How to care for wine

wine

With so many varieties of wine, it is impossible to develop a storage and handling plan that will work for all types. However, there are certain considerations that will help you preserve the original flavor and bouquet of your favorite beverage.

Wine is a food, created by the careful processing and aging of especially selected grapes. Your goal is to continue to protect the wine from harmful effects until it is time to enjoy. The balance of ingredients can easily be disturbed by physical or chemical changes.

The following steps won’t turn you into a connoisseur, but if you learn a few basics of how to care for wine, you will be able to enjoy your favorites at their peak of flavor.

Storage in an ideal world

If you plan to use your wine over the next few months, storage is not an issue. Longer storage periods can affect the aging process, so you need to keep several factors in mind.

The perfect solution (for most wines) would be a dark, moist wine cellar. Bottles would be stored on their sides and would not be moved until it was time to enjoy them. Temperature would remain within a few degrees of 55۫.

If a cellar is not an option, a temperature-controlled wine chest is a good alternative.

Basics of wine care

  • White – slight bulb with a chimney top
  • Most Reds – wide and conical
  • Zinfandel – smaller cone
  • Burgundy or Pinot Noir – slightly larger balloon shape
  • Champagne – tall and fluted

The enemies of wine are light, extremes in temperature and humidity, and vibration. Store your wine away from ultraviolet light. Keep it at a consistent temperature. If you store it in the refrigerator, allow time to warm it slightly before serving. Keep it on its side until ready to open. Avoid moving it from one place to another. Proper ventilation helps prevent odor buildup and mold.

Keeping the bottle on its side keeps the cork moist because of the contact with the wine. This allows it to maintain its shape and prevents oxygen and odors from entering the liquid. A deteriorating cork can result in leakage. Humidity should be kept between 50-75%.

A warmer temperature will speed the aging process. While this sounds like a good thing—don’t try it at home. Aging wine is a delicate, carefully controlled process perfected by the vintners. Attempts to produce a vintage wine by keeping it too warm, will not produce the desired results. Instead, you will upset the balance of the aging process and could ruin the wine.  A safe range to keep wine is 40-65 degrees. The actual temperature is not as important as guarding against fluctuations.

Serving Wine

Two of the main factors in serving wine are the temperature and the glass you use. The ideal combination varies depending on whether you are serving reds or whites.

Opening the bottle. Cut the foil with a sharp knife. Insert a corkscrew into the cork and turn it clockwise until it is almost completely inserted. Work the cork loose with the corkscrew until it is almost out.  Remove it the rest of the way by hand.

Individual tastes vary as to the ideal temperature. But certain factors influence that decision. Wine that is too cold does not allow for appreciation of the aroma. It will also be tannic and astringent. Too warm and it will taste alcoholic. To keep the wine at the ideal temperature, you may want to use plastic ice cubes. These will not melt and dilute the wine.

Most wines will benefit from breathing time. This can take place in a decanter or after it has been poured into the glass.

If you have wine left over

Differences of opinion exist as to what to do with leftover wine. Whatever you decide, recork as soon as possible if you don’t expect the finish the bottle right away.

Keeping air from the wine is the biggest factor in preserving the original quality. This can be accomplished by decanting the wine into a smaller bottle. There are also products on the market that will create a vacuum in the bottle or inject inert gas in place of the air. Another solution is to reserve leftover wine for cooking.

After three days, any wine still remaining should definitely be used for cooking, not drinking.

Consequences

Failure to observe basic rules of wine care has its consequences. At the minimum, you will lose the bouquet and brightness of the wine. At the other extreme, mistreated wines may turn to vinegar.

Conclusion

Spend a little time learning how to care for wine. It will enhance your enjoyment of this popular beverage.