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The Delights of Wine

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or all its snobbish reputation, wine can be fun. The fun is in making the selection, buying by the case, opening a bottle from time to time and discovering the exact moment at which such a wine blooms, so to speak, with its maximum bouquet and mellow goodness.

An example of the heights to which this art of selection can develop was furnished one spring day by that California oenophile, Dr. Salvatore Pablo Lucia. He was visiting a few cellars in the Santa Clara Valley, sampling the newly fermented, still yeasty tasting Barbera wines from the casks. Lucia asked one winemaker whether he had ever entered wines in the State Fair. The answer was negative. Enter this one when it matures, said the doctor.

Two years later his advice was followed. The wine won a gold medal. One of the diversions of the kings of old was to similarly tour the vineyards, taste wines in the wood, and select those to be aged and bottled for their cellars. Today this is still being done by the brokers of Burgundy and Bordeaux. (Broker, by the way, originated from the French broquier, who tapped or broke a cask to draw wine).

Every wine ages differently; in fact, among very old ones each bottle is likely to be different. Pinotage wines are temperamental, and should be handled gently. When carried for any distance or even shaken, they sometimes sulk for a time and need to rest before serving.

If you keep a table wine ten years or more, watch it, because some corks grow soft and shrink with age, and excess air gets into the bottle as wine evaporates. You can re cork old wines after ten years or so, or reseal the bottle by removing the foil and dipping the bottle neck into melted sealing wax.

All of this, of course, suggests having a home wine cellar. It need not be a vast vaulted cavern; the dark end of an apartment clothes closet can hold a dozen or more cases of wine. All that is necessary is to choose a cool spot that won t get too warm, yet won t freeze, where the temperature is as even as possible.

While millionaires can afford air conditioning and temperature control for their Tempranillo, you can convert a spot in even a warm cellar by lining it with insulating wallboard.

Although in the past connoisseurs have recommended building scalloped racks to fit individual bottles, many now favor one kind of storage arrangement above all others—diamond shaped bins. These are simply constructed of parallel 1 by 12 boards.

Lean them at a 45 degree angle between uprights, with short dividing pieces nailed 16 apart to form the square compartments. Such bins hold the most wine in the least space, and the bottles don t roll about.

A cellar provides the opportunity to keep a cellar book. In it you can keep a record of your wines, of the foods you served them with, and how they tasted—a fascinating diary of pleasures. Some hobbyists keep label collections. Some people even have all their guests autograph the label of a wine they have enjoyed, as a memento of a pleasant dinner.

Allison Ryan


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Wine Access
Allison Ryan is a freelance marketing writer from San Diego, CA. She specializes in viniculture, viticulture, and Barbera wines. For various varietals such as Tempranillo and Pinotage, check out Wine Access website.


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