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Wine Basics; How to Store and Serve

Pouring red wine

Wine Basics

Correct Wine Storage

Rules and Tips for Wine Storage

  1. Unopened
  2. Opened

Serving Wine

  1. Wine Serving Temperatures
  2. Do’s and don’ts for Serving Wine

 

Wine is a massive seller at Christmas and so it’s vital that businesses are fully prepared; understanding the basic principles for successfully storing and serving wine.

Bars are stocked up and ready to lubricate revellers whether in a restaurant during meals or in pubs and bars where people are out to socialise and enjoy the festive atmosphere. But are recommended conditions being observed when it comes to wine storage?

Wine is a delicate thing and any fluctuation in storage environments could mean that a good selection of reds, whites, roses and sparkling wines is compromised. Getting it right is essential to ensure wine success. Whatever the customers wine penchant, it’s vital to understand and implement correct storage and service to make sure guests get the quality they’re looking for.

Wine Basics

Everyone knows that, in the broadest terms, wines can be categorised into whites, reds, roses and sparkling. These umbrella terms are separated further, for example full, light or medium bodied and sweet or dry. Within these sections, wines can then be pin-pointed to the variety of grape used, each having their own characteristics and flavor profiles.Grapes and wine

It is a common misconception that the colour of the wine is dependent on the colour of the grape used. This is not the case. Some white wines are actually made from red grapes and red wines with white grapes. The deciding factor for the final colour is, in fact, whether the skin is left on the grape or not.

White wines such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Reisling are created using grapes with no skin. Red wines including Merlot, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are fermented with the skins. Roses such as Grenache, Sangiovese, White Zinfandel and White Merlot use some grape skin but not enough to make it red. Sparkling wines including Champagne, Prosecco and Cava are fermented using skinless grapes however will undergo a secondary fermentation to create the signature bubbles.

Grapes will thrive and prosper in different environmental conditions therefore certain varieties will grow better in certain countries. Each type and origin of grape will account for the nuances in taste, aroma, texture and body. This is why some wine lovers will prefer an Italian wine to a French wine or a South African bottle to a bottle from New Zealand. Understanding and appreciating the different characteristics and how they can complement and influence tastes and flavours will ultimately facilitate successful food pairings.

Correct Wine Storage

Wine is a complex thing; whilst not everyone wants to reach master sommelier status, they do need to arm themselves with enough knowledge to determine what makes wine good or bad. Bar staff may not need to know all of the intricacies but it is essential to understand how the correct storage conditions can get the most out of a wine menu.

All wine can be stored together in the same conditions whether red or white. Each type however will require different temperatures shortly prior to service in order to achieve perfect results and maintain optimum freshness. The storage conditions will impact taste, texture, aroma and freshness; things that you don’t have to be an expert to appreciate.

If unopened and stored in correct conditions, wines will generally last up to 3 years however this is dependent on the type of grape used during the fermentation process; some getting better the longer they are left to age and mature.

Whether a bottle has been opened or not will influence recommended storage conditions. Once wine is unsealed chemical reactions can occur as air gets into the bottle.

Vestfrost FZ295W Wine Cooler

This reaction is called oxidation. Whilst thought to initially enhance the characteristics of certain wines it can quickly take a turn for the worse and ruin the entire bottle, altering and detracting from the delicate flavour and aroma. As wine is poured there is more space in the bottle for oxygen meaning the possibility for oxidation is increased.

Top Tip: Try decanting wine into a smaller receptacle to reduce the amount of oxygen in the bottle and seal appropriately.

Chilling opened wine will slow down this chemical reaction and increase shelf life, vital for maximising profits. Chilling is recommended for all wine. If correctly stored and adequately sealed with a cork or stopper red, white or rose wines, once open, could last up to 5-7 days depending on type. Sparkling wines however, will lose carbonation and ‘go flat’ once unsealed so will have a shorter lifespan; a bottle of bubbles with no bubble won’t go down well.

Investing in a suitable commercial wine fridge will guarantee that precision conditions are easy to achieve and more importantly, maintain. Available as compact undercounter units, tall uprights for businesses that need extra storage and dual temperature models to account for reds and whites, roses and sparkling, the best model for any business requirement can be found.

Rules for Wine Storage (unopened)

Keep It Cool and Consistent

All unopened wine should be stored in consistent cool temperatures, generally advised somewhere around 12°C. Bottles can then be transferred to a wine cooler, the temperatures adjusted accordingly just prior to service, either chilling further or allowing to acclimatise depending on the type of wine.

Humidity is Key

Wine bottles need humidity, typically around the 70% mark, as it prevents corks from drying out. Unlike standard commercial refrigeration that only controls temperature, wine chillers also accurately control humidity to achieve an optimum storage environment.

Keep Away from Direct Light

Ever wondered why wine cellars are dark or wine bottles are made of dark glass? During storage, wine doesn’t like light as it can accelerate the aging process. Gloomy cellars and darkened glass have their purpose, aiming to block out as much light as possible. This aversion to the light also explains why bottles are often stored in crates or boxes or even wrapped in cloth. Light can also be a source of heat, gently altering temperatures; even though only slight this could be enough to have an effect on the end result.

Lay it Down

Storing bottles on their side distributes the wine so that it is always in contact with the cork. This prevents the cork from drying out and potentially letting air into the bottle where oxidation can occur. Bottles should be rested for a short period prior to service in an upright position to allow sediment to settle. Arguably screw tops don’t need to lie down during storage as there is no cork to keep moist.

Minimise Disruption

Once bottles are in position try not to move wine unnecessarily. The repeated movement of bottles, even vibrations from surrounding equipment can have an impact on the end result. Agitation could cause premature ageing, disturbing the sediment and potentially affecting the flavor and aroma.

Wine bottles in storage

Tips for Wine Storage (opened)

Keep it Stoppered

Once a bottle is opened it is inevitable that oxygen will have contact with the wine however a well fitted stopper can keep as much out as possible, slowing down oxidation and keeping wine fresher for longer.

Keep it Cool

All opened wine should be kept refrigerated, slowing down the chemical reactions and oxidation that can ruin wine. Red wine could be seen as the exception. It is served at a higher temperature to whites and roses, meaning that keeping it in the chiller isn’t viable. The correct serving temperature needs to be maintained during opening hours when it might be needed, only being refrigerated overnight if necessary. The bottle can then be brought back up to the correct serving temperature in the morning.

Keep it Separate

Never store wine, opened or unopened, with pungent foods such as garlic, onions or spices. The strong flavours and smells can penetrate through the cork, infusing and tainting wine with alien tastes and odours.

Serving Wine

Approximate wine serving temperatures

 

Wine Type Recommended Serving Temperature
Whites and Roses 8°C – 15°C
Reds 12°C – 19°C
Sparkling  8°C – 10°C

 

Do’s and Don’ts for Serving Wine

DO: Rotate the bottle at the end of pouring to prevent dripping.
DON’T: Serve wine from a leaking bottle. This could mean that the cork isn’t effectively sealing, allowing air to get in causing potential oxidation.
DO: Inspect bottles and wine before serving to the customer.
DON’T: Serve wine that is cloudy or appears to have bubbles (when it isn’t sparkling). This could be a sign of re-fermentation that will affect the quality of the final product.
DO: Pour the wine up to the curve of the glass.
DON’T: Serve wine that tastes ‘off’. This could potentially signal that oxidation has occurred.

 

Hone the basics of wine storage and serving and make sure that your wine is always in optimal condition.

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