Kitchen Cure: Don't Forget to Clean Out Your Wine Racks!

Fall 2010 Kitchen Cure

So many of our readers (over 2400!) have signed up for the Kitchen Cure, which is designed to get your kitchen in ship-shape in four weeks. I was wondering how many of you think about cleaning out your wine stash? Hands up — How many of us have bottles hanging around that should have been drunk a year or more ago?
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As the Kitchen Cure got underway last week, I began to think about cleaning out my wine supplies, which are not all as well organized as I might like them to be. I was horrified by some of the bottles that I found, bought when they were fresh and ready to drink, but sorely neglected, forgotten about, and left too long gathering dust.

Among my embarrassments were a 2004 rosé (looking a tad brownish in color), a 2001 cheap and cheerful California Merlot, a non-vintage (NV) Prosecco that I had for years, and a 1999 Côtes du Rhone. I had some initial hope for the Côtes du Rhone, but alas, it too had kicked the bucket. All I got for my ‘cellaring’ (aka forgetfulness) was a mouthful of faded, dried out fruit.

Why clean out your wine racks?

There are a number of reasons why it is a good thing to clean out your wine supplies from time to time.

Most wines actually do not age well
Firstly, unless you know that the wines you have will definitely improve with further bottle age, it is wise to consume them within a month or so of purchase. Most wines today, certainly those in the under $20 price range, are made to be consumed right away, when the fruit is fresh, lively and bright. In general these wines have neither the structure nor the concentration to age, and they start to fade after about a year in bottle.

One of the biggest offenders in these situations is Champagne. I have regularly met people, who had saved the first bottle of Champagne they were ever gifted (usually Möet & Chandon White Star or other regular non-vintage style) – for that elusive special occasion that never seems to present itself. Because of the luxury image associated with Champagne, people mistakenly think that it always keeps. Vintage and Prestige Cuvée bottles, yes, but alas, not the brut Non-Vintage style, which should be drunk within a year or so of purchase.

Do you have a proper cellar?
Secondly, most of us live in overheated urban apartments, with no proper cellaring facility. Heat is a big enemy of wine, as I discussed earlier this year in a post on ideal wine storing conditions. Even if you have wines that can age, overheated environments can expedite the ageing and seriously dry out the wines.

We forget about good things!
Thirdly, if we don’t regularly go through our wine supplies, we often forget what we have, and can miss out on enjoying some great buys.

If you have 30 or more bottles it is a good idea to have some sort of recording or tracking system – so that at any time you know what you have, what is ready to drink and what should have been drunk a few months ago. Wine is too expensive to buy and then allow it to deteriorate from simple unintentional neglect. A simple spreadsheet works, unless you want to buy a special cellar management software package.

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While I do have a large refrigerated storage unit at home, I too am culpable of allowing newly acquired wines to line up around the apartment. Over the weekend I went through these wines as well as those in the wine fridge. Wines that can continue to age were left in the refrigerated unit. Wines for consumption within the next few months were organized according to how soon they should be drunk, and noted for upcoming gatherings and festive occasions.

As a result I have an exciting array of wines on hand either to gift or enjoy over dinner with family and friends. If I had left this cleaning out task much longer, the drain would have been the main receptacle of many wines.

Do you have a rack of wines for cooking or drinking? Don't forget to take a look at them during your Kitchen Cure!

Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She holds the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.

Related: Kitchen Organization: Where Do You Store Wine?

(Images: Mary Gorman-McAdams)

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