If you've ever forgotten a bottle of wine in the trunk of your car on a hot day, you’re not alone. Accidentally overheating wine is one of those classic stories we’ve all heard—and is one of the easiest ways to ruin a great bottle. You may have even purchased some wine and thought: Hmmm, this feels a bit warm, should I drink it or return it? Just because the glass is warm doesn’t mean the wine is bad! Firstleaf is here to share some tips and tricks to make sure you get a great wine every time.
There are several ways to combat overheating, but the best option is avoid the heat altogether.
The key to keeping your wine wine cool is ensuring you have a successful delivery. You can change your shipment to arrive at a business, a UPS access point, or a neighbor's house if you aren't going to be home.
We also recommend doubling up on your next shipment before the heat sets in to guarantee that you have a fresh supply all through the summer.
How Heat Affects Wine
If a bottle is allowed to remain in high heat for a day or more, the seal can degrade and allow air inside. This begins the oxidation process, reducing fruit intensity both on the nose and the palate.
Not only does excessive heat expose a bottle to the rigors of oxidation, but it can imbue your wine with a “cooked” flavor. The bright fruit and floral notes that you are used to on your favorite wines may suddenly seem stewed, burned, baked, or caramelized.
That being said, just because the glass is warm does not mean that it's cooked! Wine is able to experience some temperature fluctuations and heat spikes without reducing the quality. So, how do you know if it's cooked?
What Cooked Wine Looks Like
One common misconception about overheated wine is the actual temperature of the bottle. While it is not ideal to have a bottle reach higher temperatures, warm glass is not a true indicator that the wine is ruined. The best way to find out is by opening it up and giving it a taste (preferably after letting it cool back down to ideal serving temperature).
There are several telltale signs that a bottle has been exposed to too much heat. Most noticeably, you may find that the cork has been forced vertically out and is bulging from the lip of the bottle. Heat causes the wine to expand, increasing the pressure on the cork which raises it from its standard position. Because of the poor resulting seal, oxygen is able to enter the bottle and degrade the wine inside.
Another problem with “cooked” wine is leakage. Working with the same principles as a bulging cork, heat causes the wine to expand which can force it up along the side of the cork and over the lip of the bottle. The cork itself will likely be streaked with dark stains along its outer edge.
The final common indicator of cooked wine is browning. In the same way that a sliced apple exposed to air will begin to turn brown over the course of a few hours, oxygen degrades wine and causes it to shift to a less attractive color. This is true for both red and white wines, with whites gaining color as reds lose theirs.
Using these signs you will quickly be able to discern if you have a cooked bottle of wine.
Heat, Wine, & Distribution
Many of the problems associated with overheating stem from the 3-tier system used in the United States to distribute wine across the country. While most wineries keep their cellars at a refreshing 55°F, distribution centers, trucks and retail stores are not known for being chilly places. At Firstleaf we cut out distributors and importers to minimize the time your wine spends in transit!
Once wine gets to the shelves at your local liquor or grocery store it can sit for months and even years before it is sold! While temperatures are relatively stable at most of these establishments, they can be subject to spikes in heat and exposed to lots of direct sunlight that can cause the wine on the shelf to spoil. This is another great reason to join a club!
The Firstleaf Guarantee
If you find that any of your wines have experienced any of these flaws, let us know! We back every single bottle that comes to you with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.