The Dog Days of Summer and Wine!
Whew, it’s hot! Well, that’s summer in the South for you. But far from simply being uncomfortable, the summer heat will destroy your new wine purchase as you drive around to the grocery store, the dry cleaner and the post office. As your bottle bounces around on the back seat of your car, several bad things are happening. The first is that as the wine heats up, it will expand. As it expands, it will come into contact with the cork. As the wine continues to warm and expand, it will force itself into the cork. If your errands take awhile and the wine continues to heat and expand, things can get interesting, and not in a good way!! Eventually the expanding wine will force the cork out of the bottle, making a mess in your car- or even worse, cause the bottle to explode, throwing wine AND glass all over your car!! That’s why it’s best to make the wine store your last stop and then head home, especially during the summer. Or, if it’s a long drive, keep it in the trunk or in a cool bag with a freezer pack (take steps so the label doesn’t get wet or bottle moisture on it and get ruined).
In the steps of wine service, the host (person who orders the bottle of wine at the table) is presented the cork after the bottle is opened; one thing to look at is if more than just the tip of the cork end has been discolored from contact with the wine. This may serve as a warning that somewhere in it’s travels this bottle was improperly stored or handled and the wine was allowed to become heated, expanded, and permeated the cork. The wine may still be drinkable, but it has certainly changed.
How should wine be properly stored anyway?
Ideally, we would all have little caves in our houses to keep wine at 55 degrees and 75% humidity, away from light, temperature changes, and free from vibrations. Many people drag a bottle of wine home, and for lack of a wine storage rack or a true wine cellar, relegate the bottle to the only uncluttered flat surface in the modern kitchen-the top of the refrigerator!! BAD IDEA!! A number of issues come into play from atop the refrigerator. Like your car in the summer, the kitchen is full of heat. Heat makes wine age faster than it normally would. It’s not just the high temperatures from the tuna casserole in the nearby oven, it’s the temperature fluctuations-going from 60 degrees to 80 degrees and then back every day that stresses the cork- it may expand and contract too many times which can create a gap between the surface of the cork and the neck of the wine bottle, allowing air in to spoil the wine. The heat generated by the compressor and the hot air that swirls behind and above the refrigerator as the compressor cycles on and off will play havoc with the cork, causing it to swell and then dry out, ruining the seal and allowing air to enter the bottle. Another issue from this storage is the effect on the wine of your kitchen lighting. Light of the ultraviolet spectrum will cause the wine to discolor and turn a muddy brown or leaf color. Lastly, the vibration from the compressor as it cycles on and off and hums along doing its part to keep your groceries at their proper temperature, will adversely affect your sparkling wine or your aged wines.
Do you really need to keep wine anyway?
Wine producers have figured out that most consumers age wine . . . about 20 minutes on the way home from the store! Therefore, the vast majority of wines are made to be enjoyed the moment you get home. In the event that your wine purchase is to be enjoyed at a later date, store your bottle in a cool dark place-the back of your pantry or a seldom used closet are perfect spaces for wine storage. If you find yourself storing more and more wine in your guest room closet, leaving no room for guests, it might be times to invest in a more permanent storage solution, but until that time comes, buy wines you like, and drink them!!
Stay Cool !!
Written by Pat Daniel. Permission to publish by Columbus & the Valley Magazine.