30 July 2016

Wine during the summer: temperature, storage and consumption

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If you have ever bought a wine you’re familiar with in a shop and found, on tasting, that it doesn’t meet your expectations, you should ask yourself how it has been stored or transported.

Once a wine has left the comfort of the winery, it often undergoes a long journey and waits a long time before it’s opened and drunk. It is, therefore, essential to ensure it is correctly transported and stored in order for the wine drunk by the consumer to effectively correspond with the intentions of the producer. One of the most sensitive aspects of its treatment is heat, especially during the summer. It is for this reason so many importers emphasize the importance of temperature controlled transportation when the wine has to be sent to the other side of the world.

 

Overheating irrevocably compromises wine quality, especially when it comes in the form of a “heat spike”, in other words, an abrupt and rapid rise in the temperature.

But the greatest obstacle is not so much the storage temperature, as the temperature that it is served at. It is this that creates serious problems especially in the summer months. All too often, in fact, red wines are served at room temperature and given the conditions in August we end up drinking wine at an overly warm temperature.

 

In the summer wines, either red or white, are consumed at a cooler temperature than in the winter, let’s remind ourselves of the “ideal” serving temperatures: spumante from 4 to 8°C (it changes for a Metodo Charmat or a Metodo Classico), dessert wines at 10°C, whites from 10 to 14°C, reds from 14 to 16°C.

Don’t forget that during the summer months the glass “steals” 2 degrees. The result is that if during the year a Prosecco Superiore DOCG is served at a temperature of 6 degrees, during the summer, for choice, it is served at 4 degrees so that it can be savored at 6 degrees, avoiding the necessity of replacing it in the glacette or in a refrigeration container.

 

Each wine, according to its characteristics (light, structured, young, rich in character) should be conserved in a particular fashion, but in general the rules are the same for all the different types and are applicable throughout the year.

  • The perfect housing for wine is the cellar, either traditional or technological (cabinets specialized for the purpose).
  • The temperature in the cellar must be constant, strictly between 10 and 12°C. A slightly higher limit is also acceptable, between 14-16°C, as long as it is maintained evenly. In some traditional cellars the range between 10-15°C is acceptable as the thermal variation within this range occurs slowly, in tune with the changing seasons, allowing the bottles time to acclimatize. The specialized cabinets allow the temperature to be set at will (a constant 12°C is advisable), maintaining it constant over time. The more the temperature rises, the more quickly the spumante evolves.
  • Humidity is another factor to keep under control. The correct level of humidity helps keep the cork elastic and, therefore, perfectly adhered to the glass of the bottle; if not maintained, the cork dries and allows air to pass. The level of humidity should be between 60 and 70%. A higher level of humidity has no harmful effects on the bottles (in Champagne cellars it is as high as 90%), but it damages the labels. The wine evolves more slowly in the presence of high levels of humidity making this, therefore, the best state for a lengthy aging process. The special wine cabinets may also have a humidity control which can, therefore, maintain constant optimal levels.
  • The bottles should be kept in the dark as light accelerates the evolution of the wine, especially if the bottle is of transparent glass.
  • The bottles should be laid down; when the wine dampens the cork it keeps it moist and, therefore, in perfect contact with the glass avoiding any eventual passage of air. This means the wine is protected from rapid oxidization and, for the spumantes, the loss of CO2. In contrast to wine, the bottles of spumante can be stored upright for up to a year; the cork does not dry out quickly as the CO2 keeps it in contact with a constant low level of humidity.
  • Bottles of wine must be kept in a well ventilated area to reduce the risk of mold.
  • It is vital to avoid penetrating odors in the vicinity and keep the bottles of wine in the house for the shortest possible time. Wine is sensitive to odors, as the porous cork may transmit them, affecting the wine. The result can be particularly unpleasant. Do not keep the bottles in cardboard boxes: the humidity of a cellar, over time, can rot the cardboard creating all the problems and consequences that result from unpleasant odors.
  • Try not leave bottles “forgotten” in warm places or next to heat sources such as radiators, lamps, spotlights or stoves and protect them from sudden changes in temperature, for example, on a balcony.
  • Let’s not leave bottles in the fridge for months, if at all, put them in just 2-3 days before consumption.