Wise storage enhances your wines' character, flavors

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 5, 2013 

We're fast approaching the time of year when you may be purchasing extra wine for holiday parties and social events, or, perhaps, receiving wine as a gift.

In either case, if you plan to hold the wines for an extended period of time, or, better yet, if you'd like to start your own wine collection, proper storage is an absolute must.

Many wine consumers buy their wine, bring it home and drink it within a day or two. That's not much of a problem because you haven't held the wine long enough to do any damage to its contents.

But people who buy wine and store it in the kitchen on one of those flimsy accordion racks, sometimes on top of the refrigerator, are the biggest offenders of improper storage. If you want to kill off a quality bottle of wine in record time, that's a sure-fire way to do it.

The completely inadvisable practice potentially exposes wine to two of its worst enemies - direct exposure to light and pronounced temperature fluctuations. Both can hasten the spoilage process; as a result, your wine will smell and taste stewed or raisiny.

Experts say 50 to 60 degrees is the optimal temperature range to store your wines and let them develop additional character and flavors while in the bottle.

Your best bet is a wine storage unit with proper temperature and humidity controls, not a refrigerator, which is too cold for prolonged storage and is actually designed to dehumidify.

But let's face it, who wants to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a fancy schmancy wine storage unit? Although a great investment, I'd rather spend the money on good wine.

So for years I've stored a portion of my wine in a simple but sturdy homemade wine rack that holds about 75 bottles. The key is keeping it in a part of the house that's away from sunlight and where temperature fluctuations can be kept to a minimum. Our normally high-humidity Northwest climate will take care of the rest.

A basement or, in my case, a darker room with northern exposure, works well for storage. If you don't have those options, simply clear out some space in a closet and keep your wine there.

And unless you've got a cache of screw-top bottles, be sure to store your wine on its side to help prevent the cork from drying out. A dry cork increases the wine's exposure to air, something that shouldn't happen until it's poured into a decanter or into your glass.

Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.

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