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Heat Kills...Wine

Excessive heat during the transportation or storage of wine will very likely damage your wine. What’s “excessive”? A study by eProvenance found that a wine exposed to 80°F for 36 hours showed permanent change in its chemical structure. At 86°F, only 18 hours' exposure had the same effects.

I had the chance recently to conduct my own experiment regarding heat damage, through a series of mishaps with a well-known and well-regarded wine retailer on the east coast. First, realize that I live in Arizona, so there is no way that I want wine shipped to me, usually from mid-April to early November. I was gifted with a new wine club subscription for Mothers’ Day. I was excited to try it out, but was not at all surprised when I received a message that they would not be shipping the first shipment (scheduled for June) until cooler weather prevailed. In fact, I expected and appreciated this.

Imagine my surprise when early in July I received a message notifying me that my July shipment was on its way. Huh, what?! No! I called them; they apologized, said it was a mistake and that they would contact FedEx to have the shipment recalled and returned to them. OK, fine.

Surprise #2 – Early in August, I received another notification – your shipment is on its way! After multiple phone calls and apologies, they suggested that I should just keep the shipment, but they would credit the card for the charge. (Yes, I did cancel this club.)

So, now I had three bottles to open and inspect for damage. After receiving the shipment, I added the bottles to my cellar and let them settle for a few weeks to give them every opportunity to show well. I opened them this weekend, hoping for the best. Unfortunately, nature prevailed. Each of the 3 bottles had a distinctive sour flavor that is one of the indicators of heat damage. Other indicators would be a stewed or cooked fruit taste, bottle leakage, cork damage. Disappointing, but not surprising.

While doing some research on this topic, I came across various opinions, including many people that said they had shipped wine in hot weather and their wine tasted fine. Maybe it did, but it is much more likely that they did not realize that their wine would have tasted much better had it not been subjected to the heat.

Why take the chance that your wine will be damaged?

  • Avoid shipping during hot weather. Realize that it may not be hot where you are, but when using ground transportation during the summer, it is highly likely that it will be hot in at least part of the route.

  • If you must ship, plan to pay extra for door to door temperature controlled shipping.

  • Planning a wine tasting trip? Bring a cooler with ice to store your wine and, if possible, keep the wine in the car, not the trunk.

  • Don’t store wine where it’s in direct sunlight or other bright lights.

  • If you don’t have temperature controlled storage, use your kitchen refrigerator. Or, at a minimum, keep your wine at a reasonably constant temperature, hopefully no more than 70-75 degrees.

Do you have questions about wine? Ping me! I love to help people enjoy their wine!

(PS - I purposely did not name the retailer or show the wine labels . The wines all seemed to be of good quality other than the heat damage, which is not a reflection on the winery. And, the retailer did promise to make good on all of the issues so I did not want to be unfair to them, either.)

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