When someone uses the term “dog days of summer,” it usually refers to the most oppressively hot time of the season. According to almanac.com, this period of sweltering weather coincides with the year’s heliacal (meaning “at sunrise”) rising of Sirius, the Dog Star. Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Majoris—the “Greater Dog”—where Sirius gets its canine nickname and its official name, Alpha Canis Majoris.
Heat and wine: Steve Pitcher wrote an article in 2004 for the San Francisco Chronicle about the care one should take when storing wine, especially during hot summer days. He says high temperature is a common problem for wine. If a hot closet at home can damage a bottle of wine, imagine what can happen in a hot car. Pitcher says that none of the factors affecting wine storage is more critical than temperature. Experts vary in their beliefs of the ideal cellar temperature, collectively suggesting a range from 45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Generally speaking, the cooler the temperature, the slower the aging process; warmer temperatures accelerate the process.
Temperature fluctuations are just as significant. Heat spikes and frequent broad changes in temperature may also cause spoilage.
Pitcher says humidity must be kept within a particular range to protect your wines. Too little humidity can cause corks to dry out and shrink, allowing oxygen penetration.
Light, ultraviolet light can cause photochemical reactions in the wine that would not usually occur in darkness, which is why many wines are packaged in protective, dark-colored bottles. The safest course is to keep wines stored in the dark most of the time.
Some wines benefit from aging, as harsh tannins can open up to allow you to appreciate a full, rich, complex flavor. But most wines today are created for consumption at the time of purchase. A few wines, notably vintage port and some fine Bordeaux and Burgundy, lend themselves to a few years of cellar age.
So, chill that Pinot Grigio or Beaujolais and enjoy the dog days of summer, preferably in the shade. Cheers!