HOW TO PRESERVE WINE to the very last drop!

We all know what it is like to open a really nice bottle of wine for dinner and suddenly – at the end of dinner – there are a few glasses left in the bottle.

What to do?

Drink it?

Yes, but then we feel guilty. We are constantly being bamboozled at the moment that we all drink too much.

Do we care?

Actually… yes!

If it is going to make a difference, we prefer not to have to drink it and definitely NOT to throw it away!

The thing to do is put the cork (any cork will do, as long as it is airtight) back in the bottle and stand the bottle in the DOOR OF THE FRIDGE.

Red wine too!

With red wine, before you finish it off, remember to take the bottle out of the fridge at least half an hour beforehand so that it warms up to room temperature.

What if there is only 1 glass left?

Pour it into a glass, put a piece of “clingfilm” on it. Make sure it is totally airtight. Put it in the fridge.

The fridge will give you a day or two extra to drink it. Wouldn’t it have been a waste to throw it away?!

What about storing bottles before they are opened?

Always keep bottles lying down in a cool, dark place. Well away from fridges, freezers, hot water or central heating systems and pipes.

The back of the shoe cupboard is usually a very good place.

The better quality the wine, the longer it will last, both in the shoe cupboard as well as in the fridge once opened.

The wines at AmandasWines (our wines at a glance) are only of the best quality.

Remember to always buy quality wines. This does not mean they are the most famous or expensive wines.

Please have a look at our website. This link will take you straight to our full wine list.

CORKS, Synthetic corks and Screwcaps

Have you ever wondered about corks, synthetic corks, screwcaps and which is the best to buy? If so, read on!

It is not an easy question and the explanations are varied. So, I thought a little history would help to understand why we are having these current problems with corks which lead to much wine being lost through “cork taint” (Wikipedia explanation).

Firstly, it is generally accepted in the wine world that the best closures are still made from  high quality real cork. However, the price of high quality real cork is currently such that wines which retail for less than £12 per bottle make it financially unrealistic to use them. Wines which need to be laid down for many years will continue to use real, high quality, cork. Their ultimate price is high!

Quality cork at a reasonable price is currently unavailable and alternatives need to be found. The obvious alternative is the high quality synthetic cork.

High quality synthetic corks are similar to real corks in the short term. They look very similar. They are very tactile. They are expensive, but still cheaper than high quality real cork. However, it is becoming clear that they do not stand up well to being laid down for a long periods of time, i.e. 15 years or longer.

The other alternative is screwcaps. Screwcaps have a lot to be said for them once the consumer gets over the fact that you open a bottle of wine like a bottle of pop!

They are easy to use. You can screw the top back on again if the bottle is not finished, and for everyday wines, appear to be the best choice, especially for whites and rosés.

However, screwcaps do not age well. There is no movement of air within the bottle. This means that you can get a whiff of reduction. Reduction is a wine fault which comes about when the wine cannot breathe. It smells like rotten eggs. It is relatively easy to deal with if not too far gone. It just needs airing, or decanting. Leave for 1/2 hour or so and it will go – it disappears into thin air!

The reason behind all this hullabaloo dates back to just after WWII.

The production of cork oak trees comes mainly from a tiny area in the southern part of the Portuguese/Spanish border. It takes about 50 years for a cork oak to produce quality cork. The harvest takes place once every 9 years.

During the years after the war, the worldwide production of wine literally exploded. At first, the producers of cork oak were allowed to cut the bark from a lower area on the tree than was previously allowed before the war. A benchmark of between 30-50 cms above ground level was set under which the quality of the cork is considerably lower. It was allowed for a short period of time to enable the financially crippled producers to meet the demand.

However, wine production continued to increase. Cork producers were, therefore, allowed to cut the cork closer and closer to the base of the tree. The quality of cork suffered.

The Australians were actually the nation who decided that something had to be done about the dire quality of cork. They had spent an enormous amount of money on producing quality wines, only to find that the cork stopper was tainted.They basically invented the screwcap for wine. However, the studies are recent and it is still not clear how long the wine will keep under screwcap.

The French are very much more conservative. Many areas continue to use real cork closures. Many have gone over to high quality synthetic cork closures.

The wines at AmandasWines (our wines at a glance) are mainly under synthetic cork closures but also some are real cork.

Remember to always buy quality wines. This does not mean they are the most famous or expensive wines.

WINE AND YOUR HEALTH

My grandmother always used to say: « A little bit of what you fancy always does you good! »

Well, isn’t it nice to know that this goes for wine too?

There are more and more studies being carried out which prove that moderate wine consumption can actually benefit your health.

They have found that moderate wine drinkers are generally healthier, often live longer, and are less likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes and dementia in old age.

Most of these studies have found that it is red wine that makes this difference.

Why? The answer is in the skins…

The Polyphenols – a natural compound called Resveratrol found in the skins and pips of grapes grown in slightly cooler areas, such as the Loire Valley, form when the plants are under attack from bacteria or fungi.

The plants build a resistance to these fungi and form thicker skins enclosing this wonderful Resveratrol at the same time.

Resveratrol has been found to contain properties pertaining to: anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, blood-sugar-lowering, and other beneficial cardiovascular effects.

In America, this new find is being hailed as a new wonder drug.

In fact, you can buy it in the form of a pill…

A PILL??? Why take a pill when a nice glass of wine would do the trick?

(My grandmother also used to say, “There’s no accounting for taste!”)

Some scientists believe that this is the reason behind the French Paradox. The French eat as much fatty, rich foods as other countries but have a surprisingly low incidence of heart disease.

Now, not all red wines have the benefit of the high proportions of this compound. Some of the newer wines made for easy consumption without food do not have it, or if they do, it is in very low quantities. These wines are hardly more than fermented grape juice.

Choose traditionally made red wines with noticeable tannins. It is the tannins that give the wine high Resveratrol. Tannins are felt by a certain dryness on the middle to the back of the tongue.

(Same as a very strong cup of tea). They should be silky, not too harsh and not totally mask the flavour of the fruit.

To get a good build up of Resveratrol, the wine maker needs to have macerated the wine in the skins for as long as possible. As close as possible to a month’s maceration would be good. Otherwise anything from a week up is standard for good wines.

Choose wines which have been allowed to settle naturally. This creates a small but harmless deposit in the bottom of the bottle. Supermarket wines do not have this as they, the supermarkets, prefer to have chemicals added to diffuse this deposit

Most younger wines, wines up to 3 years, have loads of tannins.

They are consumed by the wine itself over time.

How much time?

That is like asking the length of a piece of string.

It depends main on the vintage, how the wine was raised, the grape variety, and that is not all…

I have several wines which are very strong in tannins including the Cabernet 2005, Mesland-Touraine 2005, Tradition 2004 and others which still have some very silky but noticeable tannins.

These wines’ tannins soften considerably with decanting, or just opening a good 2 hours before consumption. Always decant older wines or just open well in advance if you can.

All good wine merchants should know the answers to any questions you may have concerning this. So, don’t be afraid to ask.

I, too, am here to help you with your questions.

First published April 2011

HOW TO TASTE WINE

Lots of people are on holidays in the Loire Valley and I would like a penny for every wine tasting and explanation as to how to taste and what to look for in wines that I have done over the years.

I would also like a penny for every person who has said “I don’t know anything about wine – but I know what I like!”

We all know more about our own personal taste in wines than we would like to let on.

So, I just wanted to pass on some tips.

The one, very basic tip you need to know, is: if you don’t like it, don’t drink it!

No matter what is written on the label or written up by critics. Your taste may not be the same as theirs.

Also, if you violently dislike a particular type of wine it is probably because you once had a bad experience and don’t want a replay. The stomach remembers bad experiences. Don’t force it!

Sooner or later a time will come when you are open-minded about trying that particular type of wine again. It is all in the mind, you know.

Most people have an idea as to the type of wine they like.

Red? White? or Rosé?

Heavy? Light?

Fruity? Oaky?

Whatever…

Remember that when you “savour” a wine, you do so with:

 ·       Your eyes

  • As soon as you see the bottle appear you know whether you are going to like the wine or not.
  • The bottle shape, colour, size and type – all set your taste buds up… this is before the wine has even been poured into the glass.

Once the wine has been poured, the depth, brilliance and clarity of colour also tell the subconscious whether or not you are going to like it.

 ·       Your nose

  • As soon as you put your nose into the glass your subconscious tells you whether or not you like the smell – and, therefore, the wine.

 ·       Your mouth

  • As soon as you have tasted the wine, your taste buds will be working overtime to try to work out the flavours and if you like the wine.

 Let me give you some more tips.

Once your eyes have sized up the bottle, colour and clarity of the wine, let it be poured slowly into the glass. Everything to do with wine should be done slowly!

Pick up the glass without moving the wine too much. Put your nose well into the glass and smell the wine.

Usually, one nostril is more sensitive to the smell of wine than the other.

Try both alternately until you find your best nostril. Some people need to open their mouth very slightly at this point.

Put the glass back on the table. Give it a very good swirl in the glass (preferably without spilling too much). Smell the wine again. Notice the difference and the way the fruit blossoms and comes to the forefront of your nose and subconscious taste buds.

Take a good mouthful of wine.

Roll it around the whole mouth.

If you are at a wine tasting you can spit into the spittoon provided.

If not, swallow it.

Let the remaining flavours of the wine permeate all around the mouth and up the back nasal tubes.

Ponder the flavours.

Take another good mouthful of the wine.

Roll it around the mouth again.

Try to suck in a little air to bring out more flavours in the wine.

(This is an acquired action but is basically much the same as whistling backwards. If you have never done it before, however, you will probably cough and splutter until you get used to it.)

Ponder the flavours of the wine again.

Search for the flavours of fruit.

If you cannot find any fruit flavours at all, there may be a problem.

Or, the bottle has not been opened for long enough and the wine is still “closed”. Wine should be aired (open the bottle) so that it can “breathe” for a minimum of 30 minutes before consumption. The older or heavier the wine the longer it needs to breathe. It is preferable to decant older wines.

One of the main problems over recent years has been over-oaking. The flavour of oak in a wine which has been aged in oak barrels should give a slight support to the flavour of the fruit. It should never mask the flavour of fruit!

Over-oaked wine tastes like the smell of a wet oak-wood cupboard.

Another flaw to look out for, but which is happening less and less due to screw-tops and synthetic corks, is corked wine (cork taint). This is due to a flaw in the cork if it is made of natural cork. It tastes like you imagine the flavour of cork, or dry wood. It totally kills any natural flavour of wine or fruit. You won’t find the flavour of fruit in a corked wine.

Once you have mastered these basic tasting skills you are well on your way to becoming a true amateur wine lover.

There is much more to learn about wine. However, these basic skills of wine tasting will get you well past the starting block.

First published August 2008