Getty: NicoElNino

But there's a solution, and it's pretty chill

Rebecca Firkser
August 03, 2018

I used to think keeping a few bottles of wine in my pantry was a great idea, like always having flour and sugar on hand in case I have a midnight urge to bake cookies. But I recently learned that keeping bottles of wine stockpiled in a hot kitchen during in the summer could permanently damage the wine.

“A heat-damaged wine is wine that has been exposed to temperatures high enough that the flavors and aromas are negatively affected,” Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor at Food & Wine, told me. “One way to think about it is that wine is like a lot of foods: If you keep them at high temperatures, they spoil, go off, and turn brown.”

There’s no specific temperature that guarantees spoiled wine, Isle said. A 75 Farenheit day won’t kill a wine, but “if you stored it long-term at that temperature, it would probably die.” And it only gets worse from there. “A day at 85 degrees is definitely not good, especially for fragile or older wines. A day at 95 degrees—or a few hours in your car’s trunk on a hot sunny day—forget it.”

How can you tell if your wine is heat-damaged? Isle has a few suggestions. He told me that if a wine has been exposed to really high temperatures (like you forgot about the bottle in your car for a few days—or weeks—in the Northeast in mid-July) the cork may actually push partly out of the bottle. Isle also said that if the wine looks brown or smells “baked,” like prunes or raisins, it's a no-go. “It's basically the same thing you get when you take a fresh fruit and roast it in the sun,” he said.

At this point, I was itching to run to my kitchen and save the bottles that had been sitting in my pantry for the last month (June and July in NYC apartments isn’t exactly breezy living). Though I worried I wouldn’t be able to save those bottles, Isle mentioned a foolproof way to keep new ones fresh in the summer. “I’d just keep the bottles in the fridge. Not perfect for years of storage, but fine for short term.” Though chilled reds are certainly a lovely think to drink in the summer, Isle recommends pulling those bottles out 30-45 minutes before serving. “They’ll taste way better if you serve them at 65 degrees anyway,” he said. “If room temp is 85 degrees, that means you’re serving 85-degree wine, which is gross.”

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