I don't have a study to answer the question. But, from a practical point of view I don't think most wine is shipped in temperature controlled vehicles so at this time of year (at least here in Pennsylvania) a lot of wine is 'chilled' during shipping. Does that mean it is ruined? It would mean a lot of wine gets ruined every year.
I'm not an expert on wine storage (my specialty happens to lie in the consumption area), but this chilling effect would seem to be a myth. Wine is typically stored (after aging in barrels and after bottling) in warehouses, which are often minimally heated. As the crush usually occurs in late Summer/early Fall, wine aging in barrels encompasses a good part of Winter. Thus, it would seem that virtually all wine is "chilled" at some point and then reheated when displayed for sale. Wine that sits in storage at grocery stores is also in a chilled environment, and then brought back up to room temperature when put out on the shelves. I have heard, however, that "bottle shock" is real if the wine experiences rapid swings in temperature, especially towards the hot end.
These are exactly some of my thoughts. It seems pretty clear that increasing the temperature toward the hot end would increase the rate of many reactions including the oxidation reactions however it seems the decrease the temperature and then returning to room temp would only slow reactions compared to staying at room temp. Chilling could increase precipitation I suppose. Obviously freezing could have detrimental effects!
I've heard that temperature swings can also cause a "breathing" effect where air slips past the cork into and out of the bottle, but this also seems rather implausible to me, at least in the short term, given the general tightness of the cork seal. A "breathing" effect over long-time periods (years) might be conceivable.
I believe the largest culprit behind spoiled bottles of wine is generally regarded as the cork, no?
I agree with the general consensus here, but could there be some truth to the myth due to a false correlation? Could sunlight and/or artificial light have a detrimental effect similar to the supposed effect of light on beer, and perhaps that is getting attributed to heating by proponents of the myth? I have no idea one way or the other, but it's a thought. I suppose it would seem like wine is typically exposed to all kinds of light throughout its travels from winery to cellar, so I guess one would expect much more ruined wine, just like the temperature case.
I've heard it said from several knowledgeable wine experts that about 10% of ALL wines are "corked", i.e., the wine has a "moldy" or "wet dog" smell imparted to it from the cork. Apparently, this effect is harmless for the most part, except for the impact to your self-esteem at having just perhaps coughed up a lot of money for a wine that's gone bad. This "corked" behavior occurs regardless of price or quality, although obviously some wineries may have better bottling and storage conditions in order to minimize this problem.
This solution to address the "corked" problem would seem to make some chemical sense. The "corked" taint comes from 2,4.6-trichloroanisole, and evidently Saran Wrap contains PVDC (polyvinylidene chloride) and has some affinity for TCA. PVDC is also used as the seal in some of the plastic caps for wine bottles, although there is some mention out on the web that Saran Wrap switched to LDPE (low density polyethylene) a few years ago as PVDC is a potential endocrine disruptor. So, I guess you're darned if you do, and darned if you don't...
It is true that some wines become "tainted" by the presence of TCA
(trichloroanisole). It was once suspected that this was the result
of cork producers using bleach to sanitize the corks prior to
shipment. It is now thought to be a naturally-occurring compound.
I have no reason to believe that wrapping the bottle with Saran (which
used to be made as a copolymer of vinyl chloride and vinylidene
chloride, but now is made with PE due to eco-freaks concerned about
chlorine in the environment) would reduce the presence of TCA in the
wine. the only solution for TCA tainted wine is to either
a) pour it out.
b) pour it through a coffee filter to reduce the concentrations
somewhat. The recently introduced wine aerators might also help
although I have not tried this.
To answer the original question, cooling a wine bottle is a simple
matter of heat transfer. If a too low temperature is used to cool the
wine, the wine inside the bottle may overshoot the desired temp and go
too low. this will not spoil the wine but will take more time to come
back to a serving temp of 45-55F. Most refrigerators cool the wine
too much. However, the overheating will irreversibly taint the wine
(oxidation reaction rates double with each 10 deg.C rise in temp).
A few years ago, while touring a local winery, the owner said that although natural corks were becoming expensive and that sourcing options were limited, his winemaker objected to the use of artificial corks, I think even in their lower end wines. I have noticed that when an artificial cork was used, there is sometimes a characteristic that I would attribute to a petroleum-based oil, possibly from the manufacture of the artificial cork. So, there's another reason to blame the cork.
I will allow some room for the possibility that there are people who are able to detect differences in the volatile component of wines, and that volatiles that may be lost to a temperature increase could change the character of the wine. However, I wonder if this myth originated with sparkling wines.
I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that this rule only applied to sparkling wines such as champagne. Some zealous foodies insist that champagne should be cellared at ~15C (~60F) and chilled to ~8C (~45F) only a couple hours before serving. I believe the reheating rule is related to optimal do bubble preservation.
I have never heard this rule applied to wine.
Thanks for all the comments. This does tend to comfirm my suspicion that chilling wine and them returning it to room temp storages should not cause a detrimenal effect. However, our specialty wine store owner will probably not be convinced
Of course after Graeme Gillies comment about champagne I'm still left wondering if the bottle of champagne we put in the fridge for New Years but didn't open can be put back on the rack. Perhaps we need have extensive double blind taste testing!