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The question

We had a couple of old friends over for a meal two weeks ago. I knew that the lady liked white wine, so I put two whites in the fridge. One was a white Burgundy – a Chablis and a premier cru – the other a higher priced pinot grigio, as I know they like it. However, the lady drank Scotch and a big red wine we all like, an old vines zinfandel from Vintages [the LCBO’s premium wine and spirits outlet in Ontario].

Two day later I put both white wines back in the wine rack. My question is: Does the cooling and re-storing do the wine any harm? Our wine rack is not in a cool area of the house.

The answer

I can speak with considerable experience. No, it does not. I keep a full-size fridge dedicated to white wine. Not one of those pricey, humidity-controlled models designed for cellaring wine; I mean the simple fridge kind where you store milk, eggs and last week’s Chinese-takeout leftovers. Mainly I use it to chill bottles that I need to taste for review purposes (as well as for the occasional tub of leftovers), but frequently I make room for white wines from my cellar that I intend to pour when friends come to dinner. If we don’t get around to uncorking them all, I take the unopened bottles back down to the basement. I’ve never encountered a problem.

There is a caveat, however. You don’t want to subject wine to this up-and-down temperature swing very often. One or two or even three times might be fine. More than that, and you could be inflicting harm.

Most people think that it’s the temperature fluctuation itself that does that damage. Not so, unless you heat the wine so high that you actually cook it, which leads to stewed flavours. The main concern is with the fluid’s expansion and contraction. As you cool the wine, it wants to contract, pulling in air through the cork or even through the screw cap (screw caps do not always provide a 100-per-cent airtight seal). When you warm it back up, the liquid expands, pushing air out the same way it came in. Think of it like breathing. Extremely slow exposure to oxygen (over months or years) can benefit wine, but you don’t want it to hyperventilate.

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

Beppi Crosariol will once again be participating as The Globe’s wine expert on both the July 1-11, 2019, Globe and Mail Seine River (Paris and Normandy) Cruise and the July 28-Aug. 7, 2019, Globe and Mail Portugal River Cruise. For details on how to reserve your cabin visit GlobeandMailCruises.com.

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