How bad will this wine taste?
May 14, 2019 1:31 PM   Subscribe

I ran over to pick up an order from the liqueur store on my lunch break and just realized that maybe two hours sitting in my 78* degree car could be really bad. I've got an assortment of beer, wine, and champagne in boxes in the back of my car. Will it be fine or should I leave early and go home to get them out of the sun?
posted by Marinara to Food & Drink (10 answers total)
78 is fine for a few hours. But if it's 78 outside and really 95+ inside the car, I'd worry.

Unless you need an excuse to go home early from work? In which case it's absolutely urgent and you should go right now.
posted by Nelson at 1:34 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]

It's fine. Perishable produce and similar goods get refrigerated trucks, but only super fancy wines are transported that way. It probably got hotter on the way to the store than it ever did in your car.
posted by wnissen at 1:47 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]

It's fine. Like wnissen said, this sort of stuff gets transported on unrefrigerated trucks all the time.
posted by Candleman at 1:51 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

Is it in your trunk (if you have one)? Won't get too hot in there. If not, maybe run out and crack a couple of windows, just so it doesn't get any hotter.
posted by kate4914 at 2:05 PM on May 14

I realize you've probably long made a decision by this point but nevertheless: if by 78 degrees F you mean inside the car, not just the atmospheric temp outside the car, the wine and other alcohol are fine. (The car is always going to have a distinctly higher inside temp than whatever the current atmospheric temp may be wherever it's parked, because the car is designed to "seal" when its doors are closed.)

Light/sunlight is probably the worst thing for wine, but you thankfully had these inside of boxes. None of what I've said is to discount the impact that temperature and humidity, vibration and shaking, and/or improper storage will have on wine in the long term, of course.

Enjoy your wine! You're good no matter what decision you made because the stakes were pretty low. In the future, if it's really worrying you and the following is an option, maybe crack your windows very slightly until you can go home.
posted by nightrecordings at 4:09 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]

I worked in the alcohol beverage industry in North Carolina for many years. Our warehouses and delivery trucks were not air conditioned, and salespeople drove around with beer and wine in their cars all day every day, regardless of weather. It’s fine.
posted by something something at 5:21 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]

If any of it was in plastic, I'd say toss it, but assuming all of this is in glass, I suspect you won't notice anything.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:15 AM on May 15

If you have beer in clear glass bottles (like Newcastle) I’d take it home immediately. You can’t even drink Newcastle in southern states in the summer bc the slightest exposure to heat and light gives it an off flavor like spoiling meat (hence the summer name Oldcastle).
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:49 AM on May 15

When I've ordered wine direct from makers in California the shipper advises against deliveries in the high summer months, but that's ground-shipping (albeit in insulating polystyrene cubes) over 2500 miles. A couple of hours in the car should be fine.
posted by holgate at 7:02 AM on May 15

Wine snob here! It's clearly way too late for this advice to be of any use, but maybe my words will spare some future soul from dumping out wine needlessly.

So, yes, high temperatures are bad news for wine. Wine's a delicate creature, and lots of things can hurt it. (Including rough handling--don't let that bottle get shaken up by rolling around in the trunk!) High temperatures are a no-no, but that's typically expressed in terms of high-ish ambient temperatures for long periods of time (you don't want your wine cellar kept at 78 if you're holding onto bottles you still want to be good in twenty years) or REALLY high temperatures for short periods of time (don't leave a bottle in direct sunlight in your car when the outdoor temperature is 95). A rule of thumb is to treat a bottle of wine like you would a carton of eggs--don't leave it out of controlled temperatures for days at a time, and don't expose it to temperatures high enough to cook it. Also remember that you're talking about a liquid with a relatively high thermal density, kept inside a container that's a pretty good insulator. Even if it's 95 out, it'll take an hour or two for the contents of that bottle to heat up to ambient temperature, even if they're in a 120-degree car interior.

On the more practical side, I've had a few bottles that have cooked in transit over the years... to a one, it was obvious that they were in bad shape even before I'd opened them, because thermal expansion had pushed the corks partway out of the bottle. Not like "there is a subtle bump between the lip of the bottle and the cork," but full-on "I am amazed this bottle is still sealed, because there's less than half an inch of cork left in the bottle." If your wine has been ruined by heat, it will be glaringly obvious.

tl;dr Is the cork protruding from the top of the bottle by more than about 1/8 of an inch? Do you plan on aging this bottle in your temperature-controlled cellar for the next ten years? If no to both, then you're fine.
posted by Mayor West at 9:02 AM on May 15

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