Wine is an organic living thing. The temperature a wine experiences can have a big influence on its quality.
So, is there a perfect temperature?
Time has shown that deep cellars in temperature parts of Europe are perfect for wine storage. A constant temperature of around 12°C (54°F) is ideal. A high humidity prevents the cork from drying out.
Increased temperature leads to increased reaction rates
Wine is a complicated mixture of chemicals, which react with each other. As the temperature rises, all of the reaction rates will increase, but some will increase more rapidly than others.
Increased temperature leads to new reaction products
As the temperature rises, new reactions will occur, which simply wouldn’t happen at 12°C. An example is the breakdown of aromatic chemicals in dry white wines. Unpleasant compounds are also produced.
Wines with low sulphites/sulphur dioxide
Natural wines with low levels of sulphites (sulphur dioxide) are increasingly popular. Sulphur dioxide serves two very useful functions:-
- to limit oxidation of the wine.
- prevent bacterial growth.
Both of these become much more of an issue as a wine’s temperature rises, and natural wines are particularly vulnerable.
If the temperature gets too high, it is perfectly possible to restart fermentation . This causes plenty of problems.
What if the temperature is lower than 12°C (54°F)?
As the temperature decreases, the reaction rates slow down. So, a wine may not mature in the normal way, but at least it won’t go off. If a wine gets cold enough it may deposit white tartrate crystals, but these do no harm. The alcohol in wine depresses its freezing point, so it needs to be well below 0°C (32°F) before it even starts to freeze.
If you live in a climate where the temperature is above 25°C (77°F), and you don’t have dedicated wine storage, then please keep ALL your wine in a domestic fridge. You will have to remember to take the red out in good time before drinking it, but at least the wine will be in good condition.