Cooked Wine

So with the warmer weather here lately I’ve been thinking about what happens to wine when it overheats.  My wine unit storage capacity is outstripped by my current inventory, so I’ve been trying to figure out where to put the excess bottles to avoid them cooking in my non-A/C cooled apartment.  “Cooked” wine is considered flawed and is identifyable by a smell of cheap sherry or burnt caramel and a thinned-out flavor profile.  Of course us wine enthusiasts know that wine should be stored in a dark, cool (55 degrees Faranheit give-or-take a few degrees), vibration-free environment.

I recently returned a cooked bottle to the nice peeps at Groton Market who replaced it for me.  The tip-off was the capsule (the foil) – it was stuck to the bottle as seepage had occured. The overheated wine had pushed the cork partway out of the bottle.  I tried to cut off the top of the capsule and a musty odor of the seeped vino was identifiable and my hands got wet without even getting the capsule off.  Here’s a pic of the offending bottle:

Cooked Bottle

There’s a good article about wine flaws in general here at Wine Enthusiast Magazine Unreserved blog by Jim Gordon.

I’ve also smelled Corked wine, where the cork has been infected with TCA, at a tasting in a store.  Once you’ve smelled that wet musty cardboard/newspaper smell, you can’t mistake it for anything else.

In Elin Mccoy’s biography of Robert Parker, The Emperor of Wine, which I just finished reading, is described an unfortunate episode that resulted in monumentally hurt feelings and lawsuits that was at bottom an incident of wine cookery.  L’Affaire Faiveley ocurred when Parker in 1993 noted that barrel samples from respected Burgundian wine producer Francois Faiveley tasted better than what ended up in bottle.  Faiveley was enraged at the implied fraud and sued.  The root of the problem was that the American importer of Faiveley’s wines was storing them in a non-temperature controlled warehouse, stacked to the top, where temps reached 95 degrees.

Also recently one of my local wine stores, Salem Wine Imports, which I blogged about recently in regards to a tasting of Isole e Olena wines, experienced a meltdown of sorts when a heating unit was left on all weekend to temps of 90-95 degrees.  The store owner blogs about it here.  It makes me sad to think of all that gorgeous Cepparello going down the drain!

So, have you ever experienced Cooked wine, and what are your thoughts if you have?


May 21, 2008 - Posted by | Wine | ,


  1. We tasted a few cooked wines that Eric was sampling at Salem Wine Imports a week after the incident. In general, they smelled just fine, tasted fine at first but then went bitter on the finish or had a hollow finish. So sad… Your story about Faiveley’s wines also underscores the importance of picking a good importer. It makes one wonder how many cooked wines go undetected and labeled by unsuspecting consumers as simply bad wine.
    It also makes me question how wine is stored when you ship it with a normal carrier. Scary thought…It doesn’t take long to ruin wine at high temps!

    Comment by Taster B | May 21, 2008 | Reply

  2. I know that importer Kermit Lynch makes it a point to ship with proper temperature and humidity, and I say God Bless! to him. Sure, unless the signs are obvious like in my example it’s hard to tell if the importer has done the right things… I guess we have to keep the pressure on the importers to take the proper care!

    Comment by bloviatrix | May 21, 2008 | Reply

  3. Nice post. That’s definitely a crying shame about Cepparello being poured down the drain but the shop owner did the right thing. There are plenty of less conscientious and/or aware wine shop owners that would have continued as if nothing happened or, if aware, just marked the wines down to make them hard for people to pass up. The burden of temperature control does not lie just with the importer.

    Comment by David McDuff | May 29, 2008 | Reply

  4. Hi David – Thanks for your comment. This is an issue for a lot of people like me who don’t have a real temperature-controlled cellar and have to worry about what the heck to do with the bottles when the mercury rises. Robert Parker kept his home at a constant 55 degrees when he was first married. I don’t think I’d go to that extreme. Yesterday I was vacillating about buying an interesting Cotes du Rhone when I turned it around and saw the importer was Kermit Lynch which pushed me (albeit not a tough sell) to purchase. At least I know it was properly shipped. Indeed the burden is also on retailers to ensure the right storage environment… sure, Eric @ SalemImports has great integrity no doubt. Cheers.

    Comment by bloviatrix | May 29, 2008 | Reply

  5. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Biz!

    Comment by Biz | June 19, 2008 | Reply

  6. Thanks, Biz. But I do speak Brit-speak on account of my Mum’s side :-). I probably should have added that wine starts to cook at about 72 degrees F (about 22 degrees Celsius). Cheers.

    Comment by bloviatrix | June 19, 2008 | Reply

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