Allow me to start with what might be breaking news, and which took me several years to convince my dad: a wine that is older does not necessarily taste better! As a matter of fact, the majority of the world’s wines are crafted to be drunk within three to five years.
Nonetheless the quality of storage is important even if it’s just for a few months. Now that summer is in full steam in Macao and with vacation around the corner, one of the worries on returning home after a couple of relaxing weeks is to find that all of your wines have turned bad and at best can only be used for salad dressing. If you are not one of the handful (wild guess) of people owning an underground cellar or have no means to invest in a wine cabinet, here are a few tips to avoid an unfortunate end for some of your favourite bottles.
The first and easiest thing to do is to protect your wine from light. The UV can damage a wine very quickly, hence most wine bottles are coloured glass, but this protection is limited. Avoid buying wines that have been displayed in the shop-window.
The second and least easy thing to do, yet extremely important, is to keep your wines at a cool and constant temperature. Heat accelerates the molecule commutation, ageing the wine faster (but less interestingly) until it becomes flat. Temperatures over 30 degrees celsius will start to destroy some components of the wine. The ideal temperature is around 13 degrees. Colder than this – unless it freezes – won’t be so damaging to the wine. If you are away for a couple of weeks it’s probably best to keep your most precious wines in the fridge, but for no more than a couple of months as the humidity is too low. Furthermore, even more important than temperature range is to keep the wine at as constant temperature as possible. Fluctuations can make the wine expand and push the cork out, allowing air to slip in, and your wine might oxidise.
We are not short on humidity in Macao and anyway unless you live in the middle of the Gobi Desert this won’t affect the outside part of the cork so much. One crucial thing to do is to keep the bottles laying down so the cork is in constant contact with the wine. This avoids the cork drying out and shrinking, which also leads to oxidisation. Bottles with a screw top and sparkling wines are better kept standing up, and in the case of sparkling, keeping them upright reduces the chance of them becoming corked.
Two additional things to avoid spoiling your wine: do not store chemicals or strong-smelling vegetables and fruits next to it. The wine “breathes” as there is a micro-oxygenation happening through the seal, so the wine will absorb the smell of whatever is around.
The other is to avoid vibrations next to the wine as it will mix the sediment and stop the wine from settling. Since we have no subway in Macao and unless you are a washing machine collector or play the drums in a heavy metal band, this will most likely not be a problem here.
In the event that you wish to keep a bottle that has already been opened, store it in the fridge. And unless you have a special cork that can vacuum out the air, use the original cork. It depends on the “strength” of the wine but it will seldom be drinkable after three days.
Here’s one example of a wine from Portugal good to drink now or for storage.
Usually Vinho Verde style is meant to be drunk within two to three years. Here a nice exception with a wine showing great complexity and with an ageing potential of another eight to ten years. Pale gold colour, the nose shows a bit of petrol at first (like an old Riesling) developing to some fresh cut lemon and oyster shell. Full body on the palate with aromas of lemon and minerals, biscuit (12 months on lees), saltiness and a long finish on seashell. David Rouault
Wine available in some supermarkets and at www.palatiumwines.com
David Rouault is a professional classical musician, part time wine consultant and full time wine lover,
holding WSET Level 3, Certified Specialist of Wine and Introductory Sommelier diplomas. www.dionysos.com.mo