Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: August 1, 2023

Does Wine Go Bad in Heat? [Will Wine Spoil in a Hot Car?]

Can wine go bad in heat? Does wine spoil if you leave it in a hot car? How can you tell if heat has ruined your wine? We explain all in our latest wine guide.

red wine bottle and corks

It's an unavoidable consequence of buying wine sometimes, especially if you live in a really hot climate.

But, does wine go bad in heat? 

If so, what can you do to prevent it?

Make sure you don't spoil another bottle of wine with our guide to wine and unwanted heat.

Does Wine Spoil if Left in a Hot Car?

The short answer is yes.

But, it depends on a few things.

You'll likely get away with leaving your wine in a hot environment as long as it's for a short period of time.

For the entire contents of a bottle of wine to raise in temperature by a few degrees it would take quite significant heat over a prolonged period of time.

As long as your wine is hidden from direct sunlight, it can probably handle the heat of your glove compartment for up to an hour.

Yes, even in hot climates. 

But, leave your wine in your car with the hot midday sun beating down on it for an hour or two and you'll probably do it some harm.

hot day and thermometer

What Happens When Wine is Exposed to Heat?

When wine is subjected to extreme heat it causes a few adverse effects.

First, the cork will be pushed upwards by the increased pressure inside the bottle.

This often causes it to loosen or pop out entirely over a short period of time. Although this phenomenon sounds like it should be called 'corked wine', that's something entirely different.

Second, it will begin to “cook,” leading to what is commonly referred to as a cooked wine. This results in a drastic change of the flavors due to the preservatives inside the wine being heated up.

These two events are interconnected in their own ways.

If the cork has been pushed to such a degree that some wine has seeped out, then you have a serious problem. If wine could escape then oxygen could enter.

Oxygen is really bad for bottled wine. It causes wine to lose its fruitiness and taste flat as it ages prematurely.

Related: Are dedicated wine refrigerators really worth it?

wine glass and bottle

Unlike many of your favorite drinks, though, wine generally doesn’t go bad to the point of causing you harm.

But, it can be a bit tricky to diagnose if a wine has actually been spoiled in a way that will affect the contents. We explain the tell tale signs in the next section.

There’s no exact agreed upon time frame or temperature at which wine goes wrong.

It varies from wine to wine due to things like composition and cork type.

Some say that wine is fine even left in the sun for days (I don't recommend you do this!) while others think even a few hours is too much and will leave the wine with a worse taste.

Many professionals, however, agree that wine will go bad at some point, but it is dependent on the exact attributes of the location where it is being kept.

The safe play is to always keep wine out of direct sunlight.

The extreme heat is bad for wine and can cause it to spoil. Even the UV rays emitted by the sun are bad for wine.

UV light causes premature aging of wine (just like it does to our skin). Molecules are broken down and the wine quickly degrades.

Related: There are still things you can do with disappointing wine as you'll see in our guide.

Man holding wine glass

How Can You Tell if Wine Has Gone Bad in Heat?

There are a few tell tale signs that wine has spoiled because of excessive heat.

  1. You may notice a bulge where the cork has been forced upwards beyond the tip of the neck.
  2. A sticky residue (wine) may be visible around where the cork has loosened.

If you notice any of these warning signs then it's best to drink the bottle as soon as possible.

You might get away with a bulging cork, assuming the seal hasn't broken. But, if any wine residue has escaped then the quality of the wine will worsen over time due to the oxidization.

How to Preserve Your Wine From Shop to Home

Making sure your wine maintains its freshness should always be a key priority when buying and transporting it.

Always look over your purchases if you’ve left them out in the heat. Keep a close eye on any bottles that will be traveling in hot conditions to make sure they’ll be able to get through the ride.

Here are a few quick tips to help preserve your wine on its next journey:

1. Plan ahead. Make picking up your wine the last stop before heading home for the day.

This may seem simple, but it’s a sure fire way to guarantee your wine will remain fresh.

It will prevent it from being exposed to extended hours in the car and the direct heat of the sun. 

2. Park your car in the shade or get a screen for the sun exposed windows.

3. Take a cooler or insulated bag with you to keep your wine chilled. This point is especially important if you have a long trip ahead.

4. Leave your windows down a bit just like you would if you had a dog.

5. Shop for wine online. We're not saying do 100% of your wine shopping online but perhaps you can have more expensive bottles delivered.

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Do you have any top tips for keeping wine from getting too hot? We'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments section!

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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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