Why do wines taste different outdoors?

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,

Why do wines taste different outdoors? Is it the temperature? Humidity? Something else?

—A.K., Atlanta

Dear A.K.,

There are many variables that can influence the perception of wine. The most likely answer to why a wine might taste different when you’re enjoying it outside is the temperature change, especially if it’s also affecting the temperature of the wine. When a wine gets too cold, the flavors can seem muted. Too warm, and the perception of the alcohol might be amplified, making the wine seem disjointed or off balance. Warmth can also amplify flaws in a wine.

Other potential “influencers” when it comes to how we perceive a glass of wine include humidity and atmospheric pressure, light, sound, the aroma of the air, glassware and, of course, bottle variation. A single fruit fly can also ruin the taste of wine for some of us. Atmospheric pressure is known to affect our sinus cavities and the way things taste and smell, which is why wine can seem harsh in the pressurized atmosphere of an airplane.

It’s difficult to pinpoint all the differences, because there’s no easy way to measure the way a wine is perceived. I know when I’m drinking wine outside, it’s usually when I’m relaxing with friends, so it’s pretty common that I’ll be enjoying the experience a little extra.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

How do I know if a sparkling wine is fruit-forward vs. yeasty?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny shares some Champagne wisdom on how aging impacts aromas …

Oct 28, 2020

Is it possible to "fix" old wine that has gone bad?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the key elements of proper wine storage, and how …

Oct 26, 2020

Do boxed wines contain more preservatives than bottled wines?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains explains why box wines age the way they do (and …

Oct 23, 2020

Do dessert wines lose their sweetness with age?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny talks to two experts on Bordeaux dessert wines from …

Oct 21, 2020

Should you hold a bottle of wine by the punt when pouring?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for wine service.

Oct 19, 2020

What does “angular” mean in wine tasting lingo?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the wine tasting descriptors for structure and …

Oct 16, 2020