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Does Wine Go Bad in a Hot Car? Learn How Heat Kills Wine

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Wine is a beverage that is particular to temperature. It takes lot of effort for winemakers to make wine, but the transportation of wine is often neglected. However, wine is sensitive to heat and light, as well as drastic changes in temperature. It is important to consider temperature, heat, and light when transporting wine – even if it’s just from the grocery store to your home.

Does wine go bad in a hot car? Yes, a hot car can damage wine rather quickly, but not all wines react the same way to temperature. When wine is left in a hot car, the wine goes through chemical reactions that change the way the wine tastes. 

In this article, you will learn how wine can go bad in a hot car and what you can do to prevent it.

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Does Wine Go Bad in a Hot Car?

How Much Heat is Too Much?

Every wine is a little different, so it is difficult to pinpoint the specific temperature and length of time in the heat to determine what it will take to change your wine-drinking experience. 

Generally, wine is best stored between 53 and 57 degrees, even red wines. Wine is not a fan of temperatures over 70 degrees, and, by 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the wine is cooking in the bottle.

Cars are well-known to reach interior temperatures that are much higher than the temperature outside. Additionally, the temperature fluctuates significantly in a vehicle, which can cause potential problems. Even if it is a mild 75 degrees outside, a car can reach close to 100 degrees quickly, even with a window cracked open.

Learn how heat affects Champagne and what you can do to save it. To learn how room temperature storage can affect wine, check out this comprehensive article. Learn how sunlight can damage and ruin a wine.

How Long Before Damage Is Done?

Wine is complex, so the length of time in a hot car depends on the temperature and the wine itself. The best plan is to be prepared to prevent wine from being damaged.

According to the article, “The 3 Precautions to Take When Shipping Wine,” by Tracy Byrnes from Wine on the Street, some wines are sturdier than others. 

  • Pinot Noir is higher maintenance compared to other options.
  • Cabernet and Chardonnay are sturdy wine options.
  • Champagne needs a very constant temperature to remain stable.
  • Port wines are the sturdiest of them all.

Taking these facts into consideration, you could not leave Pinot Noir or Champagne in a hot car for very long, but Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Port wines can last longer in higher temperatures.

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How Does Heat Damage Wine?

According to the study, “Effects of heat exposure on wine quality during transport and storage,” done by C.E Butz, et al., for the Journal of Wine Research, exposure to heat causes the flavors bound in glucose to be released. This causes the wine to age faster and the taste to change. Also, the chemical reactions cause the wine to darken or brown.

In the article, “How Much Heat Does It Take to Ruin Wine? Not Much,” by Laura Burgess from Vinepair, Burgess explains that wine goes through a process of damage from heat. As the bottle of wine warms up, the wine expands.

This can damage the seal of the cork and cause the cork to begin to push out of the bottle, which allows air inside and causes oxidation. The wine cooks and takes on a tangy flavor, and the fruit flavors will become acidic. 

Oxidization 

Wine needs to oxidize when it is aged and must be allowed to breathe before drinking. When wine is heated, and the cork degrades, oxygen gets into the bottle and causes too much oxidization. It can change the flavor rather drastically and make it taste flat or otherwise ‘off.’

Cooked Wine

When wine becomes too warm, it speeds up the chemical reactions of the wine and causes it to expand. The wine cooks and the flavor may taste like a flat stewed jam.

Once you pop the cork, most wines go bad within a day or so. But a Coravin Wine Preservation system (available for a great price on Amazon) can extend the life of your opened wine for weeks or even months. It is awesome. You should check it out and see if it will fit into your lifestyle.

How to Tell if the Wine Is Damaged

If your wine has been left in the heat for a significant amount of time, you should check the bottle for any damages before drinking it.

  • Inspect the bottle. If you notice the cork appears to be bulging out rather than flush with the top of the bottle, your wine may be damaged from the heat. 
  • Look at the side of the bottle. Leaked wine may be evident around the cork and down the sides of the bottle.
  • When damaged by heat, both red and white wine will darken in color.

Plan When Purchasing Wine

To ensure your wine stays at its best, be sure to plan. There are some steps you can take to try to keep your wine safe.

  • When running errands, grab the wine at your last stop before you go home.
  • In the car, keep the wine in the interior of the car where the air conditioner is running. The trunk can get much warmer than the front of the car.
  • If you are going from winery to winery, consider bringing your wine into the next establishment you visit to preserve the flavors.

Can Overheated Wine Be Fixed?

Before panicking, take a look at the signs noted above of heat damage. Typically, a wine that is cooked cannot be uncooked. Also, once wine becomes oxidized, there is no turning back. 

Since all bottles of wine are not the same, though, there is recourse for some wine depending on the factors of being in a hot car.

  • For a month or two, you can store your wine in a cool place where the temperature is likely to remain constant with no temperature spikes. You won’t want to put the wine in the refrigerator because the drastic temperature change might cause more damage.
  • Leave the wine undisturbed and give it a chance to rest.
  • Give it a taste after resting and see how you feel about drinking the wine.

FAQs About Wine and Hot Cars

1. Will my bottle of wine explode in my car? Because the wine in the bottle will expand because of the heat, the pressure is placed on the cork itself. As the bottle continues to warm up, the wine will leak out of the bottle or cause the cork to come out completely, creating a sizable mess in a car.

If a bottle of wine has a cork rather than a screw top, the cork itself is likely to explode off of the bottle rather than the glass itself exploding. If the bottle of wine has a screw top rather than a cork, there is a possibility of the glass exploding.

Plus, inexpensive wines are often packed in less expensive and thinner bottles that cannot handle as much pressure. 

However, there is far more likelihood of sparkling wine exploding than other types of wine due to the second fermentation process this wine goes through.

2. What if I have my wine shipped? There are many opportunities to have wine shipped either by ‘Wine of the Month’ clubs or directly from a winery. It saves time when running errands.

A wine that is shipped still has the same concerns regarding exposure to heat. Transportation trucks that ship wine often lack air conditioning, so take some time to investigate how your wine is getting to your front door.

  • Look for details that indicate shipping is handled with temperature-controlled vehicles.
  • Find out what materials are used to pack up the wine to ensure the wine is insulated from fluctuations in temperature.
  • Find out the shipping policies for months with extreme temperatures. Many wine shipping companies have procedures in place for hot and cold months.

If you want to learn how cold affects wine and how long it takes to freeze wine, check out these articles I wrote.

In Conclusion

Wine does go bad in a hot car, but in some cases, your wine can still be consumed. You are not likely to become ill from drinking wine with heat damage if you can handle how it tastes.

Being prepared when buying wine to prevent heat damage is the best way not to find yourself faced with worrying about drinking your favorite bottle of wine.