As many of you know, I am a winemaker. It almost sounds like a confession instead of a profession. And really, if we had to analyze it, it's more of a passion than an actual job. It's never work when you are doing what you love. Lucky, lucky me.
My days are mostly filled with technical and scientific mumbo-jumbo, the aspect of the wine business people don't care to know about. It's not as romantic as most imagine, but it is a lot of fun. I get asked lots of questions about wine. However, what I hear often is what wines to serve a crowd? Funny thing, that is a tough question, only because there are so many right answers and really no wrong ones. It's hard to point to a specific wine and say it will solve all of your entertaining problems, it's just not possible.
However, before you go out and purchase wine for summer entertaining, you should know how to keep the wine you already have fresh, drinkable and at the right temperature. Even the best wine served at the wrong temperature will give "off" flavors.
So, before we talk about what to buy, let's learn to care for what we have and the importance of a good quality wine fridge.
I have had many wine fridges throughout my adult life. I have gotten rid of all of them since my current Sub-Zero Undercounter Wine Fridge you see above. My requirements were specific when it came to picking the right storage for my wine. At the top of the list was quietness.
It might sound silly, but if you've ever had a noisy wine fridge in your kitchen, you know how absolutely annoying it can be. The Sub-Zero model is almost silent with its very quiet compressor. This type of thoughtful technology reduces vibration and does not damage or cause wine to "throw sediment" as we say in the industry. The shelves also glide out easily, creating very little agitation to the wine. This might seem a non-issue, but it's really an important quality when it comes to storing wine for any length of time.
I also needed a compact unit (they have many choices) to keep white and red wines at varying temperatures. Let's face it, most of us only have room for one wine fridge so it needs to do double duty.
Having dual temperature zones for different types of wines means I have perfectly chilled wine for planned and impromptu entertaining. The temperatures are easily changed depending on what I plan on storing. The whites are cold to my liking and can be served immediately. The reds I keep slightly below serving temperature and let them warm up as we sit at the table. It's honestly the best of both worlds. The temperature zones are controlled precisely by microprocessors within the fridge itself.
These precise temperature zones will give your wines a longer shelf life. Storing wine in a rack or in a closet allows for too much temperature variation. It is those fluctuations that age your wine prematurely, bringing unwanted oxygen into your bottles through its closure. Storage at constant temperature protects your wine investment.
Contrary to popular belief, red wine should not to be served at "room temperature." Back in the day, room temperature averaged about 55 degrees F (think of a cold and drafty stone home). Now, average room temperatures run about 70 degrees F with modern insulation and are too warm for red wine. Another reason a wine refrigerator is paramount for storing wine.
Sub-Zero wine storage also provides light protection from UV damage. Just as we bottle our wine in dark bottles, the Sub-Zero wine refrigerator is equipped with UV-resistant bronze-tinted glass. This extra layer of protection keeps out unwanted sunshine and light, which can also create a premature aging environment.
And last but not least, humidity (too little) can dry out your corks. Steady and moderate humidity is preferred in a storage situation. Luckily, the Sub-Zero system maintains this as well.
Here you can see the placement of my wine refrigerator in reference to the whole kitchen. It sits under the counter at the far, right corner.
And now we know what it requires to keep your wines safe and drinkable, so it's time to fill your fridge with your favorites.
Before stocking up for summer, consider where this wine will be served. Outdoors in the heat? Choose light style wines that taste good cold; Beaujolais, Rose, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are all great choices for an afternoon get-together.
As the afternoon leads into evening, bring out the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to pair with light, summer fare. Both wines are a little heavier and complex, but still light enough for summer entertaining on the patio.
Another option is to pick 2-3 "house wines" and serve these all the time. These are your personal favorites and always found in your wine fridge. This lets you stock up without stress and you know when you are getting low and what to buy.
Ultimately, stock your fridge with what you like and a few things you know your guests might enjoy. Do not go out of your way to please everyone's different tastes. Most people are gracious enough to enjoy what you serve and will likely bring a favorite bottle to share.
Regardless of whether you pay $15 or $100 for a bottle, wine is an investment and needs to be protected if we want to enjoy all of its nuances. Let's face it, that's why we bought it.
This post was sponsored by Sub-Zero appliances as part of their "What's Cookin' in My Kitchen" campaign. Thank you for supporting companies I truly love, it allows me to continue creating content I can share with all of you.
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