A little deviation from the typical passage of time story … Before we really get into this, I want to address the not-so-fine line between “storing” and “collecting” wine.
Those who plan to eventually drink the stuff (like you and me) are wine storers. What we are doing is aging wine and letting it evolve for later drinking enjoyment.
Wine collectors may never drink their wines and either plan to resell it (check your local liquor laws prior to negotiating) or make empty boasts about the ‘names’ they have in the ‘cellar’. (OK, I sometimes refer to myself as a collector; but now you know I really mean I am a storer.)
People store wine because they like how an aged wine tastes. Bottled wine is like a living thing – it goes through changes over time. Aged wine generally softens in “mouth-feel” and flavors become more subtle and subdued.
Red wine usually starts with some tannins when young (an aging enhancer that gives the mouth puckering sensation when you drink a young wine.) After additional years in the bottle, the wine softens and the puckering sensation diminishes.
A good experiment to see how wine ages is to buy a case of wine and drink a bottle now, note what it is like, and store the rest. Periodically, drink the other bottles and experience the changes. (You really need to wait a few years for this. I have to agree, it is hard to do in the beginning – you are tempted to drink it all.)
If you find you like older wines better than younger ones, you could be on your way to an organized storing regime (your own tastes will determine the ‘right’ wine-age for you.)
Next time you go to the store to get a bottle for dinner, buy two – have one with dinner, put the other away for later. Keep this up and you will find you are becoming a serious wine storer.
I started storing wine on the floor of an interior closet. It was an out-of-the-way dark place with relatively constant, cooler temperature, (key components for better storage.) Lay the bottles flat to keep the corks moist.
In Waimea, I used to have an insulated and refrigerated wine storage room (~55° F) in Waimea (Actually, I had two rooms – and thousands of bottles.) Now, the bottles are stored in several wine refrigerators in the garage (a less expensive and more practical way to store wine in Hawaiʻi – Costco has several options.)
But, remember, you can start as I did, with boxes at the bottom of a closet.
And don’t get tense when the ritual at the table takes place.
You are at a restaurant, you have ordered your wine and your sommelier/waiter is about to return with the bottle. This is a time to anticipate the pleasure of the bottle soon to be opened, not a time for panic or despair.
The ‘ritual’ that follows the waiter’s arrival is unique among the beverages; only with wine do you get to test for quality prior to purchasing.
The cork pulling, presentation and wine sampling ceremony gives you an opportunity to verify that the wine is ‘good.’ It is not a tasting to see if you ‘like’ the wine; rather, it’s a confirmation that it’s the wine you ordered and some evidence of its condition.
Relax, this is a time for enjoyment — remember you are out to dinner — have a good time.
When the waiter presents the bottle and then pulls the cork he’ll offer it to you for your inspection and review.
Many people will next want to smell the cork – you do not have to smell the cork. A cork will usually smell like … cork. I usually just squeeze the cork to see if it is relatively firm.
The waiter will offer you a taste of the wine. Your nose is the best friend you have right now; if there is a serious problem with the wine, your friend will soon tell you.
Sniff, you really don’t have to taste. A ‘bad bottle’ smells like a bad bottle. If you think there is a problem, have the waiter confirm it; many restaurants will offer you another bottle for consideration.
Sometimes, I wish we would drop this ritual – it makes wine look like some elitist drink, rather than a beverage of choice.
Fortunately, the typical wine bottle is 750-ml (about 25 ounces) – around four glasses of wine; perfect for two to share over a meal.
Good Friends, Good Food, Good Wine … waaay cool.