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Serving wine

Storage

Ideally, your wine should be stored at 10°C (50°F), in a dark, damp place which lays undisturbed on its side.

The most important factor is to store wine at a constant temperature: one that doesn’t fluctuate too much or hit extreme cold or hot. Ideally all wine would be stored at a constant 10°C (50°F), but anywhere between 7°C (45°F) and 18°C (65°F) is fine. Over 35°C (95°F) is going to spoil your wine.

If the temperature fluctuates too much, the cork can expand and contract – this ruins the seal of the wine and lets oxygen in. Similarly, if the cork dries out, the cork may shrink and let oxygen in.

Warmth speeds up ageing process. But a slow ageing process is better because it gives a more ‘complex’, subtle wine.

Sunshine and strong lighting can warm up your wine (causing temperature fluctuations discussed above) and make your wine go stale. Artificial lights can also make your wine develop strange flavours too.

What all this means is that storing wine upright on your kitchen worktop is probably the worst place possible! Get it out of the kitchen and somewhere away from radiators/boilers.

And, if you’re getting serious:

  • Wine fridges: take up space, use electricity and aren’t environmentally friendly.
  • Spiral cellars: I’d love one of these! A spiral staircase dug into your floor with wine off to the sides – use natural heating of earth to maintain temperature. Click here for more information.
  • Professional storage facilities:  Professional storage facilities: companies like Octavian charge you to store wine in their warehouses.


Alternatively, if you work in an office that has its own server room, this can be a great place to store your wine.

 

Resealing a bottle

Sometimes (albeit rarely), there is some wine left in a bottle at the end of the evening.

As discussed above, once a bottle’s seal is broken, the wine is affected by oxygen and it is on its way to become vinegary and undrinkable. The more oxygen in the bottle, the quicker it is going to age. Therefore, if you have less than half a bottle left, a good trick is to pour the remaining wine into a half-bottle, thus reducing the air that is in the bottle.

There are many ways of resealing an open bottle. One thing that you should NOT do is turn the original cork around and shove it back in the bottle’s top: this is likely to have bacteria on it which can ruin the wine. A rubber or metal stopper is perfectly sufficient.

Although some wines taste better after they have sat in the bottle overnight, I tend to put any wines that have already been aged in a kind of suspended animation by using an inert gas. This puts a layer of gas over the wine to protect it from oxygen.

The inert gas that I use is Wine Private Reserve. To buy, click here.

 

Ageing wine

Important:

  • not all wines are meant to be aged: most wines should be drunk within a year of bottling or immediately.
  • no wines improve forever: the aim is to find when the wine is at its peak.

Most of the world’s best wines are meant to be aged: their separate components (e.g. tannins, flavours, acidity, sugars) take time to amalgamate. After ageing, the wines should be harmonious so that no one single element over-powers the others, and the flavors are multi-layered and ‘complex’.

As well as the finest Bordeaux and Burgundies, the following wines are examples of wines that should be aged: Barbaresco, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia or California, Chablis, Chateauneuf du Pape, Chianti Classico Reserva, Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Malbec (from Argentina), Port, Ribera del Duero, Rieslings (from Germany), Rioja, Sauternes, Tokaji, Zinfandel.

Red wines lose their colour and astringency with age, but gain complexity (and sediment).

White wines lost their aromas and acidity, but gain a gold colour and a nutty/savoury complexity.

Personally, I cannot afford to buy the best wines at their peak. So, I like to buy wine when it is young, store it, then drink it after it has aged. For these wines, it is essential that the storage conditions are right. Imagine storing a £30 bottle of wine for 10 years only to find out that it had let oxygen in and tasted like vinegar!


When to drink?

There is no easy answer to this. In fact, you’ll never know if a wine could have aged further, just if it has been aged too long.

Experts talk about a "slump" in many fine red's drinkability: it is vibrant in youth, then becomes dull (at around 4 years old), before blossoming again at around 13 years. So, either drink it young or aged; not in its "adolescence".

In comparison, a bog-standard Cabernet Sauvignon peaks around 2 to 3 years old, and quickly declines; by its 5th birthday it will be probably be past its best. Bog-standard Chardonnay peaks at about 1 year, and is usually past its best by its 2nd birthday.

One last footnote is that smaller bottles age quicker than larger bottles. So, a half-bottle will age quicker than a magnum.