Wine Basics – how to store, pour and preserve

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Storing the bottle

            You don’t have to have a special wine cellar to store wine.  Any place that is cool, dry, dark, and away from vibrations will do.  If you don’t have a cellar, some other options are to store your wine under the stairs, in a crawl space, in a closet, under a bed or in part of the garage away from heat.  If you adventurous and want to have a wine cellar, you can do it yourself.  There are plenty of places online to purchase what you need such as wine racks, refrigeration, and humidifiers.  There are also contractors who specialize in building cellars for your space.

Chilling the bottle

            When chilling wines, it is a matter of preference but typically, white wines are best served chilled to around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.  Sparkling wines and Champagne should be chilled even cooler, around 45 degrees.  Keep in mind that it has to do more with the body of the wine.  Lighter-bodied whites should be served on the cooler side and full-bodied whites on the warmer end.  A particularly full complex white wine might even be served at room temperature to allow the taster to experience all the subtle elements of such a wine.

            Red wines should be served at a cool room temperature around 60-65 degrees.  The same rule applies to the reds as too the whites; lighter reds should be at the cooler end, while complex and heavy reds should be on the warmer side.

            If it is a particularly warm day, it is a good idea to cool the reds slightly.  Otherwise, the heat from the alcohol will be intensified by the ambient heat.

Uncorking the bottle

            Cork has been used as a stopper for wine for thousands of years.  There were other methods used to bottle and ‘cork’ them throughout history, but cork became prevalent with the rise of the glass wine bottle in the 17th century.  This history preserves the cork as part of the ‘pomp and circumstance’ of opening a bottle of wine.  Today’s modern methods of screw-on caps do work quite well and some say perhaps do a better job of keeping wine bottles airtight and no corked wines.  We won’t cover how to open a screw-top bottle of wine here (hopefully you can manage this just fine) but if you want to know the best way to remove the cork from a bottle of wine, here’s how.

           First, the most popular corkscrew is called the “waiter’s corkscrew.”  This is because of its popularity among waiters and that it is much like a Swiss army knife with useful wine bottle opening tools tucked within – the corkscrew, a folding blade for cutting away the foil from the bottle top.  This handy corkscrew also has a fulcrum that folds out to rest on the side of the bottle so you have some leverage when pulling the cork from the bottle. 

           If you don’t have this type of corkscrew, you can use the others out there (heck I’ve used a ball point pen, screwdriver and other devices before in a pinch).  But you will want to be sure that the corkscrew is not too fat, otherwise it tends to shred the cork when you insert it.  There are also those without the fulcrum, but it will require a wee bit of muscle to pull the cork straight out of the bottle without the fulcrum’s mechanical advantage.  Some cork removers have two prongs, but this style has the possibility of shoving the cork into the bottle rather than removing it.

            There are also several different styles of more expensive corkscrews.  A popular form is a corkscrew that fits around the top of a bottle.  As the screw is screwed into the cork, the cork is removed.  There are also types that use a mechanical lever to remove the cork.

Pouring the bottle

            Now that you’ve got the bottle open, here are some pointers in terms of what to serve wine in.  If you only have Dixie cups, most of your friends will likely not complain.  After all, they’re drinking wine! But wine glasses are not shaped like Dixie cups for a reason.  The stem of a wine glass is long enough so that the cup can be held by the stem and to keep your hands from touching the bowl of the glass.  This keeps the wine from being warmed up by the warmth of the hands.

            Wine glasses should be clear without anything on them to help in being able to see the wine and judge its clarity.  The glass should be thin enough that it doesn’t obstruct the view.  Most wine cups narrow towards the mouth of the cup in order to channel the aroma towards the nose.  Red wines are usually served in glasses with wider bowls than white wines.

            Most wine glasses are around 8-10 ounces in size.  Dessert wines are usually served in slightly smaller glasses, around 6 ounces.  Sparkling wines are usually served in very narrow, tall glasses or champagne flutes.  This keeps the bubbles from dissipating so the wine does not get flat. 

            There are more expensive glasses made to compliment a specific type of wine.  The most famous producer is George Riedel.  His crystal stemware is renown by restaurants and wine connoisseurs.

            When pouring wine, don’t fill glasses more than half full so that the drinker can swirl the wine in the cup without spilling it.  Glasses should be washed by hand with warm water and soap.  It is best not to put fragile stemware in the dishwasher or it will get broken but you can find more durable glasses out there that can take on the dishwasher.  The clean glasses should be stored either standing upright or hanging upside down from the base to prevent dust from getting into the glasses.

Re-corking the bottle

            As wine comes into contact with air, it oxidizes which eventually makes it go bad.  If you have an unfinished bottle, you should re-cork it tightly.  The less wine left in the bottle, the more air it will come into contact with, so the quicker it will oxidize.  After re-corking, a white wine can last up to around four days and a red wine will begin to degrade in as little as two.  If you store the red wine in the refrigerator, this will slow down the oxidization process and preserve the life of the leftover wine longer.  The wine may have to be warmed back up to room temperature for drinking.

            You can purchase some devices that will help keep your wine for longer.  One device will pump the air out of the wine bottle.  Less air means the wine will oxidize more slowly.  There is also a different device that sprays nitrogen into the bottle, which displaces the oxygen.  Either of these devices will add a few days to the lifetime of the wine.

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