Has Too Much Heat Damaged Your Red Wine?
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
Have you ever proudly served up a great bottle of wine to a group of guests, only to find that the wine doesn't taste nearly as good as you remember?
Or, have you ever bought the same varietal & vintage of wine from the same winery at two different times, only to find that the wine doesn't taste that good the second time?
This post explains some possible contributing factors.
Wine Quality and Temperature
Red wine can get exposed to too much heat at several points along its journey from aging to consumption.
When wine gets too hot it can be damaged. (It turns out that "too hot" is cooler than you might think.)
It's best to store red wine in a temperature that's in the range of 45°F to 65°F.
Some people consider the midpoint of the range, 55°F, to be the optimal long term storage temperature for red wine.
In the Sacramento area, our air conditioners do battle with ambient daytime temperatures in the 90's for most of the summer months.
But, even a relatively "cool" 75°F indoor temperature is too warm for some red wines.
And if PG&E decides to shut down the power to your neighborhood for a few days, your wine will quickly be at risk of losing quality.
If wine is exposed to temperatures over 80°F for any length of time, it will start to cook. It's one thing to intentionally cook with red wine. It's another thing to cook your wine before you drink it from a glass.
Damage from heat gives wine a sour taste and makes it more jammy. Some describe it as a cooked fruit flavor.
If wine is exposed to temperatures above 90°F, it will cook even faster.
An increase in heat exposure results in a loss of acidity and fruit flavors. Undesirable oxidation can occur when the cork starts to push out of the bottle. Once wine becomes oxidized, it's undrinkable.
Points along a bottle's journey
A bottle of mass produced red wine can take a path similar to the following—from where the wine is aged to where it's consumed.
Bottling, packaging & storage facility
Pick up & delivery truck
Pick up & delivery truck
Your friend's house
There are plenty of opportunities along the way for wine to be exposed to too high a temperature for too long a period of time.
Removing stops along a wine bottle's journey
If you want to reduce or even eliminate the chances of wine being exposed to heat, you can try to remove as many stops as possible.
It's best if you can pick up your wine directly from where it was bottled—at the winery. This is a luxury we have in Northern California that is not an option in a lot of the country.
When you drive home with your wine, keep the bottles in the passenger compartment or in a cooler. Yes, wine can cook in the trunk of your car. When you get home, store your wine in a wine fridge or wine cellar.
If you are concerned about the possibility of PG&E pulling the plug on power to your air conditioning and wine fridge, consider GoldKey's off-site wine storage.
A growing trend in wine aging
As a footnote, a number of wineries have been experimenting with aging wine under the surface of the ocean.
The combination of a cool, consistent temperature, a constant pressure, and an absence of sunlight have been considered by some to make a "stunning" difference in the taste of the wine.
While few wine consumers have the means to replicate an underwater environment, there are several lessons to be learned from this aging method that stop your wine from suffering from heat damage.