Wine 101

Any tips on storing wine?

Wines are best stored in a cool, dark place in your house. Preferably, the space will have a stable temperature year-round, and not be actively disturbed. Fluctuations in temperature can cause the wine to “breathe” in the bottle, pulling in air from outside the bottle.

Wine is best stored with bottles on their side, to ensure the corks do not dry out. Dry corks can lead to oxidation and spoilage. If the wine is sealed with a rubber cork or screw cap, they can normally be stored upright.

November 17, 2017 / by / in
How long is it before a wine goes bad or “turns”?

When a wine goes bad (“turns”), it is due to several possible factors. Possible reasons include oxidation, bacterial spoilage, or simple age. There may be noticeable off-aromas or flavors (or both). The wine may begin to re-ferment, and may be completely undrinkable.

As a wine ages in its bottle, minute amounts of air seep into the bottle through the cork. Rubber corks and metal screw caps can prevent this, but can create other possible problems of their own.

If a wine bottle is stored on its side, the cork will not dry out, and this can prevent spoilage. Wine bottles that are stored upright will tend to see their corks dry out, and that can lead to oxidation.

Storing wine in a cool, dark place, with a relatively stable temperature and humidity throughout the year, can prevent fluctuations in the air pressure in the bottle, which also can prevent spoilage issues.

Generally speaking, most red wines peak in quality at around 8-10 years of bottling, and then begin to slowly diminish. Most white wines don’t improve much once bottled, and will generally keep for 6-8 years before losing their luster.

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What is the difference between wooden bottle corks, rubber corks, and screw-tops?

Wine is packaged in many different containers. Bottles of all sizes, cartons, boxes… the list goes on. In some European countries, people can bring sealing, food-grade plastic bags to the winery and have them filled on the spot.

When it comes to traditional bottling methods, most consumers purchase wine in 750mL glass bottles. These are most often sealed using wooden bottle corks. In recent years, attention has been brought to the fact that cork trees take a long time to grow. Additionally, cork can contain bacterial spoilers that will taint the wine and ruin the entire bottle. Recycled cork is one option: Old corks are ground down, chemically treated, and pressed back into the shape of a cork for re-use. These are guaranteed to be spoilage-free.

Regardless, with increasing worldwide demand for wine, there’s simply not enough cork (and recycled cork) to go around. Some winemakers have taken to alternate bottling methods, in part for sustainability efforts.

Alternatives to wooden cork include rubber corks. These are made of food-grade rubbery plastic, and used exactly the same as a wooden cork. One down-side to these is aesthetics.

Other options include metal screw caps. These require no corkscrew and are literally unscrewed to open the bottle. They can be resealed by hand, and are generally air tight, so unsealed bottles may last quite a bit longer Additionally, some Oregon wineries like Torii Mor are actively researching the use of screw caps on a small portion of all of their wines, to directly compare how the various wines age and survive the years, versus wooden bottle corks.

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What are wine legs? What are tears?

Wine legs and tears are caused by wine dribbling down the sides of a wine glass. They are most often visible after tasting a wine, when the glass has been tilted on its side, and then righted.

Some of the wine will have coated the inner sides of the glass, and will begin dripping back down into the bottom. This is caused by alcohol in the wine evaporating, breaking the surface tension on the upper edge of the wine, causing the watery components to fall away back into the glass.

The shape and size of the legs are a sign of the wine’s viscosity (which in turn is affected by the amount of glycerols and alcohol found in the wine).

A wine with low viscosity will have smaller, more watery legs. A wine with higher viscosity will have larger, slower legs.

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How do parts of the tongue taste flavors?

The tongue is capable of tasting four distinct types of flavors: sugars, salts, sours, and bitters.

The front tip of the tongue is most sensitive to sweet flavors.

On either side of the tip are two slightly less sensitive areas that can detect salts.

Along both sides of the tongue are sensors used for tasting acids and other sours.

In the middle, at the back of the tongue, is an area sensitive to bitter flavors.

The geography and different sensitivities of the tongue give good reason to use a properly shaped glass when tasting wines.

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What is meant by a wine’s “depth of color”?

When tasting a wine, think of “depth of color” as “saturation of color”. Simply put, a wine with a greater depth contains greater concentrations of color and substance, and allows less light to pass through it.

As a result, wines of great depth appear darker, richer in color.

Wines with less depth may appear watery or almost transparent. Depths vary greatly depending on the varietal used to produce the wine, as well as how the wine was fermented and aged.

Depth of color, when used as a measure of quality, typically applies to red wines, as they naturally contain more coloring, tannins, oak, and other components that can alter the wine’s depth.

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What is meant by wine’s viscosity? What factors can affect it?

Wine viscosity refers to its liquid consistency. Wine viscosity will may make it appear thin and watery, or may make it appear thick and syrupy.

Viscosity is affected by the levels of glycerols (sugars) and alcohol found in the wine. Generally speaking, the higher a wine’s levels of glycerols and alcohol, the higher the wine’s viscosity will be.

Wines with high viscosity tend to cling to the side of a wine glass longer, and may leave “tears” or “legs” as bits of the wine begin to drip back down into the glass.

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