Living in post-Katrina New Orleans for coming up on a year now has been full of new experiences.
One of them of somewhat dubious merit is a level of experience with cooked wines that most wine lovers will hopefully never duplicate. As you can imagine, a months-long loss of power in a city with no basements and 95+ degree August and September days resulted in a sea of heat-damaged wine.
So for what it's worth, here are my notes from the cooked-wine front lines. The possible point of interest here is to those who may lose all or part of a cellar in the future and find themselves negotiating with their insurance company...you may want to consider seeing if you can pay them the salvage on some of your bottles if you can get that 5 year old Chambertin back for ten cents on the dollar.
The quick list:
- Big new world reds whose appeal is in gobs of lush fruit seem to be the hardest hit. The fruit dries up and they're hollow and just not very good.
- Bordeaux defintely takes a beating, though not quite as much as the new world reds...still, once they get hot, they're probably toast.
- Pinot Noir seems to fare a lot better in general, and Burgundy best of all. I am still drinking some of my Katrina-victim Burgs almost a year later and by and large they're pretty good. Not what they once were, of course, but certainly much better than anything I can go to Whole Foods and get for $10...which may well be what you can negotiate with your insurance company to hold onto those bottles if you lose a cellar.
- Didn't have a lot of whites in the cellar, but I did open a heat-damaged '99 Olivier Laflaive Pulingy 1er recently...and it was out and out delightful. So your white Burgs may be worth holding onto as well.
Hopefully none of this info will ever prove useful to anyone here, but in case of disaster, you gotta learn lemons into lemonade where you can. If nothing else, the lesson here is: if you have a cellar full of Bordeaux...have a good backup plan.