How cold is too cold?
This is a non-trivial issue for wine lovers on occasion, most often when you have wine shipped during winter months ... stash your wine-shop purchase in the trunk of your car and leave it parked on a blustery day ... or put a bottle in the freezer for a quick chill before dinner and then forget it's there.
Here's the good news: Unlike extreme heat, which can permanently and fatally damage wine on very short exposure, extreme cold doesn't usually damage wine. Even if the wine freezes solid, the primary threat would be that the expanding liquid might break the bottle or force out the cork. In the absence of such physical damage to the container, the experts say that extreme cold - even freezing - has no lasting effect on wine.
What's more, because of its alcoholic content, wine freezes at a substantially lower temperature than water, and even at temperatures as cold as the lower 20s F (minus-6 C), it thickens into a slush long before it hardens into a giant ice cube.
On occasion, wines subjected to freezing temperatures may develop clear, glassy tartrate crystals in the bottle, but these are harmless and don't normally affect the flavor of the wine.
And, contrary to the conventional wisdom about some beers that suffer from temperature changes, there's really no harm in chilling wine, returning it to room temperature, then chilling it again later. If you have wines in the fridge and would like to take them out to make room for other things, there's no need to fret that the wine might be damaged.
In an ideal world, wine thrives best in long-term storage at "cellar temperature" around 55F (13C). But failing that, too cold is better than too hot. If you have to choose, pick the chilly basement over the stuffy attic for your wine collection, and you won't be sorry.
Do you have tales to tell about experiences with wines that got too cold, or too hot? Join an online discussion on this topic in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, http://www.wineloverspage.com/cgi-bin/sb/index.cgi?fn=1. Or, if you prefer, send me E-mail at email@example.com. I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note; but I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.
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Fruity Loire red
This easy-to-like Cabernet Franc comes from Bourgueil ("boor-goo'yuh"), a region of the Loire Valley near Touraine. In contrast with the "green" and herbal nature of many Loire reds, this quaffable wine is almost Beaujolais-like in its forward fruit. Very dark ruby in color, it offers appetizing cherry-pie flavors, fruit and spice. Fresh flavors follow the nose, juicy fruit and tart acid in balance. U.S. importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif. (March 3, 2001)
FOOD MATCH: A delicious pairing with a mild Southwestern-style dinner of chorizo sausage and avocado on cornmeal pancakes.
Visiting Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Slovenia
Meanwhile, as always when I travel, I will try to keep The 30 Second Wine Advisor coming, but please note that it may be off schedule (probably a day or two early next week, perhaps several days late the week after that), or may come in a curtailed version.
Biologique and Biodynamique
Thanks to Lauriann for setting us straight.
California Wine Club
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
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Vol. 3, No. 8, March 12, 2001