Just how quickly do wines get ruined by heat?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have a question about heat affecting wine during shipping. I understand that you don’t want to ship wine in the middle of summer when it’s 100 degrees outside for fear that it will cook. However, if a day starts around 60 degrees, goes into the mid-80s for about 5 hours and then back down, is that enough time to damage wine? I guess my big question is—how long does it take wine to cook at what temperatures?

—Mark F., Fort Worth, Texas

Dear Mark,

I wish there was a formula to tell you the exact tipping point where a wine is good one moment and cooked the next, but it’s not that simple. For starters, each wine is different—for example, an older wine is typically much more fragile than a younger one. Corks are each unique, and can react to similar conditions differently. There are also the factors of how well insulated the bottles are, how hot or cold they were to begin with, barometric pressure, and whether or not there was also exposure to UV rays or vibration.

Let me put it another way. Once I left a six-pack of the same wine in the trunk of my car for a few hours on a hot day similar to what you’ve described. Even though they were all exactly the same wine, some of the bottles were leaking by the time I got home, and when I opened them I could confirm the flavors were indeed cooked. Others didn’t show any sign of seepage, and I kept them in my cellar for years, where they aged beautifully.

When ordering wine to have it shipped, be sure to communicate with the shipper if you have concerns about the weather. Be patient when necessary, or be willing to pay for express service if you aren’t.

—Dr. Vinny

Collecting Storage Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

What is “reverse osmosis” in relation to wine? How and why is it used?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the science (and the motivation) behind the …

Nov 28, 2022

I need advice on Thanksgiving wines. Which wines pair best with turkey and sides?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice on selecting wines for the Thanksgiving …

Nov 21, 2022

What is a “second wine”?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the "second wine" concept and what it means in …

Nov 14, 2022

Is it bad if an old bottle of wine has sediment in it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that sediment happens—and how to deal with it.

Nov 7, 2022

Is it OK to change my mind about a wine after I've approved a sommelier to serve it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that there's a reason that sommeliers show …

Oct 31, 2022

How should I organize a tasting of 4 wines paired with 4 chocolates?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny offers suggestions for organizing food and …

Oct 24, 2022