and alcohol, but still follows the linear equation fairly closely, so your estimate of about 24 degrees should be good.

yep. I think at 24 degrees, seems like a 13 - 14% abv wine will not freeze. anecdotally, I’ve had wine delivered in cardboard (not styro) that sat out overnight at 15 degrees or colder and no freezing probs.

Does seem like wine is even hardier than the theoretical calcs would suggest, but I’ve never done the experiment. One factor, of course, is where the temperature of the bottle starts, and how long it takes to drop in cold weather. Styro will slow down that process, but won’t stop it - eventually the temperature inside the styro will equilibrate to the outside temperature.

There are other “impurities” in wine that will add to the freezing point depression effect of ethanol (carbohydrates and residual sugars, acids, glycerol, salts, phenolics, flavor esters, etc.), but I think the dominant factor is alcohol.

I think a typical home freezer is around 10 deg F, so you could try that experiment with a higher alc wine :wink:

I speak only from thirty years in the business and experience, which has proved to me that wine freezing is a matter of temperature and time, and while I am certain that is not enough for a geek who “knows” the answer through calculation, all I can do is say to Peter: try it with your best wines. You have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Prove that I have no idea what I am talking about–knock this stick off my shoulder. I dare you.

Thomas, I don’t think we’re disagreeing. My calculations put the freezing point for an average bottle right around 24. There’s going to be some wiggle room in that, depending on the bottle and the conditions, but I wouldn’t want my bottles to sit much below high 20s for any length of time.

In the winter, I do all the time with zero worries. I have the various delivery guys leave packages on the front porch and sometimes I don’t get to them for days or a week. I’ve never had a problem…


Good for you and for your winters, wherever you are. But as Alan and I have said, at 24 degrees F, you are in the risk area–just a matter of time.

Still, I don’t think it’s a good idea to recommend taking the risk. Of course, I don’t feel that way when my doctor tells me to reduce my wine intake because of risk factors…it’s all about personal decision.