Will Wine Go Bad in a Hot Car? (Our Expert Weighs In!)

Will wine go bad in a hot car?

Wineries exercise a high degree of care during every phase of production. From harvesting and processing the grapes to bottling, aging, and storage – nothing is left to chance. Every part of the process is carefully planned and optimized to ensure the highest quality product for the consumer.

Most wine enthusiasts are equally careful to store bottles of wine at cooler temperatures, away from direct sunlight. Many collectors even have a dedicated wine fridge.

But what about the trip home? If you’re running a few errands, is it OK to leave a bottle of wine in your car on a sunny day?

Will wine go bad in a hot car?

Wine is sensitive to light and heat. When you leave wine in a hot car, it can undergo chemical changes that can affect the way it tastes. Even if the temperature outside is relatively mild, a car parked in direct sunlight with all of the windows up can turn into a virtual oven in no time at all!

The recommended temperature for storing wine is between 50 – 60˚F (10 – 15˚C) but this isn’t always possible. At minimum, you should likely move your precious cargo to the trunk in the event you need to leave it in a parked car for a while.

Remember the chemical changes I mentioned earlier? They can negatively affect your wine. Heat is a wine killer!

5 Signs That Your Wine May Be Heat Damaged

While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to how much heat or how long it takes for a wine to go bad, here are 5 things to look out for.

  1. The cork is pushed out from the bottleneck. This is a sign that the wine has expanded due to overheating.
  2. The smell is off. If the wine’s aroma resembles vinegar, wet cardboard, or a musty basement, it has turned.
  3. Red wine tastes sweet. If a bottle of red wine tastes like dessert wine, it has likely been overexposed to heat.
  4. It has a brownish appearance. A brown hue in red wine indicates that it has expired. White wine that has taken on a deep yellow or brownish color has likely oxidized.
  5. The presence of chemical flavors. If your wine has an astringent or raspy flavor or it is reminiscent of paint thinner, the wine has definitely gone bad.
Thermometer on a hot day

Parting Advice

If you suspect a bottle of wine may have been left in a hot car too long, carefully inspect it for signs of heat damage. If anything smells or tastes off, don’t hesitate to pour it down the drain.

Wine should be pleasurable to drink. Don’t suffer through a bad glass of wine if you suspect it has spoiled!

By Michael

Chief mixologist and cocktail enthusiast at Swizzle Club.