Houston, We Have a Wine-Storage Problem
This is the fifth in our series of "how-to wine" posts. Click here for previous entries.
Photo by Jeremy Parzen What's in your wine rack? And how many temperature fluctuations does it go through each day?
No one has been able to offer a scientific explanation for why the legendary cellars of Bordeaux's châteaux are so perfect for aging wine.
What we do know is that during the winter, temperatures in the underground cellars, which lie a stone's throw from the sea, gently drop. As a result, the wine contracts slightly, as do the corks. It is believed that the minute amount of oxygen that slowly seeps through the cork (an organic, porous mass) subtly oxygenates the wine and that, with the passing of the years, this achingly slow aging process creates unparalleled nuance and complexity in the wine.
Some say that this unquantifiable phenomenon, coupled with the even cooler cellars in the homes of 19th-century British bankers, where the wine would ultimately lie supine, is what gave rise to Bordeaux's legacy as one of the greatest wines in the world.
Languorous temperature fluctuation may be beneficial for expensive wines from France.
But exposure to extreme temperature -- whether hot or cold -- is any wine's and any wine lover's worst enemy. And that's the major problem we face here in Houston when it comes to wine storage.
Unlike arid southwest states like Arizona, where you can easily forecast high temperatures and the consequent storage issues, Texas has wild temperature variation (one of the reasons it's such an ill-suited place to grow fine wine grapes).
After you purchase wine and manage to bring it home safely (a task that can prove challenging in the Houston summer, when too many people "cook" their wine in the trunks of their cars), you have to keep in mind that simply placing it in a rack in your home kitchen can be the worst possible storage solution. Even with air conditioning, temperatures will fluctuate wildly during summer. Just think of how hot the kitchen gets at 6 p.m. on a sultry July evening when all the burners are on high on the stove top.
This story continues on the next page.