You ordered the perfect wine, you’re looking forward to popping that cork, and savoring the delicious beverage inside. Or maybe you found an excellent winery, joined their wine club, and look forward to receiving consistent shipments, delivered straight to your doorstep. But, the winery tells you your order has been delayed due to weather. Frustrating, right? Think again.
Wine is a delicate beverage, and while you may not think of it as perishable, it is. As soon as a wine is made, it is ever evolving and susceptible to whatever conditions it is stored in. Keep it in stable, ideal conditions (a dry place with a constant temperature around 55°F) and you’ll be able to enjoy the wine, as the winemaker intended, 1 – 20+ years down the road. If a wine is subjected to poor conditions, even for just a couple of hours, it can be irrevocably damaged. Will it still be drinkable? In some cases yes, in some cases no.
If a wine gets too warm, it will age faster than intended and taste differently than it’s supposed to. Put the wine in a hot car or truck above 75°F for a while (the exact length of time depends on the type of wine), and the wine will essentially cook, resulting in off flavors or aromas. Over time, this can turn the wine into vinegar, and no one wants to drink vinegar. Excessive heat can also dry out a cork, causing the seal to fail, allowing air into the bottle, and oxidizing your wine.
If a wine gets too cold, the water content in the wine will freeze. The liquid inside the bottle will expand, which can either cause the cork to push slightly out of the bottle, allowing air in and oxidizing the wine, or the extra pressure can crack the bottle itself. When the water content freezes, tartaric crystals can form. These crystals are harmless and natural to the wine – they occur when the potassium and tartaric acids in the wine bind together to form a crystal, scientifically known as potassium bitartrate and better known in the cooking world as cream of tartar. Some winemakers do this intentionally during the winemaking process, a step called cold stabilization, when they drop the wine’s temperature below freezing to precipitate out tartrates before bottling the wine. Conversely, some winemakers, sommeliers, and wine aficionados like seeing tartaric crystals, as it indicates the wine wasn’t over processed. Nevertheless, seeing glass-like shards in the bottom of a wine bottle can be off-putting, even if the wine’s flavor isn’t affected.
So, what do you do when your wine shipment is delayed due to weather? Be appreciative the winery is being cautious with YOUR wine. It might annoy you that your wine is delayed, but it would annoy you even more if your wine arrived at your doorstep damaged and undrinkable. Patience is the name of the game when ordering wine during sweltering summers or freezing winters.