Temperatures reached into the mid-90s in Los Angeles and Phoenix, and well into the 80s in parts of the South and East Coast, yesterday.
Autumn may be here, but summer refuses to go away completely. If you live in one of those locales, returning to your car after even just a few minutes of sitting in the sun can be like opening the door of an oven.
Just as we’d never leave our small children or pets in that kind of overheated space, it’s important to avoid leaving our wine sitting in such an environment.
Can wine really be harmed after spending time in a hot car?
How much harm depends on a few of the circumstances.
For instance, if the wine bottle was exposed to direct sunlight, keep your fingers crossed. Heat and light are the No. 1 and No. 2 enemies of wine, and it doesn’t take long for a 1-2 punch like that to do some damage.
However, if you had the bottle couched on the floor of the backseat, perhaps with a sack of groceries on top of it, the wine should be okay. A wine bottle’s glass is fairly thick and that thickness helps keep the heat at bay.
Obviously, the longer a bottle is exposed to heat, the greater the likelihood of some damage being done.
One tell-tale sign that a bottle of wine has been damaged is if there is leakage at the capsule. What that suggests is that hot air found its way inside the bottle — and oxygen ranks as the No. 3 enemy of wine.
That doesn’t mean the wine has been ruined. It does mean that the aging process has been accelerated, and you should plan to drink that wine right away.
Here’s an ironic twist: With some young Cabernet Sauvignon wines, going through this “process” can actually make them more accessible at a younger age.
We certainly don’t recommend leaving your Cab in a hot car, but it’s good to know that doing so won’t necessarily be a disaster.