The answer: not really, or better yet, it really shouldn’t. But we know some of y’all are still going to do it so let’s lay down the facts about champagne in the freezer, dispel some myths while we’re at it and guide you on what to do if it’s truly unavoidable.
Is the Freezer the Fastest Way to Chill Champagne?
Not at all! The quickest, safest and most recommended way to chill champagne is with an ice bucket. By filling up a bucket — or any deep container you have on hand — with ⅔ ice and ⅓ water, a bottle of champagne will chill in 20-30 minutes. For a speedchill, you can supercharge the ice bucket by adding a few scoops of salt and constantly rotating the bottle in the solution for 5-10 minutes.
But we do know that situations arise where you’re lacking what you need to make an ice bucket happen, so before you throw the bottle in the freezer or, god forbid, drink warm champagne, here are two options to help you troubleshoot. If you’re purchasing room temperature champagne from a wine shop ask the staff if they are able to speed chill wine on premises. There’s a chance you may get an odd look, but some shops, especially those that also serve sparkling wines or have a wine bar, do have the capacity to chill wine bottles on the spot— and will happily do it.
The next option, and this is an especially good one if you’re traveling and don’t have access to a kitchen or appliances, is to purchase a bag of ice from a gas station or convenience store, break the ice up carefully trying not to put too many holes in the bag, set it in a sink (or hotel bathtub 😉 ), cut the top off neatly, add some water and put the bottle in just as if it were an ice bucket.
If all else fails and the freezer really is the only option, make sure to set a timer for no more than 45 minutes to check it. Err on the side of less chilly. The ideal temperature at which to serve champagne is 43-50°F with cellar temperature, 55°F, being a solid end goal as you near the bottom of the bottle.
Otherwise, maybe this once, you should grab the blanc de blancs that’s already chilled in the wine shop fridge in lieu of the blanc de noirs you are convinced you just have to have…
What Happens if You Freeze Champagne?
So you used the freezer, didn’t set the timer and two of the other dinner guests both brought pre-chilled champagne that distracted you from your bottle — ailing between the frozen peas and pie crusts. The freezing point of champagne is 20°F or below, and with most freezers set to 0°F, it only takes a couple of hours for the situation to become critical.
A few things happen when champagne freezes. For one, the pressure rises. With champagne already resting at 6 atms, the added pressure that comes from the molecules expanding during freezing can create a pretty dangerous situation. At best, everything stays intact and you can slowly thaw the bottle. At worst, the glass may crack or you could experience the champagne bottle exploding. At a minimum, it is common for the cork to be forced out and the wine leak.
Both the structure and flavor of champagne will be altered if it undergoes freezing. Carbonation will markedly decrease —if not disappear altogether — and the acidity may also lower. When wine, especially white styles, are exposed to prolonged cold temperatures, tartaric acid (one of the principal naturally occurring acids in wine) will precipitate out of the solution. Often we encounter it as “wine diamonds” on the end of a cork, but in the case of a wine being completely frozen it’s possible that a significant amount of the tartaric acid may separate and affect the overall acidity of the wine. Given that high acidity is a hallmark of the champagne style, this is clearly not a good thing. Additionally, the compounds responsible for the delicate aromatics and flavors of champagne may also be damaged, or destroyed, by freezing.
In short, expect a previously frozen champagne, or other white or sparkling wine, to be texturally muted and its flavors dull.
How to Handle Frozen Champagne
If you do have a bottle of frozen champagne on your hands, the first step is to handle it with extreme care. A frozen bottle is packing a lot of pressure and is liable to explode. Remove it gently from the freezer and inspect it for damage. If the body of the bottle is broken in any way the contents should not be consumed. Most importantly, never open a frozen bottle in the attempt to drink frozen champagne. For safety, it must be completely thawed.
The bottle may be thawed at an ambient temperature, say, out on the counter, but it is advisable to thaw it in the refrigerator to mitigate any further extreme temperature swings. Once liquid again, the champagne may be safely opened. It will be drinkable but prepare yourself for an underwhelming experience. A bottle of champagne forgotten in the freezer will inevitably have lost its spark and may better serve as a base for sangria, champagne ice cubes or, as a last resort, cooking wine. Champagne poached pears, anyone?