How long before wine goes bad in heat?

Wine is a beloved beverage enjoyed by many, but it can go bad if not stored properly. Heat and light are two of the biggest factors that can cause wine to spoil. So how long does wine last before it goes bad in hot conditions? Here’s a quick overview of how heat impacts wine and how long it will last.

The Impact of Heat on Wine

Heat speeds up the aging process in wine, causing it to oxidize and lose its flavor and aroma much faster. High temperatures can cause the cork to dry out and allow more oxygen to seep in. It can also expand the wine, pushing it up against the cork. This oxidization turns the wine’s flavor and causes it to go bad.

Prolonged heat exposure can have the following negative effects on wine:

  • Loss of fruit flavors
  • Development of a cooked, stewed fruit flavor
  • Becomes flat and lacking acidity
  • Takes on a brownish color
  • Develops a sherry-like flavor

The hotter the temperature is, the faster these detrimental effects occur. Even brief heat spikes can damage wine permanently.

How Long Does Wine Last in Heat?

The exact amount of time wine will last in heat depends on several factors:

  • Temperature – The hotter the temperature, the faster wine degrades. Wine stored anywhere from 70°F and up is at risk.
  • Fluctuations – Frequent changes between cold and hot temperatures accelerate spoilage.
  • Light exposure – UV rays from sunlight also speed up oxidization.
  • Wine type – Delicate wines like light reds and whites are most vulnerable.
  • Wine quality – Lower quality, less structured wines deteriorate faster.
  • Storage conditions – Open bottles, partially filled bottles, or poor closures reduce lifespan.

Given optimal storage conditions, here are the general timelines for how long wine can last in heat before spoiling:

At 70-75°F

  • Red wines – 1-2 years
  • White & rosé wines – 1 year
  • Sparkling wines – 6 months

At 80-85°F

  • Red wines – 6 months to 1 year
  • White & rosé wines – 6 months
  • Sparkling wines – 3 months

At 90°F+

  • Red wines – 3-6 months
  • White & rosé wines – 3 months
  • Sparkling wines – 1 month

Once temperatures start reaching into the 90s Fahrenheit, wine quality can deteriorate quite rapidly. Fine wines and less structured varieties are especially vulnerable to heat damage. Even varieties known for their aging potential like Cabernet Sauvignon will only last around 6 months in very hot conditions.

How to Tell if Wine Has Gone Bad from Heat

Here are the common signs that indicate your wine has been heat damaged and gone bad:

  • Browned, faded color – Whites turn brown while reds take on more of an orange-brick color.
  • Off aromas – Cooked, stewed fruit or sherry-like smells instead of fruity notes.
  • Loss of flavor – Flat, dull taste lacking fruity flavors and acidity.
  • Vinegar-like smell and taste – Wine turning into vinegar produces acetic aromas.
  • Cloudy appearance – Particles form causing wine to lose clarity.
  • Cork pushed out – Heat expands wine and forces the cork up.

You’ll immediately notice flaws in the wine’s appearance, aroma and flavor if it has been stored in hot conditions for too long. If it tastes dull, cooked or vinegar-like, it has gone bad and should not be consumed.

Preventing Heat Damage

To get the most longevity out of your wine and prevent premature aging from heat, here are some tips for proper storage:

  • Keep wine in a cool, dark place around 55°F. A wine fridge or cellar is ideal if possible.
  • Store bottles on their side to keep corks moist.
  • Minimize temperature fluctuations. Don’t let wine get hot then cold repeatedly.
  • Use UV resistant bottles if storing wine on racks long term.
  • Buy wines with higher acidity and tannins, as they withstand heat better.
  • Only purchase what you’ll drink within a few months if you don’t have proper storage.

With proper storage conditions, most wines can easily remain in good drinking condition for several years. But when subjected to heat, their lifespan drastically shortens. Keep your wine cool and consumed within the recommended timeframe, and you can avoid the unfortunate fate of opening a spoiled bottle ruined by hot storage conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does wine go bad if not refrigerated?

Yes, heat will cause wine to spoil and go bad much faster if it is not stored in cool, refrigerated conditions. At room temperature around 70°F, wine will start to become undrinkable after only 1-2 years. Refrigeration helps wine last significantly longer.

Can you drink wine that has been in a hot car?

It’s not recommended to drink wine that has baked for hours in a hot car. The high heat can ruin the wine in just a couple hours. If it reaches temperatures over 90°F, the wine will likely taste cooked and flat.

Do wines age well in heat?

No, wines do not age well when subjected to heat. Higher temperatures cause the aging process to accelerate too quickly. Delicate flavors and aromas are destroyed, yielding an unbalanced wine. Proper aging requires consistent cool cellar temperatures around 55°F.

What temp does wine spoil at?

Wine can start to spoil at temperatures as low as 70°F. The hotter the temperature rises, the faster wine is damaged. At 90°F and beyond, wine can become undrinkable in just weeks or months. For long term aging, the ideal temperature is 55°F.

Can old wine make you sick?

Yes, drinking spoiled, old wine can make you sick. Wine that has gone bad often contains higher amounts of bacteria and compounds that can cause unpleasant symptoms. Common side effects include headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

The Effect of Temperature on Different Wine Varieties

Not all wines are affected equally by heat. Some varieties and wine styles hold up better than others at higher temperatures. Here is a look at how different wines fare in hot conditions:

Red Wines

Pinot Noir – Very heat sensitive, lasts only months in hot storage. Shows cooked flavors.

Merlot – Also heat sensitive, lasts up to 1 year before deteriorating. Oxidation diminishes fruit notes.

Cabernet Sauvignon – Holds up better due to tannins, but still only lasts 6-12 months in heat before fading.

Zinfandel – Jammy fruit holds up slightly longer, lasting around 1 year before drying out.

Syrah – Starts to lose color after 6 months, cooked flavors emerge after 1 year.

Malbec – Lovely fruity flavors start to fade after about 9 months in hot conditions.

White Wines

Chardonnay – Buttery notes turn rancid after 6-9 months around 70°F. Oxides rapidly.

Sauvignon Blanc – Grassy, crisp flavors decline after 6-8 months. Oxidation damages aromas.

Riesling – Holds up a bit better due to acidity, but still fades after 10-12 months.

Pinot Grigio/Gris – Fresh citrus notes slowly flatten and decline after 4-6 months.

Rosé Wines

White Zinfandel – Fragile fruity aromas and pink color fade within 6-8 months.

Provence – Crisp, minerally styles oxidize after 6-9 months, losing delicate flavors.

California – Robust berry flavors turn dull and flat after 8-10 months in heat.

Sparkling Wines

Champagne – Fine bubbles are rapidly lost after 2-3 months. Yeasty notes decline.

Prosecco – Loses signature pear and citrus notes after 2-3 months as bubbles dissipate.

Cava – Delicate apple and bread aromas fade as carbonation is lost within weeks.

Dessert Wines

Late Harvest Whites – Intense fruit flavors oxidize after 10-12 months; wines made with botrytis fare worse.

Ports – Lose their rich, sweet plum and spice notes after 1-2 years as tannins decline.

Sauternes – Signature honeyed apricot flavors dry out after 1-2 years as acids fall.

Final Thoughts

Storing wine in hot conditions shortens its shelf life drastically. The higher the temperature, the quicker wine loses its flavor, aroma and appearance. Refrigeration and a consistent cool cellar temperature are keys to longevity. Consuming purchased wines within 6 months is ideal if storage conditions are hot. Choosing sturdy, high-quality wines also improves the odds. With proper care, wines can provide enjoyment long after purchase. But exposing them to heat too quickly unravels their delicate flavors and cuts their lifespan short.

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