I'm jumping the gun a little tonight for GroupDrink and my wine post because I have to go to dinner with Mr. Farce's brother and sister-in-law and trust me, I need this wine.
In my line of work, I have encountered something I have never before experienced in civilian life: an open bottle of wine that will not be finished in one sitting. On an emotional level, I find this horrifying. On a business level, this is necessary for me to do my job. At times, I deal with extremely expensive wines that I need to present to various potential customers at different times. This means that sometimes, I need to stretch out a $100+ bottle of aged Bordeaux for more than, say, two days.
This is extremely anxiety-producing. So, I had to educate myself on wine storage in a panic. Here are the best pieces of advice for the regular non-oenophile I've found to store wine, how long it will really last, and how best to pamper your vino, if for whatever reason, you don't finish the bottle in one go. You weirdo.
Of course, if you have the resources, you should probably build a wine cellar or at least a fancy temperature controlled wine fridge. The rest of us plebs will be stuffing our booze among the lunch meat, week-old leftovers, and the other booze.
First off, if you have a nice bottle of wine (or even if it's not that nice), you should typically store it sideways, in a cool, dark place, even before you open it. This is particularly true for wines with natural corks (unrelated, I initially typed "natural cocks" there), as you don't want the cork to dry out. When a cork dries out, it will disintegrate into the wine and bad things will happen: the wine will be "corked," which can occasionally happen even without the visible signs of corks rotting, and also you will release the wine demons that live int he bottle. It is NO BUENO and makes your wine taste like rotting forest, since, after all, cork is tree bark. Synthetic corks and screw-tops don't really have to be stored sideways, and in fact, it's fine to store them upright, but I find sideways is a more space-efficient solution across the board.
Typically, it is recommended that wine is stored at 55F - the "perfect" wine storage temp. Really, any temperature between 45F and 65F is generally okay. But more important than keeping it at 55F is preventing temperature fluctuations. Everyone knows that drastically changing the temp of beer will "skunk" it (at least, I think everyone knows that? College 101, amirite?), and the concept is not foreign in wine, either. Temperature fluctuations can damage the wine almost more than never chilling it at all. Many wine enthusiasts/obsessives suggest not keeping your wine too cold, either, as we know cold = dry, and we don't want dry corks. However, chances are you're not going to have that wine in your Average Human Fridge anyway, so don't sweat it, which brings me to my next point...
So, oenophiles will say you need to keep your wine in about 70% humidity, again, for the sake of the corks. That's like Amazon Rainforest on a dry day humidity, and most of us folks just can't abide by that. I would venture that no one reading this is going to go about testing the humidity of whatever cupboard they have stuffed their wine, but ideally, humidity should be above 50% where ever you store your wine. I store my wine - whether for my own enjoyment or for work - in a converted closet in my office, which is the same humidity as the rest of my house and a door that shuts, which I will get to in a minute. Unless you're getting super serious about wine, I wouldn't worry humidity save your impending reloation to the Mojave.
One thing that is important to wine storage is to limit its exposure to light, specifically of the sun variety. UV rays will age your wine prematurely (just like your skin!), so keep them bottles out of the rays. The dark bottles vintners use are designed to help limit UV exposure, but don't push your luck. Wine bottle can be very pretty, but leave that bottle display to your Pinterest crafting after you're drunk. Related: drunk Pinterst crafting sounds like a brilliant pastime, but I digress.
Say No to O2
Simply put, oxygen is the frenemy of wine. While aeration is often essential to eliciting the best in a wine, too much will send it on a path toward vinegar. Ultimately, you want to be able to control when, how much, and how often you expose your wine to oxygen. The above suggestions are good advice for wine that is unopened. So what about when your wine is already opened and you can't finish it? Here's a list I've compiled to help limit oxygenation, and ideally, extend the of the bottle you have open.
- Stop it up. A vacuum sealer can be really handy. While they're not super reliable, they do help (if even a little), and sets of them are cheap and plentiful. There are lots of other affordable options for wine storage, as well. Explore your local housewares store for some. If you have only pulled the cork but haven't poured any wine out, you can actually stuff the cork back into the bottle (I find doing so strangely satisfying). I get to use a Coravin for work, which is a fantastic device that inserts a hypodermic into the natural cork, injects argon into the bottle to pressurize it, and allows you to pour out some wine without popping the cork. These retail for like $300 and I would never have encountered one if it weren't for my job. Plus, in my experience, it only extends the life of a bottle a week or so at most, not weeks and weeks as the manufacturer claims. This small extension in time works for my purposes, but generally, that doesn't work for everyone. Plus, there's some controversy over how well it works with really aged corks.
- Keep it upright. I know what I just said about sideways storage, but once opened, you want to limit the amount of surface area exposed to the air, so stand the bottle upright.
- Keep it cold. Yes, even reds. Pop that stopped-up bottle in your fridge. This is for all the above reasons. I mean, don't freeze it, but do throw it in your fridge.
Even if you are fastidious about your wine storage and execution, wines tend to have limited lifespans. Some wines are far more likely to expire (dramatically!) than others. Moreover, the refrigerator, while very handy for extending a wine's life, can also mute and destroy some of the more delicate or interesting flavors of your wine. Even when you've followed every suggestion to a T, chances are that bottle of wine will only last another week at most. Older wines (decade +) and organic wines tend to be more fragile and can spoil very quickly. Light red varieties like Pinot Noir, Granache, and Sangiovese are also typically more fragile and will turn quickly.
Moral of the Story
Last weekend, I had the brilliant opportunity to sit with some serious wine lovers over a gorgeous dinner. There were 19 bottles of wine at dinner for 11 people. Mind you, this was a business dinner and I had just met these folks, who undoubtedly have major sway over my professional well-being. I got to try some mind-blowing wines that I might wax poetic about later, but the upshot of the night was this: this wine is too good to chuck. We're in this for the long haul. And we hauled.
Now, I don't suggest drinking to excess. I especially don't suggest drinking to excess in front of people who essentially write your paychecks, but the reasoning was sound. The wines we drank were investments of sorts, and it would have been a crime against wine and money to dump them. (Okay, not really, but whatever). Try to consume your wine within a few days if you have a bottle popped and you can't finish it. Or else, call your friends and neighbors to help you out. The more the merrier, I say!
What I'm Drinking
Rio Madre Rioja (2012) - I picked this up at the suggestion of one of my customers in his high-end wine shop for $10 (also, $10 is a good price for buttering up a customer). More importantly many here on GT have expressed their love for Rioja, so I saw the bottle and snapped it up. This wine is 100% Graciano, which is apparently pretty rare, but I'm only just learning about more types of wine than French and Napa varieties. It's also 14.5% ABV, so I'm rather stunned that I'm still typing actual words. It's really enjoyable, though I think I might lack some of the experience with the variety to speak to it well. I will say it's got dark berry flavors and a bit of earthy smokiness on the back end, almost like a root vegetable, but in a really delightful way. There's some spice and snap to it, too, almost anise-like, but much rounder with a bright cherry flavor mixed in. It reminds me of some of the better California Zinfandels I've had, and I can't say I'm at all disappointed by my $10 investment in a new wine experience.