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To stand up or lay down?

Last month I touched on how long you can cellar/age wine. This month I'll pass along some tips on the best way to cellar/store and age the wines you've decided are worthy. The same recommendations hold true for wines you intend to consume in the near future. But, before I get into the best practices for storing wine, let's consider how the wine has been handled before it got to us.

Most wineries after bottling package their wines in 12 bottle cases. The cases are then stacked with the bottles standing, hopefully in a cool place in their warehouse prior to distribution. Once the wine is sold to either a consumer (direct sales) or distributor it is picked up by a shipper. Your wine in most cases then travels in the shipper's un-air conditioned truck to their un-air conditioned distribution center. Depending on method of shipping, your wine may sit in the shipper's warehouse for a day or two before it gets loaded on a transport.

Your wine may travel in either a non-refrigerated or, if you are fortunate, a refrigerated transport to another distribution hub where again it may sit for a day or two. If you buy your wine from a local wine retailer, the wine passed through one of the major wine distributors and in most cases was kept cool during shipment. However, there is no way of knowing and the best practice is to treat every wine you buy as if it has been subject to less than ideal conditions.

A lot of wine retailers store their wines standing, since flat shelving is less expensive than wine racks. There is nothing wrong with this method of displaying their stock if it has a twist top or synthetic closure or the stock doesn't remain on the shelve for a long time. And before you run off saying John says you have to store wine lying on its side, let me explain.

Natural cork if not kept moist will dry out over time, which can let in oxygen and in time will turn your wine to vinegar. This process may take years to happen so, if you plan on rotating your stock within a couple of years and don't have a wine rack, there is nothing wrong with storing your wine standing. Now, on to the best practices for storing wine.

The largest problems we face with long-term storage of wine are light, temperature, and humidity. While these will destroy a wine the fastest, vibration is also thought to have a detrimental effect on aging wine. So, where to store your wines to keep them away from these villains?

Well, since most of us here in Texas don't have a basement, here are some of my recommendations:

Pick a place in your home or apartment that is away from direct sunlight and bright incandescent lighting. For some, that might be in a cabinet (just NOT the one over the stove), closet, or dark corner of a room. The darker the better when it comes to wine storage. If you're aging a case of expensive red wine, you might think about leaving it in the cardboard container to minimize its exposure to light.

The place you chose should also be free of large temperature fluctuations. Most wine experts agree that the ideal temperature to store wines is between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a wine chiller, I recommend that you set it at 55 degrees. If you don't have a wine chiller, don't fret. Most of us don't age our wine very long anyway. Although, cooler is better, as long as you keep your wine in a dark spot and keep the temperature reasonably cool and fairly constant, you shouldn't have a problem.

As I mentioned above, natural cork needs high humidity to keep from drying out. However, finding a dark-cool-humid place here in Texas to store our wine is problematic. Not that we can't find a humid place in Texas, as anyone can attest who has ever spent time along the coast or a summer in Houston, but we can't live without air conditioning in Texas. And as you know, air conditioners lower humidity which is our dilemma. My recommendation for wines that have natural corks and you intend to age for 10+ years is to lay them on their side with the neck pointed slightly down so that the cork stays in contact with the wine in bottle and to give the bottle a 1/4 turn about every 30 days or so. It may not keep the cork from partially drying out, but should keep enough of it moist to maintain a seal. If you have some really expensive wines you intend to age and do not have a proper cellar at home, I recommend that you use a bonded commercial wine storage facility.

Choose a place to store/cellar your wine that keeps vibration to a minimum. Vibration can cause changes to some of the chemical compounds in the wine and leave us with a not so pleasant wine experience. So, don't store your wine over the washing machine or next to your teenagers' sound system.

Now that we've chosen a suitable location to store our wine, we can consider the reason I mentioned handling earlier. If you've had a wine shipped to you from a winery or online retailer, the wine may need to rest a bit to get over the shock of handling. So, I recommend that you cellar those wines for a minimum of a couple of weeks to allow the wine stabilize. If you purchased the wine from a local wine retailer, it has probably had time to stabilize. However, if you are unsure, it never hurts to let it rest for a couple of weeks. If you can't wait that long, I suggest you buy two bottles, so you can pull the cork on one and let the other one rest.

Now for this month's recommendation. This is one of my all time favorite Pinot Noir. It is more of a Burgundian style Pinot Noir, meaning that it has more earth and mineral tones than most fruity California Pinot Noir. Not that there is anything wrong with some fruity California Pinot Noir. However, I just happen to really like this one.

It comes to us from Russian Hill Estate, which is located in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma Valley, California. The Russian River Valley is world renown for producing award winning Pinot Noir and I will stand this one up against most any of the Burgundy Pinot Noir. It is Russian Hill's 2012 Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir. It is produced from grapes grown at both their SunnyView and Tara Vineyards. I haven't been able to find it locally, but you can order it direct from the winery at russianhillestate.com and if you are in or join their wine club you get a 15% discount. I'll be ordering my case as soon as we get a break from this Texas heat.

Until next time, Cheers🍷

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