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Questions for sommeliers and barkeeps

(Confession: I misspelled "sommelier" two different ways before finding the right spelling.)

Dear LJ Genies,

Is it true that you shouldn't re-refrigerate beer and wine? (i.e., Refrigerate it, then take it out until it's room temperature, then someday put it back in the fridge again.) Even if you never open the bottles? Someone recently compared it to re-freezing food, in terms of culinary badness, saying that the refrigeration somehow changes the drink, and that therefore you shouldn't take unused wine/beer out of the fridge and put it back into storage. Anyone with expert experience or training is encouraged to enlighten me on the truth or falsity of this claim.

Thank you.



( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 20th, 2004 10:31 pm (UTC)
I have neither experience or training, but my father, a great lover of rare beers, will have anyone who dares to re-refrigerate his beer hung from their toenails for three days. He insists that it does in fact change something in the beer. It is, of course, entirely possible that this is just one of those beer/wine-snob things that they make everyone else respect just to show that they can.
May. 21st, 2004 02:59 pm (UTC)
Heh. Yeah, that's what I'm wondering...
May. 21st, 2004 12:24 am (UTC)
My boss and I were discussing refrigerating Diet Coke, and the tempratures that artifical sweetners do odd things, and why in hot countries it should be refridgerated to prevent making you ill or something.

Getting back on topic I've not killed anyone yet (or made them ill) with moving beer in and out of a fridge, not that I know of anyone and no one has complained about it tasting strange well other than the Rohypnol flavour.

Never tried the re-refrigerating thing with wine though... on second thoughts I think I did once, and it tasted just how that particular wine should taste.
May. 21st, 2004 03:00 pm (UTC)
I don't think there's any health risk in the re-refrigeration; just supposedly a change in taste. But I'm wondering whether that's even true.
(Deleted comment)
May. 21st, 2004 03:01 pm (UTC)
Yeah - when re-freezing, you're actually changing a food from liquid to solid (or parts of it anyway), and most stuff will turn to mush when thawed again. But sealed liquid going between 35 and 65 F...? Hmm.
May. 21st, 2004 06:01 am (UTC)
God I'm SUCH a heathen. I won't drink white wine unless it's cold and if by some freak coincedence, the bottle isn't finished - it goes back in the fridge with a bottle stopper thingy.

Red wine is drunk room temp. Always. Except for some of the Australian Reds. They should be slightly chilled.

Beer. Beer is meant to be chilled or cool. And I'm a heathen. If by the same freak coincedence that occurs above means that the pack doesn't get finished then it goes in the fridge although usually, the beer gets bought, goes into the fridge and stays there until drunk, individually one can or bottle at a time.
May. 21st, 2004 03:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Heathen
Well, I know how it's meant to be served, but assuming you're left with more in the fridge than you need - after a party, say - then is the quality compromised by putting it back into a cupboard? That's what I haven't figured out yet.
May. 21st, 2004 09:03 am (UTC)
Re-refrigeration has a high likelihood of affecting your wine, but not your beer (unless for some reason, your beer is corked). Here's the science:

Because a cork is permeable to air, temperature conditions will affect how much air enters or leaves the bottle. At ideal temperatures (55-58 degrees F), the rate of exchange of air between interior and exterior is relatively low, but still rapid enough that the wine will age. If temperatures drop below this range, the wine will age extremely slowly. If temperatures go above this range, the exchange rate of air between inside the bottle and outside the bottle will increase. This allows any evaporated wine to pass out of the bottle, and oxygen to pass into the bottle, causing the wine to age faster. Once you've taken a bottle out of refrigeration, the chemcial reaction that is aging will quicken. Once you open it, the reaction between oxygen and wine that is aging will take place so fast, that it's not considered aging anymore. Re-refrigerating an unopened bottle can damage it because you will be changing the aging rate, and the oxygen that passed into the bottle when it was at room temp will remain there, unable to escape due to the now lower temperature (and thus slower transfer of gasses across the cork), affecting the flavor of the wine. Re-corking and re-refrigerating a bottle that you opened will also trap the oxygen within the bottle, which can affect the flavor, but is not as much of a culinary sin as re-refrigerating an unopened bottle, because an opened bottle has already been completely exposed to oxygen.

Because most beers are not corked, but rather have impermeable metal lids, I don't see this as a problem for beer, except that the temperature change could affect the fermentation of the hops, barley, etc.

May. 21st, 2004 01:00 pm (UTC)
Re-refrigerating an unopened bottle can damage it because you will be changing the aging rate, and the oxygen that passed into the bottle when it was at room temp will remain there, unable to escape due to the now lower temperature (and thus slower transfer of gasses across the cork), affecting the flavor of the wine.

so...could you re-refridgerate an uncorked bottle of wine?
May. 21st, 2004 09:33 pm (UTC)
From my previous comment:

Re-corking and re-refrigerating a bottle that you opened will also trap the oxygen within the bottle, which can affect the flavor, but is not as much of a culinary sin as re-refrigerating an unopened bottle, because an opened bottle has already been completely exposed to oxygen.
May. 21st, 2004 03:03 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I'm inclined to give this one the most credence, since you used what sounds like actual Science. :) Thank you!
May. 10th, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC)
Say what? Chem 101, please.
That's a good story, but it doesn't sound scientifically grounded. This sounds like something cocked up by someone who only has a partial understanding.

In any chemical reaction you have two parts, reactants and products. A reaction will occur provided reactants still exist. In this case, the reactants are something-in-the-wine and oxygen. If you run out of either, the reaction stops and you're left with as much product (waste gas + stuff-that-causes-that-aged-flavor) as you're going to get.

Let's start with an airtight vessel. If the wine was capped with something air tight rather than a cork, as you say, it wouldn't age. When the cover is placed on there is a certain small amount (lets say 0.1 mole) of oxygen trapped in the top of the bottle. This reacts with the wine, aging it the amount that that amount of oxygen would age a bottle of wine, and the reaction stops. No more aging. You could leave the bottle for 100 years and it would taste like fresh wine.

Now, as you said, the permeability of a cork is temperature based. A cork at 5C might let 0.01 mole of gas transmit across it every day. This means every day you loose 0.005 moles of product gas and gain 0.005 moles of oxygen. Every day the wine is given more oxygen that can age the wine, and provided reaction is slower than the rate that new oxygen enters the system, the aging of the wine is limited by this cool temperature.

Now let's say the bottle is allowed to warm to 20C, room temperature. Just as you said, the cork is more permeable. Perhaps now 0.05 moles transmit every day. Now each day it stays at 20C, 0.025 moles of new oxygen enter the system to age the wine. This is all true, and exactly as you said.

Where you start to run astray from reality is when you cool the wine back down. What changes when the wine cools? Well, now the cork looses permeability once again. If we lower back down to 5C, the transfer rate will again be 0.01 moles/day. Because of the previous exposure to higher temperature, we could indeed have more than 0.01moles CURRENTLY trapped by the cork. This will all react, age the wine, and the process will stall for a couple of days until the waste gas leaves and is replaced by oxygen. Remember, the wine can't age without oxygen, and when the oxygen reacts it forms new compounds, waste gas and stuff-in-wine-that-makes-it-taste-aged.

So does raising temperature make wine age faster? Yes, just as you said, because of the cork. Does re-cooling wine harm it? No, it will slow the reaction back down and make it age slower. This is probably what you want. The real sin here is letting wine get warm. Cooling and warming it multiple times won't cause any problems, at least not as a result of the permeability of the cork. I wouldn't recommend frequently moving a bottle from the fridge to the counter and back, but that's only because I wouldn't recommend storing a bottle at room temp--it ages much too fast. Don't let your wine get warm. If you do, though, for god sakes, put it back in the fridge, recognizing that you've already damaged it. At least the fridge will prevent further damage.
May. 21st, 2004 09:49 am (UTC)
Beer- once cold then warm then the fridge it scorns

White wine- Cold and chilly

Red wine- in the fridge for 20 mins b4 serving, red wine should be room temp or slightly colder

Grey goose & tequilla- always frozen
May. 21st, 2004 03:05 pm (UTC)
You guys got to quit giving me instructions on how to serve it. I know that stuff. :P But that first rule - that's what I'm talking about - does anyone know if there's any science behind that??
May. 22nd, 2004 07:13 pm (UTC)

Most Mid-priced to expensive wines will deteriorate all too quickly once opened since air is the catch-22 enemy of wine. 24 hours of storage “re-refrigerated” or left in a cool corner of the kitchen will work changes in most wines – they oxidize and usually achieve a “bitter” nutty taste (in red wines because of the tannins) or they become overly “fruity” and acidic (for white wines). Cheaper wines typically already have such an undertones; therefore one doesn’t notice the “spoilage” as much as one does in a more expensive wine.

This is the rule I follow – cheap wines (under 20 bucks a bottle) can be refrigerated to extend the wine's palatability life for a day or two. It is best to enjoy your wine over a two -day span (I often use the leftovers for cooking). Furthermore, once a wine is chilled it should not be stored or served again at room temperature even if it is a red wine. On a final note, a chef-acquaintance of mine gave me this hint: pour the contents of a full bottle into an empty half bottle. This reduces the amount of air that comes in contact with the wine in the bottle and prolongs its taste.

As to the science behind this - it is rather simple: wine is an organic and I dare say living thing. Any change causes it to adapt. But for the most part, not even the specialists really have a sure-fire answer to this question. They ho and hum about it and each person has their own way to handle the sitaution. Also, keep in mind that no two wines ever react the same way to any of these suggestions.

For the safest bet - don't keep the leftover wine more than a few days, refridgerated or not.
May. 25th, 2004 08:36 pm (UTC)
I'm beginning to guess that everyone will give different answers. :)

The bottles I'm concerned with were for a work event, and they're still unopened; just refrigerated. My boss insists we must not take them out of the fridge again, though the seals be unbroken yet. I find they're getting in the way of the everyday lunches and water bottles, and would rather like to remove them. But maybe I shouldn't. Or maybe I should. Answers will vary...
Jul. 7th, 2008 04:34 am (UTC)
I know how to get it out of the way
If your boss insists that they stay in the fridge until they get consumed, just drink 'em. Problem solved!
Jul. 21st, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
No one answered the question
Everyone was talking about a bottle that has already been opened, but no one addressed the bottle that has not been opened. Can it go to room temperature and then back to the frig without a problem?
Sep. 5th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
To re-chill or not...
Since I happened upon this post while searching, it seems likely someone else might as well, so I'll add my 2c...

For unopened bottles (and cans):

Rapid temperature changes can often negatively impact the flavor of a beverage, particularly a "live" beverage, as is the case with some high-quality beers and wines that are not pasteurized; they are bottled with living yeast still inside, which is the positive "aging" process. Stable temperatures and slow changes to temperature are the key here. Even lacking live yeast inside, the rapid temperature changes can have a negative impact, but someone else would need to explain the chemistry.

For opened bottles (and some corked bottles):

The other "aging" process, the one that has nasty effects, and was referenced by others, is from oxygen exposure. There's two ways that I know of this to cause issues; one is that oxygen is a requirement for many bacteria and undesirable things that aren't yeast. (Yeast can propagate without oxygen being present.) After opening a bottle, or in the case of seepage thru the cork, you may get more than just oxygen, but also bacteria, that will consume the sugars in your beverage, and produce undesirable flavors.

If you open a bottle of wine and wish to "save" it, you can purge the headspace with nitrogen, CO2, or some other inert gas. "Wine Saver" type products are a small bottle of very expensively packaged nitrogen, and will help displace the oxygen, hopefully limiting the oxidation over the next couple of days.

In terms of long-term care of beverages, they should always be kept cool when possible. E.g. beer is kept cool at the brewery, then put in a warm truck for delivery, then in a fridge or on a shelf, then to your fridge. The less time it was warm, the better for maximum flavor, but your beer has already been "abused" heavily by the time you buy it.

And one final note on serving temps; white wine at 45-50F, red wine at 60F, most beer at 36-42F. If the wine isn't suggested for "aging", keep it cool, e.g. 40's; if aging is recommended, around 54F is good. Most beer should not be "aged", or can be aged at very low temps, and above freezing (e.g. 33F) is fine.

Regards, and enjoy!
Apr. 22nd, 2011 02:27 am (UTC)
Did anyone actually answer this question? How could everyone have wasted so much time leaving comments without actually answering the bloody question?
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