1. How to store your wines and spirits
Check out our tips to store your wines and spirits in the best possible conditions.
Characteristics of a good wine cellar:
Ideally, it should face North-East, to avoid any excessive variation in temperature
Try to avoid the following nuisances:
- Strong smells (vegetables, spices, fuel, cleaning products…)
- Tremors (elevators, roads, railroads…)
- Heat sources (boiler rooms, hot water pipes…)
- Cold drafts
- Bright light exposure
Your cellar has to be cool. A temperature of 10 to 12°C would be ideal, but a few degrees more (or less) are not such a big deal. Only sudden variations in temperatures can be harmful to wines and spirits.
A cellar that’s too cold will slow down the aging process of wines and spirits and might lead to small tartrate crystals appearing inside the bottles. On the contrary, high temperatures will accelerate the aging process of wines and spirits and cause premature aging, dulling their taste.
The best cellars have dirt floors, and a humidity level between 70 and 75% (use a hygrometer to monitor this). Should it ever drop below 40%, there is a high chance of corks deteriorating or even shrinking inside your bottles. When that happens, it ultimately leads to the degradation of the wine. If the humidity level goes beyond 80%, there’s another risk of cork deterioration and mold may appear, which not only causes unpleasant smells but also damages labels. If the humidity level in your cellar gets slightly too high, you can always put some sand or gravel on top of your dirt floor. If it’s too low, do the same thing but add water to the mix from time to time.
Lighting must be as dim as possible. A bright light could affect the color of your wines and spirits. Even though the glass bottle does possess some light-filtering properties, you should never expose your bottles to bright lights (artificial or natural). Ultraviolet rays have a negative impact on the quality and preservation of wines and spirits.
Cooling: air stagnation needs to be avoided. You have to keep your wine cellar cool, but don’t go overboard. The air volume has to be renewed slowly but surely. Quick tip: if there’s not enough air renewal, you can always install a small exhaust fan on your air conditioning system. Put it on the highest setting in summer and the lowest in winter. For wines that you’re going to drink in 2 years or less, simply keep them in a dark and cool area. It’ll be enough.
Storage angle: wine bottles should be stored horizontally. In doing so, you are keeping the cork damp, which guarantees air-tight sealing. Vertical storage should be for transport and short conservation only.
Wines like to lie down, but liquors prefer to stay up, waiting for the perfect occasion to party.
The total cost of your wine cellar will be higher if you’re storing high quality bottles, obviously. Wines that will be stored there for more than 10 years deserve the best treatment, meaning that you will have to watch out for everything: temperature, humidity level, light, noise, cooling… For wines that will be stored between 5 and 10 years, you can opt for less restrictive conditions but you still will have to be wary of a few things, such as:
- Avoiding any thermal shock, so your wines won’t age prematurely.
- Keeping a humidity level of 65% at least, with adequate cooling.
You should also keep the actual space in mind: no need to store too many bottles if you never intend to open them.
For an average wine consumption:
2 bottles per week for a regular wine (stored up to 3 years) = 104 bottles per year
Multiply that by 3 and it gives us 312 bottles for 3 years.
1 bottle per week for a premium wine (stored between 3 and 5 years) = (1 x 52) x 3 = 156 bottles per year, at least.
Which makes a total of 468 bottles.
2. Serving temperatures of wines and spirits
If you want to truly appreciate a wine, it is imperative that you serve it at just the right temperature.
Here are 2 common mistakes:
- Serving red wines at room temperature
- Serving white wines that’s too cold
If you want to fully enjoy the aromas and flavors of your wines, you have to obey two rules when serving. Red wines have to be served at a temperature between 14 and 18°C. As for white or sparkling wines, they have to be served chilled, between 6 and 11°C.
It’s better to choose the lowest serving temperature possible, since the room’s temperature or even your own body heat will already warm up your wine. A wine that’s served at a temperature between 6 and 8°C, in a room around 18°C, will reach 10 to 12°C in about 10 minutes. That’s why you should put a white wine that’s been decanted inside an ice bucket. As for your pitcher of red wine, it should go back to the cellar or kept in a cool place.
A wine has to be slowly brought to the desired temperature. You should never place a white wine in the freezer, for example, since the thermal shock could literally kill the wine.
Some wines get better once they had a chance to breathe (in a pitcher, for young wines), or when they get transferred into a decanter.
If you want to bring out its aromas, drink your Chartreuse on the rocks. Served best:
- Right when you take it out of the fridge (around 5°C)
- When it’s close to cellar temperature (11°C)
Avoid storing your bottles in the freezer, because it might break the structure of the drink.
Chartreuse is traditionally considered to be a digestive, but more and more connoisseurs have started to use it in cocktails.
3. Savoring your wines and spirits
First of all, when choosing a bottle, don’t be ashamed of splurging a bit. That being said, let’s go over some tips together.
The best way to taste a wine is on an empty stomach, or right after a very light meal. Before tasting, avoid smoking, drinking coffee, wearing perfume or brushing your teeth. Our tasting skills are at their best in the morning, when we are hungry. Oh, and if you have the sniffles, wait a few days.
The setting also play a role in creating a proper atmosphere for wine tasting. A brightly lit room would be perfect, as well as white tablecloth, white walls… But, most importantly, you need some peace and quiet, without any distractions.
To clearly distinguish a wine’s aromas, keep your eyes open and stand in a well-lit room. The shape of the glass is also important, as it helps the balance of odorous compounds within the wine. Moreso, every time you try another bottle, make sure to rinse your glass with a little wine from that bottle, or wash it using neutral cleaning solutions.
When tasting wine, it’s better not to alternate between aromatic and non-aromatic wines, or reds and whites (or roses). Wine tasting is a logical progression, starting from wines that are younger, with less aroma or flavor… and slowly going up.
The glass, preferably a wine tasting glass, should not be filled with more than a third of its volume. You should hold it with your thumb and index finger pinching the base and your middle finger under the foot of the glass. Once the wine has been poured, you are ready to evaluate its organoleptic properties in the following order: visual examination, sniff test and taste test.
There are some basic rules to follow when you taste a wine, and a specific order in which to follow them:
- Keep your glass steady and sniff the wine
- Open up the wine by swirling it and sniff again. You can also warm up the glass with your palm a bit.
- Tilt the glass until the wine reaches the rim, hold it up to the light and rub your nose slightly against the rim to take a whiff.
- Swirl the wine a bit harder than before to check for possible issues (smell of vinegar, reduced wine…)
- Take a sip and let the wine gently slide on your tongue to identify all its different flavors, feel its texture and warm it up to smell its aroma through retronasal olfaction.
- Swallow the wine to perceive its pseudo-thermal sensation, as well as its length as it lingers on your palate.
When tasting a Chartreuse, the first thing you need to know is you have to take your time.
You have to choose the right glass. Some people prefer tall glasses, so they can let the liquor breathe as much as needed. Small glasses, such as shot glasses, are not ideal: they won’t let the liquor breathe and its aroma will not reveal itself.
Take a brandy snifter or a small balloon glass, put a big chunk of ice in it and pour some Green Chartreuse on top (it can be Yellow Chartreuse as well). Slowly, with a flick of the wrist, swirl the liquor swirl around the ice to cool it down.
Don’t forget to stick your nose inside the glass, to smell those plants! When your glass is tilted and you’re ready to sniff, position your nose near the top of the rim instead of the bottom part. That way, you’ll be able to better experience the Chartreuse’s many aromas, without being disturbed by the smell of alcohol.
Have a great wine tasting session!