As anyone who has left a half-consumed bottle of pinot grigio in the fridge too long can attest, wine is perishable. Pour a glass out of an open bottle that’s languished a week beside your milk and you’ll taste something considerably less fresh and desirable than the wine it once was.
But that detrimental decay had more to do with the effects of oxidation than the question posed here.
Do temperature fluctuations damage wine? Yes, they can. Over time. Light, vibration and fluctuating temperatures all can alter a wine’s chemistry and negatively impact its taste and appeal.
For long-term cellaring, storing wines at a consistent mild temperature is extremely important, South Africa winemaker Marc Kent explained earlier this month while visiting Toronto to launch a new brand, Vinologist.
“Wines don’t like to warm up and chill, warm up and chill, warm up and chill,” says Kent, who recently celebrated 25 years at the helm of Boekenhoutskloof, one of South Africa’s premium wineries. “If you have the luxury of a home cellar, it’s important that the temperature is consistent. Wine doesn’t like temperatures spiking and dropping.”
But what about that bottle of chardonnay in the fridge waiting to be opened? If you overdid it at Costco and need space, you can safely pull it out and set it aside on the counter. Fear not. “Wines are pretty rigid,” Kent says. As long as the same bottle isn’t routinely subjected to the same fate, it should be fine when you’re ready to enjoy a glass.
But the veteran winemaker explains that he has a different concern with white wines in refrigerators. “More often than not, we drink our white wines too cold. You lose all of the flavour,” he says. “When you take a white wine out of the refrigerator and it warms up, I think it’s a positive change. It frees up the volatile components, the flavonoids, all of which are captured when the wine is much colder. I would encourage the wine to warm up."
Kent’s Vinologist has two well-priced selections at the LCBO, a crisp and refreshing sauvignon blanc and a flavourful and rich cabernet sauvignon (both are $12.95).
The graphic label makes them stand out, as does the regional character. The sauvignon blanc comes from the new Cape Town appellation. The cabernet sauvignon hails from Stellenbosch, which is South Africa’s finest spot for that grape. Most similarly priced South African selections are multi-regional blends made to be cheap and cheerful selections. These offer a step up in purity and focus, which adds greatly to their value. All the more reason not to serve that sauvignon blanc too cold.