Cryogenic wine

Frozen wine (Photo: MARK SWALLOW/ISTOCKPHOTO)

Cryogenics involves freezing a freshly dead body, which is then preserved at a sufficiently low temperature so that the body does not deteriorate and may, in the future, be brought back to life with technology that doesn’t yet exist.

Watching a news item on cryogenics my mind wandered. Could we possibly put wine into suspended animation so it remained unchanged until thawed? It would be exciting to taste a thirty or forty-year-old wine next to a sample of the same wine as it was when it was bottled.

Imagine tasting 1983 Te Mata Coleraine alongside a sample of the same wine as it tasted prior to bottling. That would be particularly illuminating to Te Mata winemaker, Peter Cowley. It would help him make a connection between the character of a long-term red when it is first bottled and its condition at full maturity.

Still in the realm of science fiction, a time machine might be even more useful. Cowley could put together a trial blend, advance the age thirty years and then re-taste it before adding a little extra cabernet and repeating the exercise.

I once kept wine leftovers by freezing partly full bottles. It proved to be a useful way to extend the life of wine that would otherwise have been thrown out. It worried me that when you freeze any alcoholic beverage the alcohol freezes last so in a sense you are deconstructing the wine, which must reconstruct when thawed. That’s pretty invasive though perhaps not quite as invasive as replacing blood with anti-freeze, which is what they do with bodies. Thawed wine also has a heavy deposit of tartrate crystals which need to be removed by careful decanting.

On a number of occasions, I tried to monitor any loss of condition through freezing by inviting students to compare a once-frozen wine with a freshly opened bottle of the same wine. There was no statistically significant difference in their preference, although I found that the once-frozen sample had slightly muted aromatics.

I regret not having held a frozen wine for several years before comparing it with a sample that had not been frozen.

I have marked four bottles of Astrolabe 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. One is in the fridge at 4°C, one is in my Vintec wine storage cabinet at 14°C, one is in my storeroom at 14-23°C and the fourth is frozen solid in my freezer after a little wine was extracted to make room for its expanded icy contents. I plan to open and compare all four bottles in exactly three years.

2 thoughts on “Cryogenic wine”

  1. Bob Campbell MW
    Bob Campbell MW says:

    Yes, that’s a risk and could partly explain the slight loss of aromatics – however the difference is not significant.

  2. Mark Hubbard says:

    Up until the end I was going to ask how you’re going to freeze a bottle without it cracking.

    But now by exposing the wine to air to pour some off, will you change its character over the other wines which have remained sealed?

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