Itís hot. Today was the hottest day in London for ages.
Ever, apparently. 36 degrees centigrade (thatís 97 on the F, for
those, like me, who prefer the older measurement Ė interestingly, I
find it easier to use Fahrenheit for the top end of the scale, but
centigrade for the bottom end). But this is pretty tame compared with
whatís happening in the rest of Europe, which is having a terrible
time Ė both France and Portugal have experienced devastating forest
fires. In the southern regions it has been unbearably hot for ages,
and thereís been virtually no rain all summer.
So itís anxious times for anyone relying on Ďpassiveí
wine storage. If your cellar or stash is in a cupboard under the
stairs or an unused room, then the mercury rising will have caused a
fair bit of nervousness. My wine stash has been boxed up and is
currently in a north-facing room in our rental accommodation. How
worried should we be? Well, there arenít many data on what
constitute wine-cooking temperatures. I heard a recent report from an
unquotable source about the sort of temperatures experienced in
transit from new world regions Ė the wines are typically shipped in
non-refrigerated containers. One of the key UK retailers measured the
temperatures experienced by wines coming from South Africa, and they
were well over 30 C for good portions of the journey. Apparently.
I reckon that a week of very hot weather like this a year
isnít a terrible worry, as long as the wine is stored somewhere
sensible, such that the temperatures arenít above 30 C for a
consistent period, and the maximum doesnít exceed this by much. This
is just a guess. Much higher than 30 even for a brief period and you
risk cooking your wines. Older
wines will be more susceptible to high temperatures than younger ones,
and they will also be more at risk from changes in temperature.
A real concern is what happens to wine before you purchase
it. Transport of wine on hot days runs the risk of exposing it to
enormously high temperatures. And many wines shops Ė perhaps most of
them, in fact Ė lack air conditioning. Iíve been into branches of
Oddbins and Threshers where the staff have been sweating away with two
or three fans trained on them. If itís too hot for people, then
itís too hot for wine.
It will be interesting to see whether vintage 2002 wines
currently in cask in the cellars of European producers will be
affected by the higher-than-usual temperatures. Those that are lucky
enough to have underground cellars wonít have a problem, but
producers without will likely be pushed to the limit if they donít
have air conditioning. Could we be seeing a lot of spoiled wine on the
market six months from now?
Is this hot weather good news for the current European
vintage? Normally hot summer = good vintage. But if itís too hot the
vines simply shut down in protest and the grapes stop ripening. And
water shortages could mean a reduced crop, too Ė remember that in
most European regions irrigation is a no-no. Itís looking like this
hot weather isnít unalloyed joy for growers after all. This all
raises the bigger issue of global warming: if the planet really is
getting hotter, then this has implications for classic wine growing
regions. Time for a nice cold beer, I feel.
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