The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Winterizing Your Wine Collection

Posted on | September 16, 2015 | Written by Emery Long | No Comments

imageTrading skyscrapers for alpine mountaintops, the humidity from the Atlantic ocean for crisp, dry air, I’ve discovered that Italian Wine Merchants Aspen is a stark contrast to its New York City counterpart, and I’ve had to learn tricks for keeping wines safe in cold temperatures and mountainous settings.

A collector in a high-altitude alpine setting will find there is an entirely different set of pitfalls and triumphs when storing wine. With a landscape reminiscent of Italy’s Alto-Adige region, Aspen boasts over 300 days of sunshine and also gets over 500 inches of snow each winter, creating the perfect setting for the tradition of Après-ski. Although it’s only mid-September, Aspen is already bustling with winter anticipation and I’ll be tuning you up on some tips to keep your wine prime in the face of winter 2016.

One of the issues is the arid climate of the Rocky Mountains. It is so dry out here that on any given day after my morning shower my towel is dry by the time my coffee is finished dripping. Ideally, wine is stored at a humidity of 60-80%, but on average, at 7,908 feet Aspen has an average humidity of 25%. This poses a huge threat to the wine cork, slowly dehydrating and shrinking it over time, allowing for airflow and foreign bacteria to seep in. Over a short aging window of about five years, the cork and wine probably won’t be affected, but many collectors keep wines for decades. For serious collections projected to age throughout a lifetime, I would of course urge collectors to outfit cellars appropriately to prevent temperature fluctuation.

Picture this: A beautiful day of skiing in Aspen, with sunshine in the morning, often followed by a dramatic change in weather. Heavy sheets of blanketing snow cover the stale, carved snow from the previous day and temperatures start to plummet. You might huddle in the lodge until the storm settles or the mountain closes, but the wine you carefully selected for the evenings occasion sits in the trunk of your automobile (which is an awful place for wine because the vibrations from the car will jostle and interrupt flavor). With temperatures colder then most commercial freezers, over night, your 2001 Brunello Riserva has dropped below optimal storage temperature and is on its way to becoming what could be the most expensive slushie known to humankind.

You can prevent this by careful planning or by installing wine storage equipment, which isn’t actually that challenging. Wine, containing alcohol, freezes at a slower rate than water (wine freezes at a difference of 10 degrees with wine at 22 degrees Fahrenheit and water at 32 degrees). If the wine freezes, it will slightly expand, potentially pushing out the cork, or worse, shattering the bottle creating a huge mess. It will also ruin the structure of the wine and deem it undrinkable, whether bottles of red, white, or sparkling. However, unless the wine freezes completely solid, it will only slow down the aging and maturing of wine in bottle as well as delay the time until enjoyment.

photoWhen you bring a wine in from the cold, you need to take care in bringing the wine to its appropriate and prescribed temperature. It might take a long time, but shocking or jolting the wine inside the bottle could make mute your wine’s flavors, or worse, it could warm past its optimal serving temperature. I would suggest using a decanter and leaving the wine at room temperature while you prepare dinner or letting it rest in bottle for another day, relaxing at room temperature until the wine is ready for you to enjoy it.

It’s always important to remember that wine is a living thing, and like all other living things, its lifespan can be cut short by inclement weather or inhospitable environments. Treat your wine with care, no matter where you are, and your palate will thank you!

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