Pair this read with: a glass of Viognier. Viognier is the only grape varietal permitted in the wine-growing region of Condrieu, in France’s famous Rhône Valley. Known for its inviting floral and fruity aromas, Viognier plantings are growing rapidly in the New World wine countries.
Lesson #1: Do not store your wine in your car.
In my (very) young professional days, I insisted on having a “backup” for everything in my car. Backup batteries, backup running shoes, backup outfit — backup wine. On days when I’d get off work late, I wouldn’t be able to drop by my place to change before a party. I’d change at the office instead, hop in my car, and show up at the host’s door with wine in hand. Always a prepared guest. Until one day…
I showed up with my backup wine and the host directed me to place it on the bar, as I’d done many times before. At the bar, I poured myself a glass of it. I took one sip, picked up the bottle and made a beeline for her kitchen sink. Thankfully, I was able to pour it out without being spotted. Not my proudest moment.
So what went wrong? It was springtime in California, probably just 60°F outside. But 60°F outside is 100°+ inside your car when it’s exposed directly to sunlight for over an hour. And admittedly, it had been a second since I last attended a party, so my backup wine had been enduring fluctuating temperatures for over a month. In the daytime, heat caused the wine to expand. In the nighttime, the rapid drop in temperatures caused the wine to contract. During this process, air came into contact with the wine, and oxidization began. The wine started to lose its fresh, fruity flavors, and was on its way to becoming vinegar.
Avoid your own wine fiasco! Here are four basic storage tips to keep in mind:
1. Temperature: Store your wines in a cool place where the temperature is consistent, preferably between 43°F and 60°F. Too much heat, and the fresh, fruity flavors in your wines may become that of "cooked," old fruits: stale and clearly past their best. Too much refrigeration, and the corks may harden and shrink to the point where air sneaks in and oxidation begins.
2. Bottle positioning: Laying your wines horizontally means that liquids are constantly touching the corks. The moisture ensures that the corks remain expanded so air isn't let into the wine through the bottleneck. When a wine is stored vertically and there is air between the liquid and the cork, the cork may shrivel up, letting air in.
3. Vibrations: Avoid exposing your wines to vibrations, including movement from your laundry room to the train tracks outside your apartment. As wines age, some sediment may gather; vibrations may disturb this sediment.
4. Light: Artificial or natural, keep your wines away from light. UV rays can age your wines before their time. Artificial light can change the chemical make-up of the wine and bring about undesirable flavors.
If only one innocent bottle of wine is spared, then I’ve succeeded.