Food & Wine

The Basics of Handling Wine

If you’re planning to enjoy some wine at home, there are still a few things you need to know, as well as a few items you will need to have on hand. Let’s discuss the basics of handling wine.

Winsome Wood Kingston "X"-Design Wine Storage CubeWhen you’re bringing home your first bottle of wine, the first question that comes to mind is, how to store the wine? This is especially important if youplan to purchase several bottles to store them over a longer period of time. Even a very small modest collection of wine needs to be stored correctly.


The main principle to keep in mind with regards to wine storage is; wine is best kept in a cool, dry and dark area. So even somewhere as simple as a kitchen pantry is the perfect place to store wine. The enemies of wine are light, heat, and vibration. Therefore, keeping your wine exposed on a kitchen counter is certainly a bad idea. This is why I always avoid those mini wine racks sold at the bed and bath stores. As sophisticated as it might look in your living room or your kitchen counter, this is just not the place to store your wine long-term. Perhaps this is also the reason that when I see these wine racks at people’s houses, they’re usually holding an old bottle of cooking wine, or a cheap bottle of wine that was given as a gift.

Sitting out in a warm room exposed to constant light is the quickest way to ruin a good bottle of wine. If you do own one of these wine racks, then a great solution for your wine storage would be to move the rack into the kitchen pantry. This way you have a great way to keep your bottles in a cool, dark, dry environment, and also be able to to keep them organized and lying flat.

You have probably noticed in many high-end wine shops and wine cellars, the bottles are always lying down flat. The reason for this has to do with long-term storage, and more specifically, with the cork. Traditionally, wine bottles are kept lying flat in order to keep the cork moist. If a bottle is standing up, then the cork is not touching the wine, and will be dry; but if the bottle is lying flat, then the wine itself is resting up against the cork, keeping the cork moist.

Why is this important? If the cork is touching air, then it could dry out. When the cork dries out, it can shrink and crumble, and would break the airtight seal that prevents air from getting into the bottle. Not only will the air ruin the wine, but you’re also creating an environment where mold can set in. If you ever hear about a bottle of wine going bad, this is usually the reason. The bottle was usually either exposed to light or heat, causing the wine to go bad; or more often the cork had gone dry giving the wine an aura of wet cardboard.

EdgeStar 53 Bottle Built-In Wine CoolerToday, because of advances in bottling, this is very rare. In fact, bottlers today are leaning towards plastic and rubber corks, or even screw caps, which we’ll talk more about later.

For beginning wine collectors, it’s not critical to store all of your bottles lying down, but if you do have the means to do so, so much the better. A small inexpensive wine rack stored in the kitchen cabinet or a kitchen pantry might be just the thing.

As you grow into a wine connoisseur and collector, you could think about investing in a wine refrigerator. Wine refrigerators come in all shapes and sizes. They can hold as few as six or as many as 100 bottles of wine, and you can keep them all at their correct temperatures. Of course, they range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. So if you find yourself becoming very passionate about wine, this could be the perfect option, but for now your kitchen pantry should do just fine.


When it’s time to take your wines out of storage and serve them, you’ll need to think about their correct temperatures. Of course, there is a general rule for the serving temperatures of red and white wine; white wine is generally served cold, and red wine is generally served at room temperature. Generally speaking, this means that you’ll keep your red wines stored at room temperature until it’s time to serve, and your white wines will be stored in the refrigerator before serving.

As a general rule this works just fine, but as many wine enthusiasts can tell you, this rule is also a little bit flawed. The average room temperature today is not what it was about 100 years ago. Because of modern heating methods, this average is much warmer than it once was. The average room temperature today can be between 68- and 72-degrees Fahrenheit,. This can pose a problem, as it’s recommended that many red wines be served at about 67-degrees or less. Some full-bodied reds are even recommended to be served at 64-degrees, while other reds, like Pinot Noir, are recommended to be served as cool as 39-degrees.

At the other end of the spectrum, most white wines that are kept in the refrigerator are served much too cold. It’s recommended that most dry white wines are to be served between 47- and 50-degrees, but the average refrigerator is kept between 35- and 38-degrees Fahrenheit. While many white wine drinkers like to have their wine cold, most wine experts will agree that drinking white wine too cold will inhibit, and tighten up, most of the flavors.

What to do? I usually employ what I call the ‘15 minute’ rule.

Let’s say that I’m going to be serving both red and white wines with dinner. As I’m preparing the meal, I leave my red wine stored at room temperature in the kitchen pantry, and my white wine will be moved to the refrigerator. About 15 minutes before I’m going to open the bottles, I make the switch. My red wine gets moved into the refrigerator, while my white wine gets taken out of the fridge and moved onto the counter. In about 15 minutes, my bottle of red is ready to come out of the fridge. The bottle or red is now cool to the touch, which tells me the wine inside has also cooled down, and the white wine has warmed up just enough to release its flavors.

I think you’ll find the ‘15 minute’ rule will make a big difference in your enjoyment of wine, and it should spare you about worrying about the exact temperature of every bottle.


So now you’ve got a bottle of wine at the correct temperature, which means it’s time to serve it. At this point you only need two things, a corkscrew and a good wine glass. Corkscrews come in all shapes and sizes, and most of them will do a good job opening your bottles.

A classic screw pull opener is the simplest type of wine opener. It’s shaped like a ‘T’ with the top horizontal part being a piece of wood or plastic with the toll vertical coming down, which is the curly corkscrew part. This piece is generally called the worm. The curly metal part that gets twisted down into the cork is referred to as the worm, or sometimes called an auger. If you hear wine enthusiasts Chrome Finish Winged Corkscrew refer to the worm on the corkscrew, that’s what they’re talking about. This basic screw pull will do just fine opening your bottles, except it’s going to take a little strength pulling the cork from the bottle, and this could lead to spillage.

Another kind of corkscrew is the wing corkscrew. This is that familiar looking corkscrew with the two arms coming out from either side, looking like a guy flapping both arms. While it looks like the simplest corkscrew to use, I always find this one to be a little tricky. For some reason, the worm is never long enough to go all the way down into the cork. Even when I screw it all the way in and I pull down the arms to pull the cork out, I still find myself struggling to pull it all the way out.

Another kind of corkscrew that’s very simple and very inexpensive is called a butler’s corkscrew, and it’s also known as an ‘ah-so’ corkscrew which I assume gets its name because you look at it and you can’t figure out how it works. And then when you see it, you say, “ah, so that’s how it works.” (Don’t blame me, I didn’t make that up.) It’s essentially a handle with two metal tongs that should slide down the sides of the cork, so if you twist it and jimmy it enough, you can sort of wiggle the cork out. It’s another way to do it, but again not my favorite.

True Fabrications Wood Professional CorkscrewThe one that I always stick to is called the waiter’s corkscrew. It looks a little bit like a Swiss army knife, but instead of pulling out a knife and a scissor and a toothpick, this one reveals a corkscrew with a bottle opener on one end and usually a small knife on the other end. The knife is used to cut around the edge of the bottle top to cut away any of the plastic seal. The worm part is then used obviously, to twist down the center of the cork. Then the bottle opener, top you should find will rest right at the edge of the top of the bottle which now gives you some leverage when you want to pull the cork out. The better waiter’s corkscrews usually have two notches on the bottle opening part so that once you’ve raised the cork out, you can then adjust, and then rest the second notch on the top of the bottle to pull the rest of the cork out. This is always my favorite kind of corkscrew, and I never have any problems using it.

Other types of corkscrews involve a CO2 cartridge and a needle. Simply plunging the needle down into the cork, and then releasing the CO2 gas will release the cork. Then, of course, I’ve seen much large contraptions. One, in particular, looks like a pair of rabbit ears which I never found very easy to use, but for now I think a waiter’s corkscrew will serve you the best, and you can pick these up at most liquor and wine stores.

With your bottle open, and your wine at the correct temperatue, just sit back and enjoy.

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