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Against all odds, we must do all to preserve the wine.

By Michael "Ty, the Wine Guy" Taiani

Had Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, admired wine as much as one of his predecessors, Thomas Jefferson, this might have been the quote under the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. This comes to mind since, on a recent summer excursion, my wife and I drove past the historic battlegrounds and wineries of eastern Virginia, we had an engaging discussion on how Lincoln preserved the Union during the Civil War.

Needless to say, whenever I think of preservation, my favorite beverage of choice wine comes to mind. Never before has there been such an array of wine-preservation products available. And theyre not only for the athome wine consumer. In fact, many are used in commercial applications like restaurants, wine bars, and tasting rooms (including those at our Hudson Valley wineries), ensuring that the wine in an uncorked bottle remains fresh, fresh, fresh!

It is worth noting a common misperception that some people have, in that if wine contains alcohol, how can it turn bad? Well, in reality, wine is a natural, fruit-based chemical beverage (i.e., carbon-molecular compound) subject to aging, and so it requires some science to preserve it. Chef Julia Child defined it best: Wine is a living liquidits life cycle comprises youth, maturity, old age, and death. When not treated with reasonable respect it will sicken and die. But before I begin to mention several of the most common preservation devices, I think its best to discuss a few of the culprits that lead to wine spoilage:

Oxidation, the most common, is the process when oxygen (O2) molecules
interact with “exposed” wine, usually along its surface edge, producing
spoilage. This leads to a loss of color, flavor and aroma, and is often
accompanied with the smell of raisins, cooked fruits and/or stale walnuts.
It is often visually detectable by a premature browning or yellowing of the
wine. Causes: unprotected wine and/or cork failure..

“Cooked” wine occurs when a wine bottle has been exposed to too much
heat; higher than the ideal storage temperature for wine (55° F). This is
one reason why you should never store wine in the kitchen, as in most
cases temperatures can exceed the high 70s.

Light-strike is when a wine bottle is exposed to sunlight for a prolonged
period of time. Clear, colorless bottles are especially prone since they are
able to absorb the full rays of the sun and ultraviolet light. These wines
will experience a color change while losing their flavors. A wine shopper’s
rule: Be weary of wine shops with many clear, unprotected windows or
those that use retail window displays.

If youre going to spend money purchasing wine, you should really consider spending a little bit more to keep that bottle lasting as long as possible. Here are some of the most common and popular solutions to avoid spoilage:

Wine vacuum pumps/toppers. Whether electric or manual, the concept
is simple – they pump out the air in an uncorked a bottle before the wine
can begin oxidizing. Removing oxygen keeps wine healthy for several
days. No doubt the best value for temporary preservation.

Nitrogen or Inert Gas in-a-Can. Pumping inert gas into an open wine bottle creates a barrier preventing oxygen molecules from contacting the wines surface. However, this solution is a bit pricier in the long run when the can is empty, its empty, and time to buy another!

Wine refrigerators, aka Coolers. There are many brands with different
bottle count capacities and styles to choose from. While they vary in
expense, a proper wine “fridge” will have glass doors with a UV coating
to prevent exposure to direct sunlight and to keep the bottles in a safe
temperature range which will prevent “cooking.”

Room-darkening curtains/blinds. If you have to store your wine at
home out in the open, these will at least help filter out the light while
keeping the room marginally cooler – especially during the peak summer
months when the sun’s rays are at their strongest.

These and similar products can be found at any of the major home stores throughout the Hudson Valley, and/or online. Simply analyze your preservation needs and then have fun shopping. Its worth the time, effort, and expense to ensure you get the most out of your wine.


Michael Taiani Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), aka Ty the Wine Guy, is a food and wine consultant and marketer. Assisting people with food and wine is his passion.

Hudson Valley Wine magazine Summer 2014 issue

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