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Storing and serving wine

wine cellar

Storing wine

Ideally, wine should be stored in a cool, dark place with minimal temperature fluctuations and away from vibrations and strong odours. Bottles should be stored on their side in humid conditions to keep the cork moist and prevent air from entering. Screwcap bottles and sparkling wines can be stored upright. The majority of inexpensive wine is intended to be drunk within 6-12 months (reds within 2 years). A cupboard, or under the stairs, are usually suitable storage locations. Storing wine in the kitchen is best avoided. For longer term storage, purpose-designed wine fridges are available which store bottles in perfect conditions.

Serving wine

The correct temperature

Red wine is best served at room temperature (about 18°C). White and rosé wine should be chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving (to 8-10°C). The same applies to champagne and sparkling wine - this is best chilled a little more (to 6-8°C). Light-bodied reds and dry sherry may also be chilled slightly before serving.

Opening a bottle

A foil cutter and a quality corkscrew make it easier to open a bottle of wine. Greater care needs to be taken with sparkling wines. Remove the foil and wire then hold the cork firmly while slowly twisting the bottle. Take care to point the bottle in a safe direction.

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Wine benefits from having time to breathe before serving. As a guide, red wine should be opened an hour beforehand, or poured into a decanter before serving. Older wines and vintage ports may need decanting carefully to leave any sediment behind in the bottle.

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Quality wine glasses will enhance the taste of the wine. Choose tulip-shaped glasses with a slight taper towards the top. Each glass should be filled no more than half full to allow the wine to be swirled around and release the flavour. A standard 75cl bottle will serve 6. Champagne and sparkling wine should be served in flutes to retain the fizz for longer. Glasses should be spotlessly clean. Rinse with hot water only, as traces of detergent will reduce the number of bubbles in champagne and sparkling wine.

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With the greater use of synthetic corks and screwcaps, only a tiny percentage of wines are classed as faulty. If a wine smells musty then it may be 'corked'. If a wine has started to turn brown and smells rather like sherry, it's possible that it's 'oxidised' as a result of incorrect storage - either upright or exposure to too much light.

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