Categorized | Featured, Wine Reviews

Wine: Shining Some Light on the Subject

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I walked into a gas station store recently to pay for gas and grab some emergency cans of cat food. They didn’t carry any pet tuna, but I noticed something new—a wine rack next to the entrance.

My first reaction was to flinch at the sight of light pouring in through the windows and glass door onto the wine. The next thought followed quickly: It was good to see a gas station mini-mart selling a selection of wine—especially since beer drinkers have such a plentiful choice.

I saw the rack by the door as a sign of the times. The fact that an actual selection of wines was there at all might reflect the advances wine drinkers have made on beer drinkers over the past years. In a couple of recent years, in fact, the Gallup Poll showed wine drinkers outnumbering beer drinkers in the U.S. (Some, however, claim the numbers of glasses of wine and beer sold in the U.S. don’t bear that out.)

As I reflected further, it seemed that putting that rack in the window might not be all that bad. This was not high-end wine, but inexpensive wine that probably would move quickly. It was the kind of wine people would take home and drink, not put it in a cellar or wine rack. The rack wasn’t large, so the wine might not sit in the sun that long. Or at least, that was an optimistic way to look at it.

Grapes developing on the vine need sun; wine in bottles doesn't.

Sun, of course, is a great thing when it comes at the right time and in the right amounts to ripen grapes. It’s where the sugar is developed that is needed for fermentation.

But, when wine becomes wine, after it is bottled, it must come in out of direct sunlight.  This is because free radicals develop in wine when it is exposed to ultraviolet light. These cause wine to oxidize much more quickly. Colored bottles, rather than clear, do offer a little protection from the sunlight.

Another factor comes into play here, too. Wine shouldn’t be stored under fluorescent lighting, either.

In fact, if I go into a wine store and see wine on racks under fluorescents, I reach to the bottom of the rack to take out the bottle I’m going to purchase.

A study in 1988, by the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis, found that exposure to fluorescent light on still and sparkling wines, after about 18 hours, showed in the aromas in the wine. “With increased time of exposure, a decrease in citrus aroma intensity occurred, while the intensity of cooked cabbage, corn nuts, wet dog/wet wool, and soy/marmite aromas increased.”

Not tastes I want in my wine glass!

My last thought as I exited the store that day wasn’t about the wine. It was about cat food. Why, for heaven’s sake, don’t they stock it?  That’s the other thing I’ll take up with them, after we discuss wine storage.

Photos by Bonnie Walker

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