The big chill: Refrigerating wine
This is one of the most frequent wine questions I receive, in one form or another, from folks worrying that refrigeration might spoil their wine, or from people who wonder if it's a good idea to use the fridge as a wine cellar.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with keeping everyday wines in the refrigerator for a few weeks or even months, assuming that you intend to drink them in the reasonably near future.
However, if you want to "cellar" wine for years, hoping to see it improve with age, then the refrigerator is not recommended.
There are several reasons for this advice. First, the refrigerator is really too cold for long-term wine cellaring. Fine, ageworthy wines evolve best at 55F (13C) but simply won't improve at a refrigerator's colder temperatures in the range of 40F (about 5C). Moreover, wines will eventually deteriorate under refrigeration because the cold causes some of the wine's natural acids to precipitate out as insoluble crystals that gather on the cork or the bottom of the bottle. The crystals are unsightly but harmless, but they reveal that the wine's chemistry is changing. Finally, some experts believe that the frequent vibration caused by the refrigerator's motor could also cause the wine to deteriorate or even eventually loosen the cork.
For all these reasons, I consider the refrigerator acceptable for short-term wine storage (up to a few months), but wouldn't recommend it for longer periods.
What's your opinion? There's a lot of theory floating around on this topic, but not much practical experience. If you have actually tried refrigerating wine for long periods (a year or more), I would be very interested in hearing about it. Send me E-mail at email@example.com, and if I get enough interesting replies, I'll summarize them in a future edition. I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note, but I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.
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Two good-value reds
Year in and year out, Cline's basic California Zinfandel - still holding at just under $10 in this market - stands as a benchmark, a good, clean textbook example of the variety. The 1998 is no exception; dark-ruby in color, it breathes ripe berry scents and big, bright mixed-berry flavors with a hint of chocolate and a citric snap, mouth-filling and warm.
Wyndham Estate 1996 South Eastern Australia Bin 444 Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.99)
FOOD MATCH: Both work fine with grilled tenderloins.
Gas or charcoal for your grill?
So, when you're firing up the barbie, what's your choice: Charcoal or gas? That's the topic of this week's Food Lovers' Voting Booth, and we hope you'll drop by to add your opinion to the list. Click to http://www.wineloverspage.com/votebooth/findex.shtml, and cast your vote.
Robert Parker's Wine Advisor & Cellar Manager
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Vol. 2, No. 26, July 17, 2000