Just how quickly do wines get ruined by heat?

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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

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