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

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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

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