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Five Ways To Use Empty Wine Bottles

August 28th, 2012 No comments

 

I’ll admit it: I go through a lot of wine bottles. I love drinking the wine, but there’s something I really hate about tossing all those bottles in the recycling bin. Luckily, creative people all over the web are one step ahead of me. They’ve found tons of creative ways to transform old wine bottles into cool crafts and works of art. Here are our top five favorite wine bottle projects from around the web:

1. Turn your old wine bottles into backyard tiki torches with a modern flare. From Design Sponge.

 

 

 

 

2. Use a wine bottle to create a feeder that will draw hummingbirds to your backyard. From Allie Makes.

 

 

 

 

3. Turn wine bottles into a gorgeous chandelier for a trendy rustic look. From Oregon Live.

 

 

 

 

4. Cut the bottoms of of your wine bottles to turn them into romantic candle holders. From Emmaline Bride.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Pour paint into cleaned wine bottles to give them the look of expensive enameled pieces. From CBC.

 

Has My Wine Gone Bad?

June 19th, 2012 No comments

If you’ve been drinking wine for a while, you’ve most likely encountered a bottle that has gone bad somewhere along the line.  Unlike wines that simply taste “less-than-good,” bad bottles taste unbelievably bad!  What causes such ruined wine?  Here are a few factors…

bad wine that tastes like vinegar

Image from northof9finewine.blogspot.com

A Bad Cork: Bad corks are the number one cause of “bad” wine.  If stored improperly (upright instead of on its side, or in an environment without much humidity) a bottle’s cork can become too dry.  It can then crumble, exposing the wine to air prematurely.

Air Exposure: Premature exposure to air (often because of bad corks) makes wine go flat and taste weak.  Any air leak will quickly ruin decent wine.  Some people mistakenly think that re-corking a bottle of opened wine will enable it to be preserved as before.  Unless you’re using a wine preservation system similar to the Winekeeper Vintner 3 Bottle Wine Dispenser System, just popping the cork back on will not preserve your wine; the air remaining in the bottle will wreak havoc on your remaining wine.

Warm Storage: If wine has been stored for a lengthy period in heated conditions (direct sunlight, an uncooled storage area, a steamy car trunk, etc.) It can acquire a rubbery, burnt-like taste.  One telltale sign of a bottle that’s been exposed to heat is a cork that leaks a little bit of wine.  If you’re storing wine at home in your cellar, consider investing in a WhisperKOOL XLT 1600 cellar cooling unit that not only regulates temperature, but also humidity!

Past its Prime: If a wine ages too long after it’s reached its maturity, it will begin to taste like vinegar.  Lots of people mistakenly blame vinegar-tasting wine on something that happened during the production process.  Most of the time, however, that vinegar taste simply indicates the wine was stored way past its prime.

So, if you’re storing wine, make sure it is kept out of direct sunlight, stored on its side in a climate-controlled environment (preferably where moisture is also monitored), and consumed close to the time when it reaches its maturity.  Follow these simple steps, and the amount of bad bottles you open in your home will be minimized. Cheers!

Top 5 Wine Storage Mistakes

February 23rd, 2012 No comments

Let’s face it, people make mistakes.  And when it comes to wine storage, a lot of people make innocent mistakes that end up costing them a few (or more!) good bottles of wine.  Here’s how to avoid some common wine storage blunders.

The Top Five Wine Storage Mistakes

Always store wine on its side

The proper way to store wine: on its side! (photo by Jorge Royan)

1. Storing wine upright.  If you store wine with your bottles standing up, the wine does not keep the corks wet, meaning they can dry out, allow excess air inside, and then make the wines taste like vinegar.  It’s easy to buy a case of wine, put it off the the side in the basement (upright) to store later, and forget about it until it’s too late.  Don’t let this happen to you!  Store your wine on its side.

2.  Not controlling temperature.  Gradual changes between the seasons won’t harm wine, but rapid temperature fluctuations–like big, same-day changes–will age wine prematurely.  If your cellar temperatures are all over the map, invest in a WhisperKOOL Extreme 8000ti (a large cellar unit) or another quality wine cooling unit, so your cellar’s temperature stays constant. Read up on proper temperatures for your collection, too.

3. Not controlling humidity.  Corks will shrink if cellars fall below 50% humidity, letting excess air into your bottles (even if they’re properly stored on their sides).  In fact, a humidity level of 70% or 80% is quite good for your wine!  If your cellar is too dry, invest in a humidifier to preserve your precious vino.

4. Sunlight in the cellar.  UV exposure degrades a wine’s organic compounds, making it age too rapidly.

5. Vibration or frequent moves. Keep your wine away from vibrating machinery, and even trucks going by when possible.  Low vibrations can “shake” wine bottles, thus disturbing their sediment and speeding up the aging process.  If using house-shaking, vibrating power tools, its best to use them away from where you store your wine. And don’t move your bottles more than necessary.

By avoiding these errors, you’ll better preserve your wine collection and insure it ages appropriately.  Cheers!

What are Wine Diamonds?

February 21st, 2012 No comments

Ever drink a glass of really good wine and find little crystals at the bottom?  These are “wine diamonds,” not sediment, and they have been helping to preserve your wine!

Potassium hydrogen tartrate is a byproduct of winemaking. In cooking it is known as cream of tartar.

Potassium hydrogen tartrate is a byproduct of winemaking. In cooking, it is known as cream of tartar.

Wine diamonds are, in actuality, potassium bitartrate crystals that sometimes form on a wine bottle’s cork, most often when chilled.  During the winemaking process, itself, they naturally form on the sides of fermentation tanks.  They can be found in both red and white wines, and do not in any way mean that there’s a problem with your wine.  In fact, when present, they help lower the pH, making a hostile environment for many types of bacteria that can spoil wine, helping to preserve wine after fermentation.

The majority of winemakers, however, have gone to great lengths to eliminate these crystals from their bottles.  (Mostly, this is a reaction to complaints about the harmless crystals.)  Very cold stabilization before bottling (usually between 2 or 3 weeks) is a “solution” that brings these tartrate crystals to the fore, allowing them to be easily filtered from the wine which is then warmed back up.

If you do find wine diamonds in your wine, your wine was probably made very naturally, and this is a good thing!  Also note that consuming the crystals will not harm you; these wine tartrate crystals are the very same ingredient in the cream of tartar you used for baking the other day.  They’re also used in a bunch of other foods and nonalcoholic drinks.  It so happens that wineries are the only commercial sources for tartrates, and they often collect and sell wine diamond deposits that form in their tanks.

So, the next time you see a few crystals at the bottom of your wine glass, know that they have occurred naturally, are nontoxic, and that they have helped to preserve your wine.  Cheers!

eSommelier: a New Way to Organize Your Wine Collection

February 16th, 2012 No comments
eSommelier Wine Collection Management System

eSommelier Wine Collection Management System

Technology has certainly been keeping the wine world on its toes!  With the latest wine app releases, to devices with unparalleled scanning, pairing, and locating capabilities, what new wine gadgets will they think of, next?  Here is one that we find quite a catch!  It’s called the eSommelier, and it’s a complete wine collection management system.  Perfect for people with large collections, the eSommelier is an elegant, touch-screen based wine inventory system designed to keep track of the wines you have in your cellar, restaurant, or commercial business.  Featuring a top-of-the-line bar code scanning system and printer, you can easily identify and track every bottle of wine you own.  Gigantic catalogues of wine info and reviews are included, too, and are accessible just by touching the screen.  Measuring 13” x 15” X 6”, the eSommelier can fit just about anywhere.  The hardware (touch screen, printer, scanner, flash drive backup) and software are all included, so eSommelier is ready to run right out of the box.  Plus, you’ll have access to a year’s worth of online updates.  With eSommelier, you can easily view your wine inventory, and be kept informed about when you should start drinking some of your older bottles!  You’ll be able to see wines that have reached their ideal drinking age, be able to view professional tasting notes for each wine, view your cellar’s temperature from anywhere in the world, keep a record of your cellar’s temperature and humidity history, allow guests to view your wine collection, digitally, and much, much more.  For a stylish, easy-to-use, standalone piece of professional equipment, eSommelier is one of the best wine organizational tools we’ve seen recently.   It’ll definitely enhance your collecting experience.

To Cork, Bag, or Seal Another Way?

January 24th, 2012 No comments

In 2011, over 60% of the most popular domestic wine brands were sealed with natural cork.  This statistic comes from the Cork Quality Council, a Napa-based organization.  Based on surveys of A.C. Nielsen data, the executive director of the Quality Cork Council, Peter Weber, claims that there has been “a sharp increase in the sale of wine sealed with cork.”  He further comments that there is “unwavering consumer preference for natural cork” and that there are “emerging problems with alternative closures.”  Although the majority of popular wines in 2011 were sealed with cork, note that a great number of popular wines were also sealed by other means (under 40%)!  And just because a wine is sealed with a cork does not make it “better” than a wine sealed with a screw cap.  The same is true of boxed wine. That said, the top bottles will probably continue to be sealed with natural corks for years to come. Tradition and time-tested methods persist strongly in the wine world!

While these “alternative closures” can pose difficulties (screw caps can trap excess gasses that naturally pass through and out of cork, synthetic corks can become difficult to remove after a few years, traces of plastic that makes contact with the wine can be ingested, etc.), a lot of popular wine is packaged with them.  The natural vs. synthetic cork debate will probably continue for many, many years.

The Rogar Champion Pewter-Plated Wine Opener with Hardwood Handle & Table Stand

The Rogar Champion Pewter-Plated Wine Opener

Why choose natural cork?  Possibly because of tradition, to take home a cork as “souvenir” of a meal or special occasion, to remember a particular wine, to use in a craft project, etc. Cork is also a renewable resource, and, of course, biodegradeable.

Why choose screw caps or boxes?  For convenience; if you’re on the go, no corkscrew is needed, and bottles can easily be capped to prevent spillage.  Boxed wine will “keep” on a trip, and it pours easily.

What works best for long-term storage?  Not boxed wine.  (If your box has a “boxed on” date, you should drink it within a year of that date.)  Screw caps or corks?  The verdict is still out, and even the experts cannot agree.  This usually means you’re pretty safe either way.  To solve the “hard to open” issue, if you’re opening a corked wine, no matter what the “cork” is made of, try using a Rogar Champion pewter-plated wine opener. This elegant, timeless piece makes opening any wine a breeze.  You can uncork (and even recork) a wine bottle in under a second.  No matter the material of your cork, a good opener like this is nice to have on hand.  Corks of some material will likely be a part of the future of most wine for many, many years.

What are your thoughts? Do you buy “alternatively sealed” wines? Would you ever consider them for aging, or are they strictly “table wine”?

When the Lights Go Out: Keeping Your Wine Safe in Hurricanes & Other Power Outages

August 31st, 2011 No comments

Road Damage from Hurricane Irene (image from iBerkshires.com)

Residents of the East Coast recently experienced the wrath of Hurricane Irene.  For the fortunate individuals who did not incur serious property damage and flooding, there were other issues to contend with: power outages.  Some storms can leave areas without power for days, meaning your wine cooling units will not operate.  And who wants to see a multi-thousand dollar investment ruined because of a power outage?  Aside from hooking your wine cooling units up to a generator, which is an option only if your personal survival is not dependent upon the same generator, there are a few things you can do to keep your wine safe (if you can still access your cellar!)  If you own a wine cabinet, like the Vinotheque Wine Reservoir, or a  N’Finity two temperature cooling unit, obtain a large block of dry ice and, while wearing work gloves, wrap it in clear cellophane (plastic wrap.)  Position it just above the top of the unit, and your wine will remain cool for about two days.  If most of your bottles are racked and you don’t have a wine cabinet, choose your most valuable wines and stand them upright in a large cooler or plastic storage tub.  Fill the container with ice.  Drain and re-ice as necessary. (Standing the bottles upright is okay in this emergency situation.  It helps minimize water/ice damage to labels, and also keeps the corks from being exposed to a fast temperature change.)  If your wines do happen rise above their typical storage temperature, they will age a bit quicker than anticipated.  This may mean that some will be ready to drink much sooner.  Keep this in mind when restocking them after the disaster, and consider using bottle tags to mark any questionable wines.  This way, you’ll remember to enjoy them before it’s too late.

What’s the Optimal Wine Storage Temperature?

August 1st, 2011 No comments

Designer Wine Rack Series Veneer Diamond Cube With Face TrimAs we’ve discussed in previous blogs, the temperature at which a wine is stored (and served) can bring out the best (or Traditional Redwood 2 Column Individual Wine Rack With Displayworst) of a given bottle, but an entire wine collection can be at stake if “ideal” storage temperatures are not maintained.  Many big collections have been unnecessarily damaged because of such unstable temperatures.  For example, temperatures above 65ºF encourage wine to age too quickly, causing their flavor and balance to suffer in the process.  Contrariwise, cellars that are too cold cause wines to lose their characteristic aromas and flavors. Rapid temperature fluctuations, too, can damage a wine’s cork and, thus, the wine as well.

Though the common temperature range for storing red wine has been between 50ºF and 55ºF, with whites stored as low as 45ºF, wine cellar expert David Spon (and Vintage Cellars!) recommends keeping a cellar at  55ºF, and at 60% to 75% humidity.  If the air is too humid, mold can grow and even damage your cellar’s wood.  If too dry, corks can crack.  David also notes that some people keep their cellars a little bit warmer if they store mostly young wines, and slightly cooler if their collections consist of older ones (since wines age more slowly in colder temperatures.)

If you don’t want to see your wine collection ruined, it’s a good idea to invest in a decent wine cellar or specially-crafted wine storage cabinet.  Stylish wine cellars can be built easily and affordably using designer wine racks or traditional redwood wine racks. Wine storage cabinets, like regal wine credenzas, also offer affordable (and classy) options.  Remember to store wine horizontally to keep the cork moist, and never freeze a bottle of wine!  When stored properly, and at the ideal temperature, your wine collection will age gracefully and provide anticipated delight.

Want to learn more about the correct storage conditions for your wine? Head over to the Wine Storage Education Center to read more about temperature, humidity, cooling systems and more. We’ve even done separate articles on the right storage conditions for red wine, white wine and sparkling wine/Champagne.

Vintage Series 4 Door Single Deep Credenza Wine Storage Console

What’s Up With Tannins?

July 13th, 2011 No comments

Recently, we recommended serving a Cabernet with steak and butter-rich foods, partly because of the wine’s tannins.  But what are tannins, actually?

Tannins are polyphenolic compounds naturally found in plants that bind to proteins and other organic compounds.  In other words,  they are naturally found in the skins, stems, and leaves of grapes, and they are attracted to proteins, like those in meat.  Thus, pairing highly-tannic wines with protein-rich dishes makes them seem less astringent, much smoother.  The wine’s tannins race toward the meat instead of your saliva!

Grapes that have very thick skins, like Cabs, naturally give rise to more tannic wines, as do juices that spend more time sitting in their skins after being pressed.  This is why red wines have a greater tannic content that whites; juice from white grapes is not kept in lengthy contact with the skins after pressing.  A wine’s texture is also impacted by the volume of tannins.  An astringent, dry, tart-like quality can be “felt” in youthful reds with high tannic content.  Because tannins mellow over time, however, older well-aged reds do not possess this feisty quality.  (This is one reason why aging wine appropriately is important.)

Because tannins are produced naturally, you may not be surprised to hear that several of your favorite foods also contain them: walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, cloves, cinnamon, red and white beans, smoked fish and meats, and chocolate liquors, just to name a few!  Tannins have even been known to display antibacterial properties, according to a study conducted by Hisanori Akiyama, Kazuyasu Fujii, Osamu Yamasaki, Takashi Oono and Keiji Iwatsuki.  For more info about tannins and related topics, check out the article “The Science of Aging Wine” in Vintage Cellars’ Wine Storage Education Center.

bowl of strawberries and blueberries, fruit with tannins

Image courtesy of art.com

Visit Vintage Cellars’ Wine Storage Education Center!

June 27th, 2011 No comments

Wine Cellar

Have a question about how wine cooling systems work?  Wondering about the similarities and differences between various wine racks and wine racking kits?  Need help choosing the right wine cabinet for your needs and living space?  Perhaps you simply want to learn more about how wine preservation systems work to keep your open bottles as fresh as possible?  Now is the time to take advantage of Vintage Cellars’ own Wine Storage Education Center.  Packed with information about these topics, plus additional information pertaining to various wines, opening and serving wine, wine cellars, humidity control, thermoelectric and vapor compression cooling, the science of aging wine, wine glasses, decanters, and much more, the Wine Storage Education Center is your source for information concerning all things wine-related.  With technical, historical, and even scientific articles,  you’re bound to come away learning something new about the wine you love.  And perhaps you’ll be inspired to try some of the tips you read at home?

  • An example of a versatile article that covers much ground is Stephanie Warren’s The Science of Wine Aging.  In this engaging composition, Stephanie succinctly provides a brief history of wine aging, delves into the chemistry of wine aging discussing compounds like esters and tannins, explains how oxidation impacts wine, and reveals the ideal conditions in which wines age the best.  That’s quite a bit!
  • Wine Opener: A step-by-step article on how to properly present and open a bottle of wine at the table.
  • In Decanters & Decanting, decanting procedures are discussed in detail along with how decanting varies for wines of various ages, how quickly to serve wines after decanting, etc.

The Wine Storage Education Center is designed to be a valuable resource to enhance your wine enjoyment.  Visit often to learn about the latest developments in wine technology, as well as wine basics!