Wine Cellaring, Decanting & Glasses

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Wine Cellaring

When cellared correctly, red wine will develop and improve in the bottle for the short, medium, or long term, depending on the style of the wine and the quality of the particular vintage. The single most important factor is temperature stability. Heat is the enemy - and avoid all light, especially sunlight.

If you don't have a wine cellar, its recommended that you rent a suitable storage locker from a commercial wine storage company. If you don't have access to this type of storage then consider purchasing a temperature controlled wine fridge / cabinet. There are many different sizes available that can hold from twenty bottles up to several hundred bottles. Otherwise, anywhere in your house where it is cool, dark, airy, and free from vibration and dampness will have to do.

Anyone cellaring wine in a warm or hot climate should use a thermometer to monitor temperatures very carefully. It may be cause for concern if the cellar temperature goes much over 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit). Wide temperature variation will cause your wine to develop more quickly than it should. It can also ruin your wine. A slow change of temperature of five or so degrees Celsius between winter and summer is not a big problem, but this kind of fluctuation on a daily or weekly basis will cause damage to your wines and age them prematurely. If wines are stored in conditions where the temperature varies then the cork can swell or shrink in size thereby increasing the possibility of leakage and oxidation. Wines kept at too high a temperature will age faster than wines kept at a cold temperature. Theoretically, wines kept at 20 degrees (68 degrees fahrenheit) will age twice as fast as those kept at 10 degrees (50 degrees fahrenheit). This is not to say the colder the better. Wine that is stored too cold can develop deposits in the wine.

Moderate humidity is important to keep the corks in good condition and thereby preventing them from shrinking. A relative humidity of 50-80% is the acceptable range, but about 70% is recommended. Excessive humidity will not harm the wine but may cause the labels and any other paper products you have in the cellar to rot - like cardboard boxes. Insufficient humidity can cause the corks to dry out, lose their elasticity and thereby allow air to get into the bottle.

Also note that half-bottles mature more quickly, and magnums (1.5 litre) more slowly than standard 750ml bottles.

Bottles should be stored on their sides, with the necks sloping slightly upwards so that the cork will remain wet and the bubble of air is in the shoulder. Any sediment will collect at the bottom of the bottle. This will make the wine easier to decant. And do not believe anyone who tells you that bottles should be turned periodically. This is completely wrong and does nothing to help the wine.

Wine Decanting

There are two good reasons to decant a wine. One is to stimulate or enliven the wine by exposing it to air and giving it a chance to 'breathe'. The other is to separate the clear wine from any sediment or 'crust' that has formed in the bottle as the wine matures over the years. Prior to consumption, it will be necessary to separate the clear wine from the sediment if the full benefit of the aging process is to be enjoyed.

Place the bottle in an upright position for a few hours (or a couple of days if possible) before consumption to allow the sediment to slide to the bottom of the bottle.

Cut the capsule on the ridge just below the top of the bottle.

Use a good corkscrew - the best corkscrews pull the cork straight up out of the bottle without dragging it sideways. Screw down well into the cork, but not right through it as you could push a broken piece of cork into the wine or disturb sediment that might be adhering to the bottom of the cork. Remove the cork slowly. Wipe off any remaining residue inside the rim with a clean cloth.

Pour the wine in a steady continuous stream without stopping, and with a minimum of glugging (which can stir up the sediment) into the decanter or jug. Stop pouring when there is approximately 30ml remaining - this will contain almost all of the sediment. You can use a candle or light underneath the bottle to see when the sediment enters the shoulder, or if you have a marked jug, simply to stop pouring when the wine reaches the 720ml mark.

Discard the last 30ml and rinse any remaining sediment out of the empty bottle with warm water. Then pour the decanted wine back into the bottle.

This is called 'double decanting' and gives the wine a double dose of oxygen, and you can loosely recork the bottle if it is some time before it is served or you are taking the wine to a restaurant. Otherwise serve straight from the decanter.

During the decanting process as described, the wine absorbs oxygen which acts as a stimulant and assists in bringing out the aroma, flavour and character of the wine developed during the bottle aging

Wine Glasses

You can consume wine out of any glass, cup, tumbler or a mug, but there are reasons why wine glasses are preferred. The design of the glass helps you see, smell, and taste the wine best. Wine glasses vary in size, shape and design, but good ones will be clear (so you can view the colour and clarity of the wine), not too thick (so the glass doesn't obstruct your contact with the wine), and with a stem long enough so you can hold the glass without handling the bowl (which raises the temperature of the liquid). Riedel are the market leaders and have an excellent range of glasses to choose from.

Make sure your glasses are clean, which means careful rinsing in warm or hot water and avoid the use of detergent in washing. Glasses should be stored upright and aired before use. Do not use glasses straight out of an old cupboard, or from a cardboard box. Sniff a glass straight out of a box or cupboard and you can easily detect the musty or cardboard smell.

There are no official sizes, capacities, shapes or colours of wine glasses. Common sense and individual taste should be your guide. Be sure not to fill a wine glass too full, one third to one half full at the most. You want to leave room to capture the bouquet in the upper bowl as it rises from the swirled wine, and to allow the glass to be tilted - at approximately a forty-five degree angle - to evaluate and enjoy the colour of the wine.

Serving Temperature

The European idea of serving red wine at room temperature works very well in cooler climates. But in the Australian or American summer it could mean serving Shiraz or Cabernet at over 30 degrees celcius (86 degrees fahrenheit). This is too warm and ruins the experience of drinking a fine red wine. The bottle should be cool to the touch, but not cold: a 'cellar temperature' of 15 to 18 degrees (59 to 64 degrees fahrenheit) celcius is ideal. Because white wines tend to be lighter than red whites, chilling them is preferable, however don't let the bottle get too cold as white wines can be spoilt by over chilling


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