By Al Begin - People often wonder how long they should wait to drink the bottle of wine that they just purchased. At a minimum, you should definitely wait until you get home.
The bottles of wine that are available for purchase at your local NSLC are, for the most part, intended to be consumed shortly after purchase. Modern fermenting techniques, and the impatient modern palate, has reduced the need for wines to age in the bottle. No wine under $20 is really intended to be stored for very long. In fact, 90 per cent of all wines are intended to be consumed within one year.
However, it won’t hurt your wine to be left alone in a cool, dark and humid place for a period of time. The rule of thumb is that white wines can age for three to five years, and red wines for five to seven years. Some wines are intended for longer aging and this information is readily available by some simple Internet surfing.
You can take things to the extreme: the Liquor Control Board of Ontario is selling a 750 ml bottle of 2009 Chateau Mouton Rothschild for $1,399.85. And they suggest that it can be cellared for 50 or more years.
Not sure how that works unless you are purchasing the bottle immediately upon turning 19 to celebrate your 69th birthday.
Generally, sweet wines will keep longer than dry wines, and complex wines longer than simple wines.
Ideal storage/cellar conditions
While it looks very pretty to have those bottles of wine sitting in the rack in your designer kitchen, you are hampering your wine’s longevity (confession: I have one of those racks in my kitchen – but I don’t keep nice wines in it).
The ideal temperature for storing wine is actually 58F degrees. It is critical that you keep your wine at a constant temperature. Fluctuations in temperature will drastically shorten the shelf life.
The area (cellar?) for storing your wines should:
- be cool (58F), dark and humid (more than 60 per cent).
- avoid temperature fluctuations.
- be away from heat ducts and vibrations.
- be able to store the corked bottles on their side.
- not be near solvents, paints, etc. that can taint the wine.
Don’t store your wine over your hot, vibrating fridge.
An affordable tool for those who have a small room that they want to turn into a cellar is the KoolR chiller. They make models for rooms that are under 400 cubic feet, and under 600 cubic feet. They are simple to install and really work. More information on pricing and shipping can be obtained from www.rosehillwinecellars.com.
In the vineyards
The vineyards across Nova Scotia are closely watching their grapes as they ripen. The process of the grapes ripening from a hard marble to a lush grape is called veraison. The vineyards are playing a tricky dance of trying to get the grapes as ripe as possible, while not waiting too late and getting hit by a hard frost.
There were a couple of frost scares last week, with some vineyards coming close to the danger point. Our own vineyard dropped to a low of 0.5 degrees. So we now hope for a couple of weeks of sunshine and mild evening temperatures to complete the ripening.
The ripeness of the grapes is determined by measuring the sugar content of the grapes, called brix. Vineyards normally look for a minimum brix count of at least 15, which should equate to an alcohol level of eight per cent, and the count can go as high as 24 brix which would equate to an alcohol level of 14 per cent.
Of course, wineries don’t just look at brix counts, but they also look at acid levels depending on the type of wine they are producing.
The Distinguished Truro Daily News Wine Judging Panel recently tasted a 2011 McGuigan Semillon Blanc. This is an Australian wine available at your local NSLC for only $14.99.
The label states that the wine is ‘refreshing, crisp and aromatic,’ and it delivers. This wine has a nose of pear, green apple and melon. It tastes of melon, citrus, pear, lemon and apple. It has a light aftertaste of honey. The wine is fresh and lively. It has a nice balance and a nice finish. This wine has become our ‘house white’ for the next while.
It would go well with a chicken dish. The Distinguished Tasting Panel rated this wine not quite a full bottle, but 640 ml out of 750 ml.
Al Begin is the chief cork-puller for the Distinguished Truro Daily News Wine Tasting Panel, and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.