When Life Gives You Leftover Wine, Freeze It

We can already hear the jokes: leftover wine? Never heard of it! Well har har to those who never wind up with a bunch of leftover wine after a dinner party, but for the rest of us who can't remember how many glasses of wine are in a bottle and over-order, we've got leftovers to deal with. Left at room temperature or in an open bottle in the fridge, the wine is likely to oxidize and start tasting off. But we're not always in the mood for a glass just because we have some wine left over, and throwing away wine, especially if it was a pricey bottle, just feels wrong.

Thankfully, the freezer offers the answer to making wine last longer. Leftover wine can be frozen, either in an ice cube tray, a freezer-safe jar, or any other freezer-safe airtight container. You don't want to freeze leftover wine in the glass bottle it came in, as those bottles aren't intended to be frozen. As the wine freezes, it will expand, which could crack the bottle or force the cork out, which would expose the wine to air, the very problem we're trying to avoid by freezing it. Another thing to avoid is freezing sparkling wine, as the carbonation can build up in the container in which it's frozen, creating a literal explosion hazard. If you have leftover wine that you want to freeze for cooking or for drinking, here's what you need to know.

Freezing leftover wine for cooking

If you have leftover wine you don't want to throw away, one of the best things to do with it is to freeze it for later use in your favorite recipes. Any wine other than a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine can be frozen in this way, though you should note that wines with higher alcohol percentages (especially fortified wines like Port or Sherry) might not freeze solid. This just means you should make sure your wine is being stored in a sealed container in the freezer so you don't have to deal with any leaks or drips. That being said, Wine Enthusiast says that wine freezes at 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends home freezers be kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, so you'll probably be fine. 

To determine which kind of container you want to freeze your wine in, you should think of how you might use it. Wine frozen in ice cubes is helpful if you often find yourself adding just a glug or two of wine to sauces, stews, or to de-glaze pans; but if you think you might make something like coq au vin, wine-poached pears, or another recipe that calls for a larger volume, you can freeze your leftover wine in a larger container. Once you're ready to cook, you don't even need to thaw your wine, especially if you're using ice cube trays. The wine ice cubes will melt rapidly once added to your pan.

Freezing wine for drinking

There are a few different reasons you shouldn't freeze wine for drinking as your first move, but if you have leftover wine and don't want to throw it away, you can freeze it. But you'll have to keep in mind that freezing wine will change the flavor. When you freeze wine the compounds that give it its flavor crystallize, which can alter them and make them less nuanced. It might not be the best move for a prized bottle, but if you're working with something inexpensive, the wine will still be safe to drink, even if it's lost some subtlety.

That's why frozen wine is perfect for making wine cocktails like sangria, or frozen wine cocktails like frosé (that's frozen rosé). For sangria, you can thaw your frozen wine, then mix it with orange juice, brandy, and fruit. Sangria is usually made with inexpensive wine anyway since it's made by blending wine with other ingredients. You can also freeze your wine in an ice cube tray, then blend the wine ice cubes with frozen fruit and juice to make frozen sangria or frosé.

Freezing wine is one of the easiest ways to preserve a leftover bottle for much longer than it would last in the fridge or on the counter, for cooking or drinking. Just remember that if you plan on drinking your frozen wine, you're best off making some sort of wine cocktail rather than drinking the thawed wine straight up.