Wednesday, October 3, 2007

on storing wine

While I was on Maui, I happened to walk past the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse at the Grand Wailea. They were closed (it was early in the AM), so I'm not sure what it is like inside. From the outside, however, it looked like they had gone and stacked a bunch of very expensive wine in the big plate glass window, with the labels facing out so we could all see how spectacular their wine list was. If you've ever driven down highway 29 in Napa, pretty much everything you see was represented. At least three or four bottles deep.

There is a reason Maui is a vacation destination: the sun. Everyday the sun comes up and cooks those bottles of wine. It's very sad. I wouldn't order any wine from that branch unless they showed me where they had been storing it first.

Most wine is fine at room temperature for seven or eight years. Most of us won't be storing wine for 40 years; most American and Australian wines are meant to be drank much sooner.

For serious storage, you can buy a fridge to meet your needs. The fridge keeps things cool, which slows or stops various chemical reactions that can make the wine go bad. Most modern wine making techniques, however, will remove agents that would lead to such reactions (depending on the wine). It's only over very long periods of time that these things tend to become an issue. Or if you have older bottles of wine; though I suspect if you have any '62 Bordeauxs, you already know this.

The key to casual wine storage is keeping the temperature consistent and keeping it out of sunlight. Changes in temperature cause the cork to expand and contract. You don't want that. Sunlight has UV rays that can cause the wine to break down in unpleasant ways. These are your two biggest enemies.

To that end, you want to keep your non-refrigerated bottles in the coolest, darkest place in your house. Someplace you don't go into very often. Closets under stairs, basements, etc. I have a spare bedroom in which I put heavy, velvet curtains over the windows and plugged up the heat vents with a bathroom towel. I keep the door to the room closed and the lights off, except when we go in to pick out a bottle. In the summer, I unplug the vent and let the A\C keep the room cool.

Considering Ruth's Chris is a consistent Wine Spectator award winner, you'd think they would know better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too hate seeing wine shelved in direct sunlight, but isn't it possible that the plate glass window had a UV protectant? That could block more than 99% of UV rays. Still no excuse for not keeping the bottles in a dark place, especially since the sun can heat the wine.