Wine Reviews Tasting Notes and Education for the Non-Snob, by Vino Joe, a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)

Ask Vino Joe: Should Chilled Wine Go To the Fridge?

A WineWeekly reader asks:

I had a party and put two bottles of wine in a cooler with ice. One bottle was unopened (Chardonnay) and I say it now has to be put in the fridge and my husband says it can go on the counter at room temperature until we drink it and it will not be affected. Can you settle this for us pleeeeeease!

A fair question, and one I’m sure many have contemplated in the past.

red_cooler.jpgIf given the choice, then the wine absolutely should be transferred from the cooler to the refrigerator. I say “given the choice” because my fridge is often filled with leftovers (both food and wine) — offering little room for (yet another) bottle of wine.

One of the most damaging conditions for any bottle of wine is a drastic change in temperature. Assuming that the cooler was packed with ice, and the bottle was inside it for a significant amount of time, it’s likely the wine sunk to a level at least 25-30 degrees below “room temperature” (we’re talking Fahrenheit). That qualifies as significant. Does that mean the wine will be ruined if it’s left on the counter instead of the fridge? Not necessarily — in fact you may not notice any difference in the wine at all.

That’s because the length of time the wine has remained at different temperatures also factors in. If the wine was kept exceptionally cool for a week, and then left out in the sun for a week, chances are it’s going to be affected. But if the time on ice was only a few hours, and the temperature spike not too drastic, the wine likely will be fine.

This is an issue that is of more concern in the distributor warehouses and the retail stores, where inexpensive wines are rarely — if ever — kept at a constant temperature (storage and transportation included). Your wine may have been on ice, then moved to the counter, but the real damage could have been done long before that — for example, when the wine was sitting sweltering on a non-refrigerated truck on a hot summer day. Unfortunately, the consumer has no control over the bottle prior to purchase — you have to trust that it was properly stored and moved by the wine shop, the distributor, and the supplier.

OK, this answer went a little off tangent. Bottom line? Get the wine into the fridge if you have the room, and keep it at a constant temperature. And, cross your fingers that the bottle has received similar care before it came to you.

Mailbag: How to Store Wine

Your Questions Answered by Vino Joe

How to Store Wine Question

Wine questions answered by Vino Joe


Is it OK to store red wine (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc) at room temperature if it was previously stored properly in a walk-in cellar? I’m moving from a large house with a cellar to a small house with only a portable wine unit that won’t accomodate the amount of bottles I have. Any help you can give would be appreciated.


Generally speaking, “room temperature” — which in most homes is about 72 degrees fahrenheit — is a bit too warm for aging wines. However, “ya gotta do what ya gotta do”, right?

The ideal temperature for wine storage is in the 50-55 F range. Unless you have a temperature-controlled wine cave, or a deep cellar, that’s next-to-impossible in most homes. However, what are nearly if not more important than the temperature are three other factors: darkness, humidity, and temperature consistency. While keeping a wine in a 72-degree environment isn’t the ideal, if you can be certain that it is ALWAYS 72 degrees, there is little or no light, and there is some humidity, then the bottle should hold up much better than if stored in a place that (a) has wild temperature fluctuations; (b) in direct sunlight; (c) has dry air; or (d) any combination of the three.

That said, find the bottom of a closet, or underneath stairs as a possible location for your wines. But don’t expect them to age gracefully over a long period of time. If you have expensive bottles in your collection, that need several years’ aging, and you can’t afford/fit a wine cave, then you may want to consider renting cellar space or finding a friend with a good cellar who can hold the wines for you. Or, do what I do — drink them up quickly!

BYOB BBQ Question


Is it rude to write on an invitation to a BBQ: ‘Bring a Bottle!’ ?


No, absolutely not. Assuming that the host is providing all the food, fixins’, space, entertainment, and cleaning up afterward, I think it’s OK to suggest that guests bring a bottle. In the US, it’s common for the food at barbecues and other parties to be supplied by the guests (ex., one brings the potato salad, another brings cookies, etc.), so asking guests to bring a bottle is a fair request, in my book. (But then, there surely are people who disagree vehemently with this idea, so don’t count on me 100%.)

If you’re hesitant, and you’re inviting wine-conscious guests, one way out of it is to turn the BBQ/party into a theme, and make it fun, such as “BYOBB – Bring Your Own Best Bottle”, or similar. I was once invited to a “Chardonnay Brunch” where everyone was asked to bring Chardonnays from different parts of the world, for comparison.

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