My fridge broke and the wine was exposed to heat—about 90° F. Is it still OK?

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,

My wine fridge broke down and the temperature rose to 90° F for a day or two. The corks look OK. Should I keep storing them in the repaired wine fridge, or are they cooked?

—Michael, from Twitter

Dear Michael,

Once a wine’s been exposed to heat, there’s nothing you can do to reverse any damage that may have occurred. And I say “may” because you really don’t know if anything’s wrong until you open the bottle and taste it.

Heat damage is hard to predict: Even two identical bottles of wine exposed to the same amount of heat might not fare similarly. Early in my wine-buying days, I purchased six bottles of the same wine. I didn’t know I had to worry about heat, and I left the box in the trunk of my car on a very hot day. Some of the bottles seeped wine (a leaking cork is a clear sign that the wine inside was overheated); some didn’t. Two of them turned out to be “cooked” and the other four were fine.

A “cooked” wine tastes how it sounds: The fruit flavors seem stewed instead of fresh, there can be a baked or burnt note, and the color can take on a more brownish hue. And until you open the wine and taste it, there's no way to know if it's been damaged.

The best thing you can do is keep them properly stored until you're ready to open them. (Check out Wine Spectator's "How to Store Wine 101" for tips.) If your fridge breaks down again, make sure to keep the door closed so that the wines stay cool for as long as possible.

—Dr. Vinny

Collecting Storage Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Are collectible wines still collectible after the wine has gone bad?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny talks to Penfolds winemaker Peter Gago about 50-year-old …

May 17, 2019

Why aren't bottles stored on their sides at wine stores?

Wine's Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why wine bottles need to be stored on their …

May 15, 2019

Is there a polite way to tell a winemaker that I'm not enjoying their wines?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny suggests a few etiquette tips for kindly declining an …

May 13, 2019

Do you swirl a glass of sparkling wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why there's no need to swirl a glass of …

May 10, 2019

Is it OK to ask guests to bring expensive wine to a party?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny talks party etiquette.

May 8, 2019

What's the difference between Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the origins of the Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet …

May 6, 2019




Restaurant Search

Restaurant Search