Fine Living: Put a Cork in It

 

Written by Mindy Wood in the January 2011 Issue

The more a wine enthusiast learns, the larger their collection grows, often leaving a crowded refrigerator or dark cabinet competing for space. Most people think proper wine storage is costly and the techniques to maintain good wine are complicated, but according to some local experts, it’s easier than you think.

Storing wine is all about control. With the proper materials and equipment, you can achieve the right temperature, humidity and light setting needed for optimal preservation and taste. It’s easy to do this if your home has a cellar just waiting for the perfect wine rack, but with a little effort you can also create the same control above ground in your home.

Dr. Gary Strebel, owner of the award-winning Strebel Creek Vineyard near 122nd and Macarthur, started out as a hobbyist winemaker 14 years ago. When he ran out of room, he decided to rethink his mud room rather than building a wine cellar. “It was a small mud closet near the kitchen, only about four by eight feet. We stripped the area and built some wine racks to go around two walls. Then I installed a split system air conditioner and ran the lines outside to a condenser to cool the room,” he said. “I keep it on the lowest room setting and I store about 500 bottles of wine there.”

While sparkling white wines and dessert wines are often served chilled, red wine is usually served at “room temperature” (no less than 60 degrees) in order to deliver its full flavor. However, storing and serving are two different concepts. Experts agree that both red and white wines should be stored between 50-60 degrees, because even a red wine can simply be set out a couple of hours before serving.

Strebel recommends evaluating wasted space in your home, such as underneath the stairway. “Usually this is unused space, especially with older two-story homes,” he said. “Open the space and install a door, some insulation and a cooler. Keep the space dark because light will cause the wine to deteriorate more quickly. The temperature should be kept between 50 and 60 degrees.”

Jennifer Hodgens agrees. As the sales manager of McCaleb Homes in Edmond, she explains, “A popular design is to build a wine room in the home with a bistro and grotto surrounding the area, but we also build homes with the walk out basement so the wine storage is underground.” They recommend using cedar or redwood to control humidity so the cork won’t mold and as much stone as possible to keep the temperature down.

There’s always technology for those who want to make wine storage a priority without ever lifting a hammer. WineEnthusiast.com is a great place to shop for wine coolers and cabinets that are visually appealing, precisely functional, and offer a lot of storage for very little space. Many of these refrigerated, free standing or installed “wine cellars” hold at least 20 wine bottles at two different temperatures while the “N’Finity Wine Cellar” holds 170 bottles and looks like a sleek side-by-side refrigerator. The prices range from $300 to $3,000.

Accessories abound in many Edmond wine shops, like the “rabbit corkscrew” that lets you open a bottle of wine without exertion and vacuum pumps that allow you to store an opened bottle for days without losing any quality. There are wine cork kits, wine glass racks, sophisticated and chic decanters, as well as special cleaning accessories for the wine enthusiast!

If you’re just beginning to collect wine, keep in mind the general rule is to preserve your wine as you would in an underground cellar: cool, dark, and free of humidity. As you build your collection, your knowledge and tastes will grow. Begin to familiarize yourself with accessories that optimize storage and harness quality control so you’ll be hailed as a connoisseur at your next dinner party.

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