Does Wine Go Bad in Heat?

Wine is such a fragile drink, and even the slightest change can alter the taste, but does wine go bad in the heat?

If you have even left your wine in your car by accident on a hot summer day, you’ve probably had the same question. The fragility of wine is questionable, but if you are worried that your wine is overheated, you’ll want to keep reading to understand what that could mean for you. 

does wine go bad in heat

Does wine go bad in heat?

Your wine will go bad if it's heated, but it is not as simple as that. The type of wine determines the best temperature that it should be kept.

Some whites should be stored as low as 45 degrees Fahrenheit up to full-bodied reds best kept around 65 degrees. Although they are best kept at 65 or lower, you don’t need to worry as long as the temperature doesn’t rise above 70. 

If your wine reaches 75 degrees, it's worrisome, but it isn’t time to freak out yet.

Most wine will not start going sour at that temperature for a few days. It isn’t until the wine reaches 80 degrees that its contents can go bad at any time. 

How to cool down wine

Fluctuating temperatures can cause chemical reactions that prematurely age your wine, but desperate times call for desperate measures

Saltwater bath

An ice bucket has been one of the go-to methods of chilling wine for ages, but this method steps it up a notch. The first step is to add ice to your wine bucket about halfway. Then you pour in water slightly over the ice to create an ice bath.

Add generous amounts of salt and stir the mixture to ensure the salt is even throughout the water. Add the bottle of wine, and it should take 10 – 20 minutes to get the wine back to a safe temperature. 

Wet paper towels

This method sounds crazy, but it genuinely works, and it also works for canned beverages!

Soak a few paper towels in water and wrap the bottle from top to bottom.

Place the paper towel covered bottle in the freezer, and in 30 minutes or less, your bottle will be ice cold. 

Refrigerator door

A gentle cooling is probably the best method, and the best place for that is the refrigerator door. The refrigerator door is generally warmer than the rest of the fridge, so it's the perfect place to chill wine without making it too cold.

Depending on how hot your bottle is, it could take hours or even the better part of a day to cool the bottle down. 

Other reasons wine goes bad

Extreme heat isn’t the only reason that wine may go bad. It's good to know other issues to watch out for when trying to preserve your wine. 

Dry conditions may cause the cork to dry up and allow air into the bottle, which speeds up the oxidation process.

To prevent dry cork, you should store your bottles horizontally in a humid location. Even if the air becomes dry, the horizontal position keeps wine on the cork, keeping the cork moist. 

Exposure to sunlight is another problem that may lead to wine aging prematurely. UV light reacts with the phenolic compounds to create wine faults and is more common in white wine. 

Some wine enthusiasts believe that vibration causes chemical reactions that prematurely age the wine. Thus, they try not to move their wine, and if they do, they use an abundance of caution. 

How to tell if wine has gone bad

If you're worried that your wine has gone bad from heat or any other reason, there are several ways you can check. 

If your cork is raised, it's a sign that a chemical reaction has happened, creating pressure and exposing the wine to oxygen. 

A sour wine will take on a darker color that is often brown and cloudy. 

If a wine has gone sour from aging, it will have a musty smell similar to a wet dog or dirty clothes. 

A wine that has gone bad from heat will taste “cooked,” which is exactly how it sounds. Instead of fruity notes, your wine will taste like baked fruit and spices. 

A wine that has gone bad from aging will often have a sour or vinegar flavor to it. 

The cool down

Hot wine is a bummer, but it is not the end of the world.

If you feel like your wine is too hot, try to cool it down and keep it cool by moving it to another area with better conditions.

In the worst-case scenarios, like leaving your wine in a hot car, if your cork is not raised, cross your fingers that your wine is not baked and enjoy it sooner rather than later. 

Tim Packard

As an assistant D.A. in a small city, Tim always drank whiskey whenever he was out to dinner with clients, until an Italian mobster introduced him to a classic Valpolicella. One mouthful of the latest vintage, round with the flavor of cherries and earth, and he never again allowed friends to order the second-best wine.