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I arrived in Spain in the dead of summer ready to gorge myself on everything from Rioja to Jerez. However, my quest quickly transformed into a game of ‘name that wine fault’. The majority of the wine’s defects were caused by heat, and took the form of oxidation or maderization. I think it is safe to say that poor storage conditions throughout the summer got the best of these bottles.

Oxidation can occur when a bottle’s seal malfunctions, allowing too much air to contact the wine contained within. Small amounts of oxygen, like that which passes through a cork seal, can aid in a wine’s flavor development as it ages. However, too much oxygen will cause a wine to lose intensity and smell of brown apple cores. Severely oxidized wines can develop a vinegar or nail polish remover scent. The wine will also look dull and take on a brown hue.

A maderized wine is one that has been overheated to a fault. Common causes include storage in a warm environment, like on top of a refrigerator or in direct sunlight. Named after Madera, an intentionally ‘cooked’ type of wine, it smells of nuts and caramel, similar to sherry. Albeit, not a terrible odor, it certainly is not what the winemaker intended.

Five tips to help you avoid buying heat damaged wine

1. Purchase from a reputable supplier who is likely to store and handle the wines correctly.

2. Don’t buy wine that has been stored near to any heat sources, like on top of a refrigerator, or in a window display.

3. Don’t buy wine in a shop that is subject to the heat of summer. Wine likes air-conditioning too!

4. Don’t buy a wine with a cork protruding beyond the lip of the bottle neck. Glass, wine and cork expand and contract at different rates when undergoing a change in temperature. If a bottle is subject repeatedly to abrupt temperature changes the cork will loosen, exposing the wine to oxygen.

5. Don’t buy wines if they look dull, murky, or like they are browning prematurely.

A mildly oxidized wine can smell like brown apples

A cork protruding from a wine bottle neck is a sure sign that the wine within is oxidized.

Severely oxidized wine, both red and white, take on a premature, dull or brown hue.

Be wary of wines that have been displayed in shop windows, as the sun's light and heat can cause damage.

2 Responses to “Wine: It Can’t Handle the Heat”

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