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The Beverage Alcohol Report
Vol 2.1 – January 2005

Several of you have sent some great questions my way so this edition of The BAR is dedicated to sharing a few of these.  Keep the questions coming - you probably aren’t the only one thinking it and I get to learn a lot myself!

How long can I keep an unopened bottle of wine?
It varies depending on the variety, the vintage and the quality. However, the majority of the wine sold in the United States is meant to be drunk within a year.  There really is very little selection of wine that needs to be cellared.  Even wine that would typically need some time to age is not released by the producer until it is ready or very close to being ready to drink.  The main concern to keeping any bottle of wine is proper storage. Keep wines in a cool, dark place.  Decorative wine racks add a nice touch to dining rooms or kitchen counters but are not really wine friendly as people tend to sit them near radiators where there is fluctuation in the temperature, in direct sunlight or where general movement can vibrate the bottles and disturb the wine. Keep your unopened bottles “hidden” and when you have finished a bottle, carefully fill it with water, recork it and store it on the rack for decoration and for the remembrance of a good time.  A rule of thumb - on average, red wines will last longer than whites, but most of the wine on the shelves is only good for up to a year.

How long do I keep an open bottle of wine?
Oxygen is both a wine’s friend and foe.  Red wines need air to mellow out the tannins but too much oxygen and the wine will begin to spoil.  Of course, my opinion is that if you open a bottle of wine, you should drink it.  But as I understand it, sometimes this isn’t possible.  So what do you with an open bottle?  There are several devices on the market that supposedly help preserve the wine. These include various types of vacuum pumps and inert gas cans (Private Reserve).  I have polled several people and there is no consistency with these products, each person I ask seems to have their own opinion. Outside of these devices, you can also transfer the wine into a smaller bottle and recork it.  What you are trying to achieve is minimal air exposure.  Always store un-drunk wine in the fridge (red, fortified and herbal wines included) as this helps to slow the oxidation process and drink the wine within a few days.  Normally red wines hold better than whites but since sugar and acidity act as natural preservatives, whites tend to sit better in the fridge after they have been opened.

What do I do with left over wine?
Well, you can store it like discussed above and then drink it or you can “make more memories.”  One year I purchased some mere de vinegar (mother of vinegar) and made Liana’s vinaigrette.  Vinegar mother comes in both a red and a white variety.  I had two vessels; red and white; and in them I put a little of every bottle I opened.  I purchased decorative glass cruets, fresh herbs and spools of ribbon. I added a small note referring to a time I had drank some wine with a particular person during the year and voila - personal Christmas presents. Of course you can just keep your wine, let it turn to vinegar on its own and dress your dinner salads.

How much do I need to spend on a bottle of wine?
The answer relies on your budget.  But if money weren’t the issue, I would still say no more than $10-15. Of course there are some great choices that do cost more but for everyday drinking or light entertaining, you can definitely stay close to that range.   Like any other commodity, the price of wine is determined by the cost to make it, advertise it and what the overall market is driving. Don’t be fooled by high price wines, they just may not be worth it.  This is where your favorite wine magazine or Internet site is important to help you with some research.  How much you spend on a bottle of wine also depends on what are your tastes.   It really doesn’t matter if you spend under $10 or upwards of $50, buy and drink what you like - that is what is important.

What is corked wine?
Although this is fairly uncommon, only about 1% of wines are affected, corked wine is talked about a lot. And rightfully so as once you experience a corked wine, you’ll never forget it. It is generally caused by a compound called TCA (tricholoroanisole) and occurs when chlorine has been used to clean natural corks or from musty barrels. Cheaper wines tend to be affected more as some wineries will use less expensive cork or use cheaper means to clean the winery. You can tell a corked wine by its musty and woody aroma. There is a lack of fruit smell to the wine along with a bitter, cardboard taste. This is one fault in the wine that if you find it, you’ll know it.  Just be careful, if you find bits of cork floating in the bottle or glass, this does not mean that the wine is faulted; it just means the cork just got too wet or dry and fell apart. If you get a corked bottle, return it to the store or send it back at the restaurant.

Are there a lot of calories in wine?
On average, wine has 25 calories per ounce.  A typical serving is 6-8 oz.  Thus a glass of wine contains about 175 calories.  Alcohol is the largest contributor to those calories although some of them do come from the actual grapes used in the production.  Logistically, drier wines have fewer calories than sweeter choices and lower alcohol wines have less than higher percentages.   The United States Department of Agriculture says that 100 grams of “table wine” (12.2 percent alcohol by volume) has 85 calories while 100 grams of “dessert wine” (18.8 percent alcohol by volume) has 135 calories. A simple way to determine the number of calories in a glass of wine is to multiply the percentage of alcohol (found on the label) by the number of ounces in the glass and multiply that by 1.6.
(Note: I would like to extend my sincere apologies to Lisa Shea of I neglected to credit her as the originator of the wine calorie calculator in the January 2005 / Vol 2.1 edition. I regret any upset this has caused.)

What is a “Bin number” on Australian wines?
Bin numbers are found on Australian and some New Zealand Wines. Australian wineries used to store their wines in numbered compartments called ‘bins’ and they just started to name the wines after them.  Since this became a standard on the Australian wines, the numbers were just made up.  Some wineries do code their products according to variety or style, but for the most part, they don’t mean too much any more.

The Beverage Alcohol Report (The BAR) is published on a monthly basis compliments of Liana Bennett.  It main purpose is to further the knowledge, appreciation and general enjoyment of all alcoholic beverages.  Your comments, questions and tasting stories can be sent to [email protected] .  Please feel free to share this e-newsletter with your friends or forward their email address to Liana to be added to the list. Thank you and of course, I hope you have enjoyed The BAR and have learned something new! 



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