Kuhlman Cellars Blog
The holidays are a time when giving and receiving can result in a nice stash of wine accumulating in your cellar. If hosting a holiday party, chances are a guest will bring a bottle of wine or Champagne as a thank you gift. Santa may deliver an intriguing bottle of your favorite varietal with a note to not open until Christmas… five years later. Rather than let your yuletide bounty of bottles sit on the kitchen counter, here are some tips for storing the gift of wine all year long.
Only 1% of the world’s wines are meant for “long term” storage. The other 99% is meant for consumption between immediate and up to 10 years. During that time, the way a wine is stored can help preserve the integrity of the product and encourage the long-term chemical reactions happening inside improving it with age.
Wines biggest ‘frenemy’ is Oxygen. Oxygen allows wine to ‘open’ when uncorked, allowing a wide range of aromatics and flavors to emerge. Prematurely introducing oxygen for long spans of time degrades and ‘spoils’ the wine. Wines with a high level of natural acidity help slow the oxidation process. . When you cut open an apple, the flesh begins to brown very quickly due to oxidation. Wine undergoes a similar ‘browning’. High natural acidity in wine helps slow the oxidation process much like lemon juice stops oxidation in fruit.
Tannin levels also help prevent oxidation. Tannins act like a “shock absorber” to process oxygen in a way that allows other chemical complexities to not bear the full brunt of exposure. Tannins are primarily gained from extended contact with the seeds of the grape and barrel aging. Storing wine properly allows tannin chains to be “used up” or broken, giving aged wine a softer, more nuanced body. White wines do not have the same exposure to the seeds and barrel age resulting in low tannins and a generally a poor candidate for long term storage. Try to consume white wines within three years of the date on the bottle for best results.
Every collector dreams of stepping into a stone-walled underground cellar lined with cedar racks nestling bottles like sleeping baby bats in a cave. Sadly, this romantic version of the perfect cellar is simply not reality for everyday urban living. A functional, practical cellar for storing wine can be incorporated into any home. These four simple rules will help save your wines from spoilage:
Find a cool place: Ideally wines should be cellared at 65 degrees. But here in Texas, following the rule of not exceeding 75 degrees is more practical. Find a spot that provides a stable temperature level and avoid wild heating and cooling fluctuations. Wines stored in excess of 80 degrees can ‘bake’ in the bottle causing heat damage.
Find a dark place: UV light rays are damaging to wine. Find a shaded space away from direct sunlight. Green or brown or bottles act as a UV filter, but prolonged UV exposure will harm the liquid in the bottle.
Bad Vibes: There are tens of thousands of complex chemical reactions happening in a single bottle of wine. Vibrations can speed up or deter these reactions from happening. Keep your wine collection away from heavy machinery like washers and driers, climate control systems and vehicles.
Going Sideways: Bottles should be stored on their side to maintain contact between the liquid and natural cork. Because cork is porous, it can contract when dry and allow unwanted oxygen into the bottle. For this same reason, don’t allow corks to dry out. Keep your wine in a place where fresh, humid air can maintain the natural sponginess of cork.
Navigating the Wine Aisle
One item not on the label of a bottle is how long it should be stored for. Price point can be an indicator of how long a wine can sit before consumption. The majority of wines that price under $30 are meant to be drunk within 1-5 years after the vintage date. Wines between $30 to $100 are meant to age for 5-10 years of the vintage date, though there are many exceptions. The quality of the bottle and cork can offer subtle insight as to whether the winemaker chose to invest in the longevity of the juice.
Keep in mind that long term aging is not a benchmark for quality. Many highly praised wines are not meant to age past 10-20 years; the chemical composition simply does not hold up over time. The lack of prolonged cellaring possibilities does not impact the quality of a wine consumed within its proper stored lifetime.
National magazines and wine websites often note wines with the potential for long-term storage. When looking for a wine gift (or a gift for yourself) with delayed gratification in mind, consult these resources so you can buy now and enjoy later. If you are looking to shop for local this holiday season consult The Texas Wine Journal for guidance with Texas grown and produced wines. The Journal offers ratings and descriptions compiled from a panel of professional sommeliers after tasting the wines blindly by category. You can find more information about the journal at TexasWineJournal.org. Happy Holidays and safe imbibing!
Kuhlman Wines that are expected to age:
2012 Merlot: expected to show improvement for 5+ years, assess the progress in 2017
2012 Texas Red: expected show improvement for 5+ years, assess the progress in 2017
2012 Barranca: expected to age gracefully from 5-10 years
2012 KanKar: expected to age gracefully from 5-10 years
Dining out; I venture to guess that this innocuous phrase just evoked a passionate and well rendered memory of your last restaurant experience (for better or worse). Meticulously designed ambience, well-seasoned service professionals and carefully constructed plates of culinary artistry are elements of the dining experience leaving diners elated- or infuriated when confronted with even the slightest missteps.
A well paired bottle of wine is the great diplomat of your culinary adventure.
As wine ages it endures pubescent awkward phases, breathes and undergoes a metamorphosis in the bottle, or glass, of Kafkaesque proportions. These complex changes give us a wine experience most often rewarding, but it is not uncommon that wine presents flaws. As a consumer you should not drink ‘bad’ wine and have the right to address issues of a detectable flaw with the Sommelier, server or retailer in exchange for an unaffected bottle.
In a professional setting the server or sommelier will present the bottle prior to opening it. Check the label to ensure it matches the selection from the wine list with attention to the vintage-if it is not what you ordered, ask for an explanation. Upon opening the bottle, a small sample should be poured (1-2oz) and this is your opportunity to examine the integrity of the wine.
Listed below are several of the most common flaws:
Corked wine is the most common flaw presented to consumers. As early as a decade ago it was estimated 10-15% of natural cork was affected by the presence of a compound generated by mold found growing on wood (cork trees) known as Trichloroanisole (TCA). While that percentage has improved in recent years, the problem persists. When the TCA infected cork is in contact with wine it taints the product.
How to identify: Did you sniff the cork? I’ve handled thousands of corks pulled from intensely flawed bottles only to find that cork smells like…cork. Smell the wine! When opened and in contact with Oxygen the wine will present a dank moldy smell similar to moldy wet cardboard or newspaper. The musty characteristic will be found on the palate as well and the fruit will be diminished.
Few wines are meant for long term aging. After time, exposure to oxygen begins to degrade the juice creating a chemical breakdown. This applies to wine both opened and unopened. White wines will appear ‘orange’ in color when too old. Red wines are more conducive to age, and older red wines will take on a ‘brickish’ hue. Opened wines begin the quick descent and begin to show degradation in an average of 3 days.
How to Identify: Examine the color for hints of cloudiness or orange haze. The fruit characteristic of the wine has become unpleasantly sharp much like sucking on a penny or the taste of blood.
Wine has a delicate constitution and will become flawed if not properly stored. Ideally wines should be stored between 50-60 degrees. Exposure to high temperatures can destroy the composition of a wine in as little as 15 minutes.
How to identify: Liquids expand when heated. The pressure of heated air can cause the cork to begin to push up out of the bottle creating a detectable ‘bump’ between the cork and bottle neck. The cork itself will show veins of wine staining from the bottom. The juice will take on an unpleasant ‘tangy’ note like canned or cooked fruit. It can create a heavy and one dimensional effect to the feel of the wine on the palate.
Trust your instincts, particularly when you are familiar with the wine in question. Life is simply too short to drink bad wine!
Kuhlman wines are now available at several locations in Austin, Houston and San Antonio. We thank these amazing venues for supporting Texas Agriculture and look forward to bringing wine closer to you!
Dai Due-2406 Manor Road, Austin TX. 78722
Cripple Creek & Company- 928 Main Street, Bastrop, TX 78602
Cured- 306 Pearl Parkway #101, San Antonio, TX 78215
Bohanan’s Prime Steak & Seafood- 219 East Houston Street, San Antonio, TX 78205
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa- 23808 Resort Parkway, San Antonio, TX 78261
Houston Wine Merchant- 2646 S. Shepherd Dr., Houston, TX 77098
When I was a girl, my grandmother and I spent hours around her kitchen table plotting our holiday activities and indulging in the warm sweetness of freshly baked sugar cookies. During the long holiday season in Michigan, few things evoked the excitement of Christmas more than the crisp flinty smell of freshly fallen snow. My grandmother would dress me in layers of cold protection and send me out to forage for a bucket of pure snowflakes to make my holiday favorite; Snow Ice Cream. With a simple recipe of condensed milk and vanilla extract, she brought my seasonal delight to life with a wave of familiar and comforting vanilla.
Carefully un-wrapping me from my shell of wet wool warmed by my breath, winter down and leather mittens she indulged in the sticky sweetness of German Riesling. I would steal sips and swoon at the silky liquid candy. These rituals are still easily brought to mind by comforting smell of a warm winter wool scarf and with every glass of Riesling enjoyed in my adulthood I am transported back to those long holiday afternoons.
What is wine if not a scrapbook for your nose?
Few imbibements engage as many senses as wine. Sight delivers critical information about the age and condition of the wine but regales us with myriad of colors inspiring palettes found in artwork, fashion, and interior design.
We associate familiar sensations and sounds of pouring a glass of wine with celebration and relaxing. The heft of a bottle, the touch of a slender glass stem and the sound of a cork popping all help prepare us to enjoy what we are about to drink.
This leaves us with Taste and Smell, the two most rewarding elements of your wine experience.
The sensation of ‘flavor’ is a synergistic combination of taste and smell. When you cannot smell you taste very differently and in a diminished capacity. Test yourself by chewing a Jelly Bean while your nose is pinched. Can you recognize the flavor? Try it again, but open your nose midway through the process. When do you start to recognize the flavor of watermelon, cherry or black licorice?
I am frequently asked “At what point do you add the other ingredients or flavors to the wine?” The answer is never. The heart of a complex and flavorful wine is a continuous series of complex chemical reactions creating scents unique to the wine through the result of fermentation. While individual varietals (grapes) will have commonalities, the conditions in which it is grown and the winemaker’s process will influence the resulting flavor profiles. Your own personal body chemistry also plays a role in how you perceive these scents, which makes this process subjective by definition.
How do you develop the ability to find these scents and flavors? Wine is the ultimate example of Scent-Memory.
Sommeliers have made careers of waxing poetic about the dozens of unique flavors found in a singular glass. But, it is each individual’s ‘scent-memory’ that drives our understanding of wine. Recent Research has shown when areas of the brain connected to memory are damaged, the ability to identify smells is actually impaired. Let the process come naturally and try to ‘remember’ what you smell: a watermelon Jolly Rancher, a slice of Mom’s famous Cherry Pie or a new pair of leather boots. Open up a spice rack and put a name to those familiar warm smells. There is no wrong answer when it comes to describing the flavor of wine, never let anyone tell you what you perceive is incorrect.
The most important aspect of wine is simply enjoying it. During this season of Celebration, I challenge you to explore your ‘scent-memories’. Celebrate your past while creating the mental map for describing wine flavors yet to be savored. Find your True North wine, your sentimental ‘Grandma’s sweet Riesling’, or make a new memory linking a particular wine to a special time and place. Most importantly enjoy what you drink, don’t drink what you don’t enjoy and bask in the bouquet.
Aromatic Wine Recommendation:
2012 Kuhlman Cellars, Roussanne- This Southern Rhone beauty has found a true sweet spot in Texas. With an aromatic bouquet of honeysuckle and jasmine, the intense stone fruits coat the palate with a honeyed viscosity. The body offers complex herbaceous characteristics and a long finish.
2012 Texas Red (49% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Carignan, 11% Cabernet Franc, 10% Grenache)- With a wonderful nose of baked cherries, sweet baking spices and roses, the body does not fail to wake the palate. Layers of earth, leather and cinnamon balance with the fresh red fruit and supple, fine, tannins.