All about wine Storage
Wine is a fragile, changeable substance. If planning to keep a wine longer than a couple days it must be properly stored. This doesn’t need to be an expensive, arduous endeavor but it does require some thought.
The greatest enemies of wine are heat and light. This is why many wine bottles are made of dark glass so as to minimize U.V. exposure. Light acts upon the chemical structure of the wine breaking it down and reducing the sum of its parts. Heavier red wines are less susceptible to heat and have been known to turn out alright when exposed to high temperature. That said, it’s best not to tempt fate.
When devising an effective way to store there are two options. Passive storage means placing a wine in a place where it will sit undisturbed and hopefully age gracefully. Active storage involves building a system that can regulate the environment around the stored wine.
For those lucky enough to possess a deep cellar passive storage can be an effective solution. Many cellars remain relatively stable throughout the seasons. Temperature change is okay as long the change occurs gradually. A cellar might average 40 degrees in the winter and as the weather warms up it may get as hot as 70 degrees. This is safe because the change happens on a broad curve. When using a passive cellar place the wine away from heat and vibration producing appliances like furnaces or laundry machines. The less light and general vibration the better. Another important factor is the humidity. If the air is too dry the corks may dry out which lessens their ability to let air permeate through the membranes thus retarding the natural aging process. The greatest passive cellars in the world are reputed to be in Scottish castles which thanks to the temperate climate have the ability to preserve wine nearly perfectly for extended periods.
Active cellars have climate control systems which regulate temperature and humidity. These systems are always expensive though the cost can be reduced if one installs the equipment themselves. For many climates these are the only serious option for storage. In places where cellars cannot be built wine enthusiasts have few other choices if they desire a home cellar. Active storage has the advantage of being able to completely control the environment though if the power fails you are out of luck. Many wine collectors have backup generators installed in the event of this happening.
For those lacking a cellar and unwilling to install an active storage system there are companies who rent out space in large climate controlled spaces. Prices vary for rent and one should shop around for the best rate. Many city dwellers make use of this service. An advantage of having wine stored in commercial wine storage is that you’re less likely to open a bottle on impulse before it’s ready to drink. Though some might consider that a disadvantage as well.
For those unwilling to employ any of the above options here are some places wine should never be stored. Never keep bottles on top of the refrigerator. The vibration and the heat will kill a wine in no time. The same goes for near the stove. Basically the kitchen is a bad place to store wine. A dark, quiet closet is probably the best place for casual storage. If the climate is reasonably temperate a bottle can last several years.
Good wine storage is worth it as anyone who has tried a well stored wine will tell you. There is something magical and utterly satisfying about opening a bottle you’ve stored yourself and finding the wine has blossomed into a beautiful expression of the land and the grape. Even simple wines can benefit from a few years of sleep. All the waiting and the anticipation will be wasted however if the wine is not stored well.
Basic Wine Accessories
Enjoying wine doesn’t need to be a complicated pastime but having the right tools can be helpful. There are a plethora of accessories on the market, many of which seem to be designed with the intent to take as much money from the consumer as possible. The logic being that if wine can be expensive then why not spend too much on wine related gadgets. The accessories discussed in the following are the essentials, most have been in use for many years and have proven their utility. Some of them are expensive but at least they have proven themselves worth the outlay.
First and most importantly are the different tools used to pull the corks. Shopping for these can be confusing as the market is flooded with all sorts of different contraptions, many of which are very expensive. Most of them seem more concerned with form over function. The two types that have been around forever are really the only ones you need.
Waiter Style Corkscrew
The waiter style corkscrew is the one that can be seen used in virtually every restaurant. It has the great advantage of folding up compactly and can be easily carried in a pocket. The mechanism works as a lever where the screw or worm is screwed into the cork and then pulled up with the fold-out lever. This device is simplicity at its best. These require a little practice to master but watch a waiter the next time you order wine and you’ll realize how neat and easy these corkscrews do the job.
Even if you decide to use other style corkscrews you should always keep a couple of these around as they’re great for picnics or any situation requiring a portable tool. The best brand of these are Laguiole from France. Laguiole is actually a village that specializes in making fine cutlery so be sure what you’re buying is the real thing. Some makers are less stringent about quality than others. These are expensive tools that will last a lifetime. The best ones are from Chateau Laguiole and will say so clearly on the side.
The other tried and true device is the screwpull. Most homes seem to have these hanging around. Commonly these have levers that go up as the screw goes down. These have the advantage of being easy to use though the really cheap models should be avoided as inevitably the levers will break. Screwpull is actually is a trademarked name and any tool from this company is a safe bet. Another good inexpensive brand is the always reliable Oxo. Does this company make anything not worth buying?
Corks can be a treacherous beast. Usually they come right out with a minimum of fuss but if the wine is old or improperly stored then a special tool is called for. This is the Ah-so-two prong, which uses two thin prongs that gently but firmly slip around the cork and pull it up. This is certainly an advanced tool but an absolutely necessary one if you plan on opening up older, fragile bottles.
A glass decanter is useful to have around. Many younger wines benefit from some exposure to air. Prices range broadly for these but really any container will do. Some have been known to employ a flower vase in a pinch. Just be sure to wash it! Along with a decanter a funnel is helpful to pour the wine back in the bottle.
A wine bucket is good to have for chilled wines. Many varieties exist but like the decanter any sort of container can be used successfully. Remember that wine should never be chilled, only on ice. By pouring some water in along with the ice a more even chilling can be achieved. Ice alone has the tendency to shock the wine thus muting some of its flavors.
Some sort of stopper is also helpful when dealing with leftover wine. There are various gas contraptions on the market with varying opinions about their efficacy. A very simple way to preserve wine is to keep a empty half bottle around (375 ml.) and fill it up to the top and cork it, placing it in the fridge is best. This works because the wine has minimal exposure to air.
These are the essential accessories that make wine enjoyment easier. If you wish to spend a lot of money buying them then by all means go ahead but it isn’t necessary. The more expensive corkscrews are usually worth it as they will last forever but for many items like decanters and ice buckets improvisation works just fine.