By Joy Neighbors
With January come thoughts of clearing out the clutter and getting organized. It’s also the perfect time for wine lovers to consider some long term and interim ideas for keeping that vino in optimum shape.
For the typical wine drinker, there are a few tricks of the trade to keeping your wines at their best and ready to drink.
Long Term Storage:
Most less expensive wines may be kept for up to two years, many up to five years, and some for as long as 10 years. If you’re storing wines for 10 years or longer, you are considered a serious wine collector. (And by this time, you should have your own wine cellar with temperature controls.)
Rack ’em Up
There are hundreds of styles of wine racks out there; metal, wooden, plastic, in-counter, above-counter, on the counter. The choice is yours. Consider how many bottles you will be storing, what kind of wines you have (Reds, whites, desserts, Ports and Sherries all require different storage designs.) and how long you want to store them – a couple of months, a couple of years, or longer.
Wine racks are made so that the bottles lie down with the necks tilted down a bit more; this is in order to keep the corks wet. (A wet cork stays sealed in the bottle. A dried out cork allows air in, which oxidizes the wine.)
Wine refrigerators can be a great investment for the white wine lover. These units come equipped with built-in wine racks to keep your wines at the perfect temperature for serving: 59 – 65º Fahrenheit for dry whites, rosé and blush. For champagne and sparkling wines, serving temp is 43 – 47º Fahrenheit.
Wine cellars and caves are current trends in new homes. A walk-in room that is kept cool, quiet, dark and dry is the perfect spot for aging red and white wines. The ideal temperature for long-term storage ranges between 50 and 55º F with 70 percent humidity being optimal. If you’re a serious collector, invest in a climate control unit that measures temperature and humidity. Fluctuations in temperature can ruin a wine; too high of humidity can encourage molds to begin to grow; too dry and the cork can shrink and let air into the wine, which will oxidize it.
Red wines that cellar well include robust, dry reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Syrah, Bordeaux; all wines with heavy tannins.
Short Term Preservation:
If you find yourself with a half bottle of wine left over, you have a few options.
Put A Cork In It
Keeping a partially drank bottle for the next day? For whites, simply re-cork the bottle and place it in the fridge. For red wines, store the bottle upright in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Either way, you’ll have another two to five days to drink that wine.
Vacuum pumps are specially made to remove the air from the bottle. With this option, you pump out the excess air and insert a special rubber cork to maintain freshness.
It’s a Gas
Inert gas, sprayed into the bottle, will act as a blanket over the wine and prevent oxidation from occurring. This is one of the methods commercial wineries use to preserve wine.
Red wines that don’t cellar long-term include Pinot Noir, Merlot and Grenache; basically any wine labeled as “light and fruity.”
For white and fruit wines, it’s normally suggested to store them no more than two to three years. These are wines that do not improve with age, so buy them now and enjoy.
Wine storage doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, or take up a lot of space. There may be room in your basement, or a spare closet that might be adequate for short-term storage – two years or less.
If wine has become a passion instead of a hobby, go for a wine fridge, or a basement wine cellar. Just remember to keep your long-term wines labeled with the “purchase” date and “drink by” date for maximum enjoyment.
Now you’re set to begin that yearly January clutter clearing, just be sure to take some time for a glass of vino – you can always finish it later.