Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Wine Guide for Beginners

Wine is a living organism that is created through the growth of grapes and the conversion of sugar in the grapes by yeast. Its chemical composition is very complex and fragile. Any true connoisseur will tell you that proper wine storage is essential to preserve and enhance the quality of wine. Correct wine storage provides wine lovers the ability to collect and store large qualities of their favorite wines to be enjoyed for years to come while also allowing immature vintages to develop. Improper storage can damage wine which will ineveitably reduce the overall enjoyment.

It is true that 90% of all wines are meant to be consumed within one year. However, a true connoisseur and/or collector may want to consider creating a wine cellar. Significant thought and planning should go into this process.

Location of a wine cellar is very important. Ideally, wine should be stored at temperatures between 10°-14° Celsius. This is done by keeping the wine underground and minimizing exposure to solar radiation. When underground, it is best that the room is facing north. The north wall will receive the least amount of solar radiation during the day which will reduce heat retention in the cellar. In addition, the northern perimeter of your cellar must not be adjacent to a road or railway, and should be constructed from stone or brick. The wine cellar must not be subject to unnecessary movement or vibrations, else it can disturb and damage your wine. A floor of earth or sand is important, as this also helps to reduce the level of vibrations in the room.

Controlling the humidity is essential in order to keep the corks moist and functioning . A functioning cork maintains the integrity of the wine. The humidity should remain between 70-75%. Storage of wine is usually horizontal in order to keep the wine in contact with the cork at all times. When stored upright, the cork will dry out, allowing air into the bottle. The wine also tends to develop deposits of sediment on the bottom when stored vertically.

It is imperative to store wine in a dark place. UV rays cause tannins in the wine to oxidize thus causing damage. Neon or florescent lighting will literaly kill your wine. It is preferable to opt for incandescent or sodium vapor lamps. The best lighting for a cellar is generated from unscented candles.

Good ventilation is key in preventing a musty odor. Since wine breathes, wine storage must take place in and environment that is free from smells and debris. Extraneous smells can enter through the cork and contaminate the wine. For example: lighting your cellar with scented candles will foul your wine.

Ideal temperatures for storing wine:
  • Blush, rose and dry white wines are best served between 46-57F (8-14C).
  • Sparkling wines and champagne tend to taste best at 43-47F (6-8C).
  • Light red wine works well at around 55F (13C) for storing and serving.
  • The deep red wines need a temperature range between 59-66 degrees Fahrenheit (15-19 degrees Celsius).

Wine storage and display of wine bottles are made easier with these unique and beautiful wine racks and display cases made by Wine Cellar Innovations. The wine racks come in either a Premium Redwood or Country Pine wood, each with their own special characteristics.

Premium Redwood has a variety of colors; from white to pink, to dark purple swirled and streaked together. Many customers find that this exotic color variation adds character to their wine cellar racks. Premium Redwood wine racks function admirably in climatically controlled wine cellars which maintain the desired humidity levels of 50 to 75 percent, is beautiful without the need for a finish and has no aroma that can penetrate the wine through the cork.

Country Pine wine racks are a highly functional and attractive wood that creates a custom-built look for your wine storage and display. Made from a knotty grade of wood, Country Pine wine rack kits are sought after for their rustic beauty.

Tips for Buying Wine

Trust your own taste. Make sure to taste the product before committing to it. The importance of this rule will be increased as you expand your adventure into more expensive wines. A common mistake people make is buying wines which mainstream critics or friends refer to as their favorite. Trust your own palate and pick the wine you like to drink. Buying good wine is definitely a learning curve. Like anything in life, you will learn as much from your buying mistakes, as from your triumphs. Try many vintages, brands, and types of wine - expand your collection. While many people have a passion for particular brands and stick to them throughout their drinking lives, the reality is that they are missing out on many great wines that they will never have the pleasure of experiencing. Even if you are a conservative wine taster, try shopping around for different styles of wine, and watch your selection skills progressively develop into better wines for more affordable prices.

Does the price of wine really reflect their quality? Simply put, if you want to drink the best wine on the market, you will have to pay a premium price. Quality products generally cost more. However, as a general rule, it would be wise to shop around for good value. Keep an eye on mid-priced wines. Quite honestly, fine wines are usually over-hyped, over-priced, and rarely deliver that extra quality. Keeping prices in perspective will allow you to pick otherwise ignored wines that lack the image of higher-priced wines. More often then not these mid-priced bottles will be of very good quality.

Pay attention to wines that have been popular in the last few years. Last year's superstar sellers could be this year's worst vintage, and may simply be living off of its reputation. Here comes the importance of stockpiling the wines you like. For example, if one year makes for a rare pearl; make sure to buy one or two cases, so that when the next year's selection comes along, you will have the appropriate reserves. As a bonus, buying wine in cases usually affords a 10% discount from most retailers.

Wine Tasting Steps

Look at the wine: Take a look at the color of the wine. Look for the clarity of the wine and the brilliance of the color. The wines will vary in their intensity of color.

Smell the wine: Swirl the wine in your glass by rotating your wrist. The key really is in the wrist. Hold the rest of your arm still. The swirling of the glass releases the wine's aromas to the top edge of the glass. Place your nose just over and the edge of the wine glass. The aromas should bounce off this edge straight up the nostrils. Take a very deep sniff. Identify any familiar smells. Repeat, but rest your sense of smell a few seconds before you smell again.

Taste the wine: Roll the wine over your tongue before swallowing. Exhale through your nose as you swallow. Your taste buds and sense of smell will work together and enhance the experience.

On the second sip swish the wine around in your mouth and then swallow, exhaling through your nose. Use the tasting notes supplied by the tasting room as you try each wine. Ask your host about the wine and its characteristics. Developing the skill of wine tasting takes practice. The more wines you taste, the better you will become with this entire sensory process.

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