By Charles Fredy
Storing wine can be challenging in a climate like Maui’s, where few homes have cellars that can keep bottles naturally cool. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a lava tube on your property, you’ll need to create the right environment, one that maintains a constant temperature, is free of vibration, which can age wine prematurely, and of light, which simply destroys wine.
“Aha!” you think. “My refrigerator stays cold, steady and dark.” The problem is that most refrigerators keep wine too cold. The average ideal temperature is fifty-five to sixty degrees. (Heat also destroys wine. Reds contain tannins and alcohols that elevate as they warm. Above sixty-five or seventy degrees, they feel out of balance—especially wines that are 14 percent alcohol or more.)
A wine cabinet is a great solution. Smaller units hold two- to five-dozen bottles, and at $150 to $500 are fairly inexpensive. I keep one in my office; stored at fifty-five or sixty degrees, my reds stay ready for consumption. It’s also a good place to keep white wines you don’t plan to open right away—the wine doesn’t get too cold, and the cabinet maintains a humidity of 50 to 70 percent, a key component in keeping the cork in good condition.
Cork shrinks when it dries, letting oxygen seep in and turn the wine to vinegar. That’s why it’s best to store bottles on their side; it helps keep the cork moist. Once the bottle has been opened, you can extend the wine’s life by displacing the oxygen with argon. Sold in products such as Private Preserve, this inert gas creates a barrier, slowing oxidation without affecting the wine’s flavor.
Even the best storage system can’t keep a wine from passing its window of quality. Sometimes the label will guide you. In general, light, fresh white wines are meant to be drunk younger than reds—though a quality Riesling can mature amazingly. Wherever you seek expert advice, you should find storage tips and learn whether a wine is ready to drink or better to hold.
Here are some top wines to put away now:
+ Araujo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Eisele Vineyard, Napa Valley, 2007
+ Pahlmeyer, Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, 2007
+ Peter Michael, Les Pavots, Knights Valley, Sonoma County, 2007
+ Chateau Margaux, Premier Grand Cru Classe, Margaux, Bordeaux, 2009
+ Chateau Latour, Premier Grand Cru Classe, Pauillac, Bordeaux, 2009
+ Chateau Leoville Las Cases, 2nd Cru Classe, St. Julien, Bordeaux, 2009
+ Graham’s, Vintage Port, Oporto, 2007