Storing Wine 101 – Avoiding the Grapes of Wrath

Although many wines are made to drink right off the shelf, most benefit from a couple years of careful storage. When I first heard this I decided to try it for myself. I scurried down to the local store, picked up a cheap bottle of white, and set it on top of the refrigerator so that in two years or so, I could take it down and impress a hot date with the heavenly elixir it would certainly become.

The day finally arrived and I poured a glass for the lucky girl. Without knowing it, however, I committed every mistake possible for storing wine and after two years the bottle turned to rancid vinegar. After the first sip, my date’s mouth began to twitch and her jaw silently worked as if she were chewing gum. She tried to speak but no words came; I was reminded of a poorly dubbed 60’s era Kung Fu movie. There was no second date. The experience could have been different had I only known a few key points about wine storage.

First, forget whites. Some will age but trying to store many whites is like drafting the chess champion to play linebacker. Most don’t have the structure for the job. Instead, look for reds like Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, and even Zinfandel.    

Second, store the bottle on its side and in the dark. This part is easy. Find the right spot then walk away and forget it.      

Third, keep your bottle away from vibrations. Refrigerators, generators, or even your roommate’s awesome stereo speakers are enough to affect the aging process of wine. These vibrations may be subtle, but to a bottle of wine, it’s like being attached to one of those machines that tests the suspension on cars.

Fourth, keep your wine in a cool place where the temperature is constant. Think of your wine as a high maintenance girlfriend. If the temperature gets too high or too low, she’ll get sour.

Below are a couple recommendations that will benefit from two to four years of proper storage.

Franciscan 2006, Cabernet Sauvignon ($23.99): Cabernets are one of the ultimate candidates for aging. Flavors of cherries, black currant, and cedar will be fuller and rounder in a few years.

Mandolin 2007, Syrah ($11.99): This wine is loaded with blueberry and black pepper. Aging will mellow the strong tannins and improve the overall balance.

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