Sunday, July 5, 2009

Wine and Hot Weather

OK, so here's the converse of what most people ask me about wine. ("What do people usually ask you about wine, Carl?" "Well, they usually ask me if it'll age and when they should drink it." "And what are you going to tell us that's different?" "Something different, I think.")

So, we all kind of know that for wine to age, it should be stored on its side--if it's a natural cork--and in a cool and stable place. I just wanted to put out a quick post about the heat we have in the summer. In case anyone was in doubt, heat is bad.

What we see happening from time to time in the summer is that someone will bring a bottle of wine back to us and claim it doesn't taste very good. We'll taste it and agree. It's usually very sharp-tasting. We agree to replace the bottle, and then after a little conversation we realize that the person left the bottle in their car in the middle of the day in the summertime.

What's happened is that the wine has oxidized due to the high heat it experienced. The hotter wine gets, the faster it ages. And it's an exponential factor. A couple hours at 100F kills any wine. A few minutes at lesser temperatures damages them beyond recognition. It's the whole reason we tell people to age their wine at a constant temperature in a cool dark place. That way we can avoid all this.

Sometimes there are tell-tale signs. Like the cork is pushed out. Or the wine has leaked past the cork. Or the bottle is so hot you can't touch it. Most times, you find the bottle after it has cooled down. You chill it in your fridge, pop the cork, and think, man, this isn't what I was expecting. At that moment, try to think back on the history of that bottle. Just don't tell me about it. It's too sad to bear.....

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