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Storing and serving wine for the festive season

As the end of year celebrations approach, we start to ask ourselves which bottles of wine we should choose to accompany our Christmas lunch or New Year dinner party, and how do we ensure that they are at their optimum when we serve them. Here are a few tips to remember, and an idea or two of some Christmas gift ideas to put under the tree!

Even if it seems obvious, one of the most important points is to have a cellar, a cupboard or storage system that is practical and accessible. All types of wine rack, wine fridge, shelves or wine crates can be adapted to best suit the space that you have available. What matters the most are the conditions and the way you organise the storage of your wine.

To easily find your chosen wine at the moment you want to serve it, it's good to have some kind of system in place such as storing the wine by colour, region and appellation. It's preferable to store wines that you want to keep ageing in the least accessible places to avoid having to disturb them each time you want to select one of your wines that are ready for drinking now.

You can also choose to put your white wine closer to the ground, where it is cooler and your red wines above them. As a general rule, wine is better stored out of its box, unless it is in a wooden crate. Removing the cardboard box will help avoid passing a smell and taste of cardboard to the wine.


Storage for bottles of wine


Wine bottles are best stored lying on their side, so that the cork is always kept moist. This helps avoid the cork drying and retracting which in turn will let too much air get through to the wine and spoil it.

If your cellar is very humid, you can wrap your bottles around the label with clingfilm to help stop the label from getting mouldy and deteriorating.

What about the best conditions for storing wine? The more constant the temperature the better. Ideally between 10° and 14 °, this will help your wine to age at a normal rate, not too fast and not too slow. In storage places that are not temperature controlled, variations are not too serious a problem as long as the changes in temperature are gradual.

You also need to watch the humidity, which is also a determining factor in how long you can store your wine for. For wines that you want to lay down for a long time, it's best to keep the humidity above 70%. Be careful however about the smell of mould. Think about making some holes to allow a slow and constant circulation of air. To maintain a constant humidity level, there are several easy solutions such as placing some containers filled with water on the ground, wetting the gravel or sand of your cellar, or hanging some damp tea towels. A humidifier is more expensive, but makes your life easier!

Your wine should also be protected from the light as this can cause the wine to age faster. If you store your wine in a wine cooler, it's best to choose one with a windowless door or with an anti-UV window. Vibrations can also reduce the storage time of a wine. For wines stored on the ground, gravel is better than concrete, as is a wine fridge with an anti-vibration function.

So the long awaited moment to serve your wine has arrived. Think about placing your bottles in an upright position a few hours before serving so that any deposits settle at the bottom. Before removing the bottle from its place of storage, you'll need to take account of the difference in temperature with that where you will serve the wine. If they are the same or close, there's no need to handle the wine more than necessary, and you can take it out at the last minute.


Bottles of wine awaiting to be served


The optimal temperature varies with the style of wine and can be found in the wine guides, or given by the wine merchant or winemaker, if it isn't already mentioned on the label. To chill a white wine, whether in a fridge or an ice bucket, make sure that you don't chill it too much or else you will reduce the aromas. To warm a red wine, it's best to do it gradually and avoid placing the wine next to heat sources.

It is also often advised to open a wine a few hours before serving, not just to let it breathe, but also to taste it, giving you the time to choose and prepare another wine should there be a fault.

Decanting can be used for young wines that haven't yet reached optimum maturity or for wines that are still have some gas in them, but it's best to know your wine before doing so, as it can also ruin your wine.

Concerning the order in which to serve your wines, it is often best to go in a crescendo from lighter to fuller wines, but this is not a stone cast rule, because some white wines are perfectly able to come after a red if they are rich in aroma, texture or taste. For that, it is also good to know your wine or to have been given good advice.

If you follow some of these tips, hopefully you'll receive plenty of compliments on the choice of your wine for Christmas, especially if it's a personalised bottle made from your vines! And for those you don't have the space to store wines, not to worry, that is what your local wine merchant is there for!


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