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Many would-be wine drinkers are put off by the idea that they have to come up with an elaborate and expensive wine storage method (along with many bottles of wine) before they can start enjoying the pastime of drinking and enjoying wine.
However, this is not the case at all. Wine can be enjoyed even if you do not have a lot of space for wine storage. Many people make do with a small corner of their kitchen, and still others simply buy a bottle or two at a time as they are needed.
Why Store Wine?
During the Roman Empire, the long-held belief that all wine should be consumed sooner rather than later was dis-proven. Romans stored their wine in tightly closed bottles and noticed that some wines improved in taste and complexity the longer they were allowed to age.
Most white wines do not continue to improve when aged, making them poor candidates for long-term storage and some reds are better when they are consumed as soon as you buy them. However, there are many reds that will age very nicely, making your wine storage efforts worthwhile.
Even if you do not plan to drink the wine after it is aged, buying a case of immature wine and holding on to it until it is at its optimum drinking age can be a wise investment. Many savvy wine drinkers buy a case of young wine, store it until it is aged completely, and then sell off half of the case while keeping the other half to drink. This can net a nice profit, even effectively meaning that you get half a case of wine for free.
How Do You Start A Wine Storage Effort?
You do not need to have a huge wine cellar with an entire wall of storage. If you have a temperature-controlled, dark, and moderately humid cellar that can serve as wine storage, then great! However, most people do not have this luxury.
For everyone else, there are many other wine storage options. Most wines purchased by the casual drinker will be ready-to-drink and do not require any significant amount of wine storage for the purposes of improving the taste. In fact, most ready-to-drink bottles should not be kept in wine storage for more than 8-12 months.
If you have just a few bottles, a small wine storage rack placed in your living room or in a dark closet will be sufficient. You will want to avoid having the rack in your kitchen due to the temperature fluctuations that are unavoidable around the stove and oven.
If you plan to keep a few more bottles around for a long amount of time, a popular wine storage method is a portable wine cellar. These appliances look like small refrigerators and can be kept nearly anywhere in your home where you have room. They are climate-controlled and will keep your wine at optimum wine storage conditions.
Whichever method of wine storage appeals to you, there are a few basic factors to remember: tilt the bottles to keep the corks wet, keep the temperature somewhere between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit at all times, and above all, keep the bottles away from direct sunlight and heat.
Just as you can imagine the different flavors of steak, chicken, and pork chops without actually eating them, you can learn to imagine the flavors of zinfandel, pinot noir, merlot, and other wine varietals. Being conscious of the differences makes buying wine and pairing it with food much simpler.
Personality: Sensual and understated. Pinot noir is one of the most food friendly red wines, thanks to lots of inherent acidity.
Origin: The Burgundy Region of France, though great examples also come from California and Oregon.
Aroma, flavour, and texture: Rich Loamy earth, mushrooms, warm baked cherries; usually medium-bodied flavour with a smooth, supple texture that's often described as silky.
Cost: From 20 for a decent American version to more than 100 for a top-quality French Pinot.
Try it with: Grilled salmon, most anything with mushrooms (Risotto with mushrooms!), roasted chicken, and duck breast.
Personality: Rich, dramatic, even a bit wild
Origin: Northern Rhone Valley of France; also made in Australia (where it's called shiraz) and the US.
Aroma flavour, and texture: Wild berries, chocolate, black liquorice, black pepper with hints of meatiness; medium to full bodied flavour, with a soft, thick mouth feel. Australian shirazes, in particular, are big, plush examples of the wine world.
Cost: Modest (good shirazes can be had for 15) to 40 plus for the top French examples.
Try it with: Lamb or slow-cooked hearty meaty stews and casseroles.
Personality: Depends on price - inexpensive merlots are simple, basic red wines of little character. But if you spend 25 or more, you'll get a wine as rich and majestic as cabernet sauvignon.
Origin: The Bordeaux region of France; California and Washington State.
Aroma, flavour, and texture: Cocoa, red plums, cassis, espresso, cedar, tobacco; medium to full bodied. The top merlots have a lot of structure.
Cost: From 10 for inexpensive Chilean merlot, 20 to 40 for a very good merlot from California, to more than 2000 for a bottle for the top Bordeaux made merlot.
Try it with: Meat dishes such as roasted chicken, braised short ribs, or steak.
Personality: The pre-eminent classic red variety, thanks to its complexity, majestic structure, richness, and capacity to age for decades - the Sean Connery of red wines.
Origin: Bordeaux, France, but terrific examples are now produced in virtually every great red wine region of the world.
Aroma, flavour, and texture: Similar to merlot, only bigger, deeper, more intense, and powerful. Watch out, though, for poorly made, cheap cabernet sauvignon, which can be dank and weedy.
Cost: Moderate ( 15) to expensive ( 75); plan to spend at least 25 for a very good bottle.
Try it with: Grilled steak (cabernet and grilled steak are considered a classic American pairing) and roast beef.
Personality: Thick and jammy, like blackberries simmering.
Origin: Croatia, though virtually all of the top zinfandels are now grown in northern California.
Aroma, flavour, and texture: Like a big boysenberry pie with vanilla ice cream - full bodied, mouth filling, and flannel soft.
Cost: 12 to 30.
Try it with: Meat loaf, barbecued ribs, burgers, bean and vegetable casseroles, or pot roast. Open a bottle with Chipotle Barbecue Burgers with Slaw.
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