Beginners and Bottles
Keep these great questions coming! I love discussing wine vessels and packaging. For years wine has been stored in glass bottles and we are beginning to finally see a revolution. For next week, send me your questions and thoughts about wine in boxes, tetra packs and barrels. Don’t forget about any closure questions too. Scared of screw tops? Let me know!
Nicole Arshan: Is there any good way to keep wine at cellar temperature over the course of a long dinner or party?
Great question. First, cheers for knowing that you don’t need to drink your red wines at room temperature. Why not? Well, a wine that gets too warm will show the alcohol more, which throws off the balance of the wine. When wine is served warm, I get a burning sensation from the alcohol that prevents me from tasting the delicate flavors of the wine. It also just doesn’t seem as fresh.
I drink most of my reds between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. But this is hard to maintain, especially in a room full of people with candles at the table. So, try an ice bucket and just put the bottle on top of the ice (as opposed to submerged with water, as you would do when trying to chill the bottle).
On the white side, I think hitting the right temperature is even more important: A white wine served at fridge temperature just doesn’t taste like much. I often think my friends who don’t like white wines just aren’t drinking it at the right temperature of about 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit (or 30 minutes out of the fridge). On the other hand, whenever I am forced to drink white wine I don’t like, I chill the crap out of it so that I can’t taste all the strange flavors.
Honestly, it depends on how much wine you have and how long you want to keep it. If you drink your bottles within a period of a month or so, the only key is to make sure it doesn’t get heat damaged. In Arizona that is tough, but I assume you have air conditioning? With AC, a basement or the coolest, darkest place in your house is probably just fine. Without it, I would recommend you put your wines in your fridge to prevent the sort of heat damage that we described here.
A fridge with smelly foods isn’t ideal for a long time, but even for reds it’s your best bet for the short term. And really, it isn’t so bad to buy a wine fridge. With a small fridge like this one you can keep a bunch of cold beer on hand, too. If you plan to store your bottles for a longer time, temperature controlled storage is a must to keep it from prematurely aging.
Mark Menachem: Why is it so difficult to find half bottles of good wine?
Yeah, I have the same problem. I love having half bottles around, especially when I want to drink both red and white in an evening. You don’t see more for a few reasons. For a winery, it is a tough thing to sell. Other than restaurants, not many folks want half bottles especially now that we have great ways of preserving an open bottle to last over the course of several days easily. And the economics aren’t great for a winery either. They still have to pay around the same price for the glass bottle, the same for the label and sometimes more for the bottling process, as most bottling lines aren’t ideal for them. On the reverse side, consumers usually expect to pay half the price of a full bottle since they are only getting half the wine, so a winery loses margin on these sales. Worse yet, the smaller the bottle, the higher the oxygen to wine ratio, thus degrading the wine over time and making it age faster. Most wineries that do half bottles might offer them exclusively for restaurants that value them more, but we do get them on Lot18 from time to time and will work to find more!
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