COOL stuff

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 May, 2012, 12:00am


Wine is so sensitive that it doesn't like being bottled. It can close down temporarily, immediately after the stress of being moved from its barrel or tank - the so-called 'bottle shock'.

It isn't flight-friendly, either - it is recommended to rest a bottle for three weeks before opening upon arrival at a destination. It also hates sitting around at container ports under the bright midday sun, and it loathes standing up beneath supermarket fluorescent lighting.

In these days of squeaky-clean winemaking, in which increasing numbers of bottles have screw caps and in which the cork industry has cleaned itself up dramatically, the single most likely cause of wine spoilage is compromised storage - and that includes domestic storage.

Do you keep your wine on the counter top in the kitchen? Oh no!

In the worst case, says Debra Meiburg, master of wine, wine can be stored under the bed, where the mattress helps to provide some insulation against the summer heat. Indeed, the late Barry Burton, chairman of the Hong Kong Wine Society for more than a quarter of a century, used to keep his cases of first growths just there - though his apartment was air conditioned for 24 hours a day.

Wine likes the place that best mirrors the traditional European underground wine cellar, where lighting conditions are dim, the temperature is cool and consistent (12 to 14 degrees Celsius), and there is sufficient humidity (65 to 80 per cent) to prevent the drying out of corks. These are perfect conditions for not only storing wine but also for ageing it.

Manufacturers of wine fridges have done a great job in providing just such a mirror and, in sizes right down to a convenient desktop, which is especially good for the office. Shelf sizes can vary to accommodate bigger bottles such as those used for Champagne, preventing labels from being damaged, and many models have sturdy wooden pullout shelves. Industry leaders are brands such as Vintec and, in particular, EuroCave, which makes models for quantities from 12 to 470 bottles.

Fridges by EuroCave can be custom-designed with a handsome dark glass door and come in different colours and finishes, making them particularly attractive to have in the home. On the other hand, there are myriad inexpensive models manufactured on the mainland, but it is particularly important in this case to check at purchase about warranty provision. Something that can readily go wrong with cheaper models is the incorrect display of humidity and temperature levels, and they may have a temperature-control function that allows for a fluctuation of more than two degrees, which is less than ideal.

Properly designed wine fridges are also free from vibrations, manufactured without the condenser of domestic fridges, because movement is also an enemy of wine. Wine likes a still, quiet place, which definitely does not include the domestic fridge. The worst place to keep a bottle of Champagne is in the fridge door.

It should be noted that white wine stored in the proper wine fridge will come out a little too warm to drink, and needs to be given an hour or so in the kitchen fridge, or on ice, to bring the temperature down.

Many reds will taste delicious at 14 degrees, even though we usually say that red wine should be consumed at 16 to 18 degrees, but others will need removing earlier to bring up their temperature just a touch, something which happens all too quickly in Hong Kong.