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Jul 27, 2006 11:28 PM

Too warm - what to do? For a novice

I'm just starting to develop my wine palate and thusly have been purchasing some nicer bottles of wine. It's been way hot in my Oaklan, CA house and I don't want to ruin my wines. Were not talking lon, long term storage here - maybe just a few months till we drink them. What to do? Keep them in the Fride? Kegerator? I'm talking reds here. Thanks-

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  1. If the bottle temp ever hits 80 degrees F, even for a few hours, you're in trouble. Unless you can provide a basement or root cellar that NEVER goes higher than 75 degrees, stick the bottles in the fridge. And if you're sure you're going to drink them in the next few months, you don't need to lay them on their sides.

    12 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      OK, what happens when the wine hits 75-80 degrees? Rapid oxidation? Some other chemical reaction?

      1. re: JugglerDave

        The wine becomes "cooked." Red wines develop a stewed, pruney taste and smell. Whites show a caramelized/honeyed/candied flavour and taste flatter. I also find cooked wines fall out of balance as they age, become disjointed, harsher -- exactly the opposite of what's supposed to happen.

        Am not sure of the chemistry behind it. The Oxford Companion says "at such a high temperature compounds with a cooked or jammy note are formed and may well dominate the more desirable compounds," but it doesn't appear to go into details. Interesting question. Will delve further and see what I can find.

      2. re: carswell

        By bottle temp, I'm guessing you mean the temperature inside the bottle. How hot outside does it have to be for the inside to hit 80?

        In a wine course I took, we were told that the best place to store wine outside a controlled cellar is on the floor of an interior closet. Of course, if it's 113 degrees outside I doubt it's cool enough in a closet.

        If I remember correctly, the problem with a fridge could be the vibrations produced by the cooling system, as well as food aromas. You also don't want to keep your wine in the fridge door where it can be jostled about every time the door opens.

        1. re: Spoony Bard

          The bottle and the wine it contains will eventually assume the temperature of the surrounding air. And it doesn't take very long for it to happen; think how quickly a chilled white warms to room temperature on a hot day.

          Yes, lacking a basement or root cellar, the floor of an interior closet is usually the best (or least bad) place to store wine. First, it's dark. Second, the temperature tends to change more slowly than other places in a house. That said, if the temperature in your house reaches 85, sooner or later the temperature in your closet will too. The first bottles I collected I kept stored on the floor of an interior closet, convinced that their combined thermal mass and dark resting place would keep them cool enough during warm summer days. It was only a few months later, when I finally got around to opening some of them and noticed heat damage, that I realized a cellar wasn't a luxury.

          Your refrgerator info is correct. Another downside is the temperature, which tends to be cooler than ideal for optimum aging. Vibrations and food odours aren't really an issue for short-term storage, however, which is what we're talking about here. Also -- and I admit this is purely anecdotal -- my cellar is off-site and, since I don't have a wine fridge, during the summer I keep a number of bottles in my regular fridge (not in the door, mind you). Some of them, of course, have ended up staying there for quite a long time, to no ill effect as far as I or any of my wine-loving guests have been able to tell.

        2. re: carswell

          Sorry carswell, but I do not believe this. 80 degrees = "cooked" wine? BS. I challenge anyone to take identical bottles, subject them to differing storage (60 degrees vs. 80 degrees) for 1 week, then bring them both to drinking temperature (65-68) and try to guess with blind tasting which was stored how.

          Certainly, you would not want to maintain a consistent temperature of 80 inside the bottle for months at a time, but come on. Typical fermentation temperatures for red wines stay at 88-91 degrees for 7-10 days!

          If you live in Oakland, plan to drink your wines within 12-24 months of purchase, and you store them all together (better yet use styrofoam shippers for storage) and you put them in the coolest dark place availableplace, none of your wines are going to get cooked.

          1. re: DonnyMac

            80 degrees for a few hours probably won't hurt a wine, unless it forces the cork up the neck, but most rooms where temperatures might occasionally hit 80 degrees will cycle 10-15 degrees daily, and that'll ruin wine in short order.

            Some wines are more sensitive than others.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I don't believe that science would bear this out for any relatively young wine. On the first point, if a room goes from 65-80-65 the wine temp in the bottle will have a far smaller movement 71-73-71, less if you store a whole case or two together. That minor fluctuation is not going to cause anything to happen chemically. It might not be ideal for really long term storage, but for months or even a couple of years, it's gonna have zero effect. Even if you get a wine inside the bottle up to 80 degrees, it is not going to push the cork out, unless the cork had no proper seal anyway. Go ahead, try it on a cheap bottle of plonk.

          2. re: carswell

            Wine is shipped around the country by distributors in unrefrigerated trucks when temps are well above 80 degrees.

            1. re: bstnh1

              Some of it is, which is the main reason there's so much oxidized wine on the market. On the other hand, ever more wine is shipped in refrigerated containers.

              1. re: bstnh1

                I buy my wine online from wineshopper and they will hold your wine until it is safe to ship, If the temperature anywhere on the route from them to you is expected to be above 75 degrees they will not ship it to you without a WARNING, and strongly advise against it. so I think there is does need to be caution taken with temps above 75 degrees.

                1. re: underpink

                  Many places will store your wine for you for up to six months free of charge . . . until the weather cools.

                2. re: bstnh1

                  I know. That's why I deferred an order I want to place till October.

                  Kermit Lynch's book is a wake up call on this very point.

              2. Agree with Carswell. Hit the fridge, it will be cheaper to throw out old food than good wine

                1. If you don't have a consistently cool spot in the house, invest in a wine cooler. You can get one that holds 24-30 bottles for around $200. I see them sometimes at Costco.

                  1. I store wine in my basement that usually stays between 55 and 65 degrees, but sometimes hits 70 degrees when the boiler is running. I have started to keep the wine in styrofoam shippers to prevent rapid temperature changes. I don't know how well it works, but it makes sense that it would do a good job.

                    i buy wine through the mail, so i already have the shippers.

                    1. I don't think you have a problem. Looking at temperature charts for March 2013 in Oakland,
                      the highest temperature was 75 degrees on March 13. The rest of the month temperatures oscillated between 45 degrees at night (I assume you keep your house heated, so your house was probably in the 60s at night) and 70 degrees during the day approximately. Oakland is a very cool place by CA standards-- if you were living in Fresno or Bakersfield, you would need to worry.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bclevy

                        The original post is from July 27. The northern parts of Oakland get cool breezes from the Golden Gate, but the southern parts are more like San Leandro, where even though the average daily range in summer is 55-77 there are heat waves when it doesn't cool off at night, sometimes for weeks. Plus some buildings are designed so they trap the heat.