When it comes to serving and storing fine wine, a bit of know-how really does go a long way. That’s not to say that you need a specially dug-out wine cellar beneath your house, or every arcane and modern gadget available on the market, though – it just means that by understanding how to keep wine at its peak, you can heighten your enjoyment of this wonderful drink.
There are countless contradictory ideas out there on the subject of storing wine. The problem seems to stem from the fact that the wine industry is one that is awash with tradition – and is often so keen to stick by traditional principles – it can occasionally overlook the logical and practical. Here at zzysh®, we appreciate the grand old traditions that come hand in hand with wine, but we don’t believe that wine lovers should be trapped by them. As such, we’ve put together a simple guide to storing your wine, and a couple of things you should avoid if you want to ensure a perfectly served glass every time.
The enemies of wine
One thing is true of all wines. Whether you’re storing a beautiful bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, a fine old Syrah or an aged bottle of first growth Bordeaux, they all share one common enemy: oxygen. When wine comes into contact with the oxygen in the air we breathe, a chemical reaction begins to take place within the wine itself; a reaction which is completely irreversible, and has the potential to totally spoil all the fine features of your vino.
Oxidation happens all around us, all the time. If you’ve ever taken a bite from an apple and left it on your kitchen table, you’ll notice that within a matter of minutes, the exposed flesh of the fruit will start to turn brown and lose its structure. The same thing happens with the fruit in wine, and oxidation also has the effect of flattening acidity, and breaking down the tannins which give red wine its body.
Interestingly, this isn’t always a bad thing. Red wine is aged in wooden barrels precisely because vignerons need a low-level, steady process of oxidation in order for the wine to express its full character once bottled. Furthermore, we use cork in wine bottles because they are slightly porous: minute quantities of oxygen penetrate the cork, slowly rounding out the harsher edges of the wine, and ensuring it’s at its peak several years down the line. However, moderation is key: any more than a tiny amount of oxygen will take this process too far, too quickly, and result in a totally ruined wine devoid of depth, acidity, tannin or aroma – and nobody wants to drink that!
Keep things diagonal
One of the most common causes of spoiled and oxidised wine in the bottle is due to the cork drying out and shrinking, and thus allowing far too much air into the bottle. How does one avoid this? Well, for years it was assumed that the best solution was to store the wine bottles on their sides in a cellar or a wine rack. The idea was that the wine would then be in constant contact with the cork, and would keep it moist.
However, more recent (and suprisingly revolutionary) schools of thought have suggested that it would be better to store your bottles at a diagonal angle – somewhere around 45 degrees from horizontal. Indeed, many modern wine racks have been designed to reflect this idea. This is because modern cellars have started to take into consideration the fact that oxidation is not the only enemy of wine.
Indeed, one of the most destructive factors when it comes to storing fine wine is temperature change. Dramatic temperature changes (which can occur regularly in some countries and when transporting wine) can cause the air bubble between the surface of the wine and the cork to expand and contract. This has the effect of pushing out or drawing in the cork, as a vacuum can quite easily be created as the bottle heats up and cools down. When this happens, oxygen can be drawn into the bottle via the porous cork, causing the damage discussed in the previous paragraph. Fluctuating levels of humidity, too, can have a similar effect on the cork.
Keep things cool
Temperature is a vitally important factor when it comes to keeping your wines in tip-top condition. This is less important for most white wines, which are generally made to be drunk young and fresh, but when it comes to your aged Bordeaux and similar, it’s something you’ll really have to keep in mind.
Firstly, great care must be taken to ensure that the temperature of the bottle never, ever falls below -4 degrees C. Why? Because at this temperature, the lighter wines begin to freeze and expand, and the cork will be forced upwards from the neck, or the bottle will break completely. At the other end of the scale, temperatures above 30 degrees C will result in the volatile compounds within the wine (those which make the flavours, aromas and body of the wine what they are) will become loose and will boil off completely, leading to flat, discoloured and ‘cooked’ wine which won’t be much fun to drink.
The ideal temperature for storing your wine? Somewhere between 10 – 15 degrees C will do nicely. This low temperature will slow down chemical changes taking place, and will allow your wine to mature gradually and steadily. Most wine experts would agree that no harm will come to your wine if the storing temperature rises to around 20 degrees C… but we’d suggest keeping the temperature low, just to be on the safe side.
Keep your wine fresh with zzysh®
If you’re the sort of wine lover who likes to ensure your vino is always at its best, even if you’re drinking from a pre-opened bottle, then a zzysh® wine preservation system is the gadget you need! This fantastic piece of wine kit uses inert argon gas to create a protective atmosphere inside your opened wine bottle, ensuring that oxidation and other negative influences are stopped completely. With a zzysh® wine preservation system, you can rest assured that you’ll have fresh, great-tasting wine whenever you want it!