The packaging is convenient, easy to transport and virtually unbreakable, but boxed wines may spoil more easily than bottled versions, especially when kept at high temperatures.

In a new study, researchers from the University of California, Davis, stored unoaked California Chardonnay in five types of packaging and three different temperatures.

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Temperature proved to be the most important factor when it came to spoilage, the team reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. When wine was kept for three months in the dark at a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), trained tasters gave lower scores to its aroma, taste, color and mouthfeel than when it was kept at 10°C (50°F) or 20°C (68°F)

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Specifically, wine kept too hot lost most fruity hints of peach or citrus, with a simultaneous increase in vinegar, musty, sulfur, and bitter notes. It was also more yellow than green, and it lost much of its "lightness."

Even at the same temperature, storage strategies affected how quickly wine spoiled. Compared to bottled wine with a variety of corks and screw-top closures, wine packaged in bags inside cardboard boxes aged the most and in the most unpleasant ways.

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"Different wine-packaging systems vary in their oxygen transmission rates, a measure of how much oxygen is getting through the packaging into the packaged product," the researchers wrote. And the migration of oxygen into wine is crucial when it comes to a wine's shelf life.

Take-home message: Keep your wine cool. And if you buy it in a box, don't let it sit around too long.

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