Christmas is as good an excuse as any to stock up on a few bottles of wine to accompany all that festive fayre. Perhaps, if you are really lucky a loved one may even treat you to a bottle or case of your favourite tipple as a Christmas gift. So, how do you go about storing it?
Case or two
“It never lasts long enough for me to worry about storage!” I hear you say! Well, that may be true for a few days, however, unfortunately for us, wine is a perishable product and extreme or fluctuating temperatures will soon ruin it. Fortunately, most of the wine we drink is fairly young and therefore fairly robust, so leaving a bottle or two in the boot of the car or your luggage for a few hours will probably do little damage, however, if you have invested in a case or two of your newly discovered favourite, there are a few guidelines which will help preserve the flavour and aroma of your wine, so its useful to know the basics.
Daylight and extremes of temperature are the worst enemies of wine wherever its from, and here in Cyprus we experience both of these problems with temperatures ranging from -4ºC / 25ºF on Troodos in the winter through to over 45ºC / 115ºF inland Nicosia during the summer. This coupled with twelve hours of sunshine or light in the summer months, can soon affect the quality of your wine. Even some of our restaurateurs could take note here?
Generally accepted ‘ideal’ conditions are 10ºC to 13ºC or 50ºF to 55ºF and 70% humidity or higher. The high humidity is important because it keeps the corks from drying and minimizes evaporation. The only problem with even higher levels of humidity is that it brings on growth of mold on the labels or the loosening of labels that have water soluble glue. In addition a near constant temperature is preferable to one that fluctuates.
Obviously, don’t stand or lay your wine next to radiators, cookers or window sills as the changes in temperature will soon deteriorate any wine in the immediate vicinity. The warmer the wine the quicker it will ‘age’ and the really high temperatures we experience here during the summer can spoil wine very quickly. Adversely avoid storing wine in outside storage containers or garages, especially if you live where temperatures descend to -0ºC. Frozen wine (-4ºC) will push out corks and break bottles as the wine expands.
Light is also a major factor and please note, all Chardonnay lovers, that this wine is particularly sensitive to light, especially if it is in a pale or clear bottle. Always lay your wine down to keep the corks moist and swollen therefore keeping out the air which can cause oxidization. Also worth noting is the fact that there have been many reports of wines picking up the aromas of items stored nearby, so storage next to the winter’s onion supply is obviously a no-no.
Storage After Opening
Do not leave an unfinished bottle of wine (red or white) open unless you specifically want the wine to age. Once wine comes into contact with air, it begins to age quickly and remember, warm temperatures will only accelerate the aging process. Placing the wine in the refrigerator stabilizes this process, to an extent, preventing it from quickly turning into vinegar. There are many methods of sealing an opened bottle of wine nowadays, with some of the best accessories on the market, either inserting a layer of gas on top to keep the air away from the wine or removing the air from the bottle creating a vacuum. These products will help the wine retain some of its original quality and flavor, for up to three days. I find that the cheapest and most efficient method to keep an opened bottle fresh is to pour the remaining wine into a smaller bottle so that there is no room for air, cork it and refrigerate it.
Chilled before serving
Remember, wine should not be kept in a refrigerator indefinitely. Unopened wine should only be chilled before serving, not longer, and not all wines keep well after being opened, so it’s my suggestion to drink your bottle soon after opening.
Recommended wines for Christmas
Here are my festive season gems which should go down well with traditional fayre. Perfect accompaniment to roast beef, winter Stifados and venison;
Arsos Cabernet Sauvignon
Vasilikon Winery, Kathikas
Cabernet & Mataro
Vouni Winery, Panayias
Menargos Winery, Monagri Blend
If the traditional roast turkey or chicken is your choice …
Mountain Vines, SODAP
Aes Ambelis, Kalo Xorio, Orinis
Chardonnay – Oak barreled
For shellfish dishes, try …
Fikardos Winery, Pafos
Semillon & Xynisteri
Vasilikon Winery, Kathikas
By Stanna Kyriacou