Keep­ing your cool

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Wine -

THIRTY eight years ago, as a re­cently-ar­rived wine purist worka­holic from the east coast, I re­fused to ac­cept a job in WA's finest wine store un­til the owner agreed to in­stall air­con­di­tion­ing to pro­tect the wine from the heat.

I had grad­u­ated through the wines in my fa­ther's ex­ten­sive cel­lar in Bal­larat and I was puz­zled by the per­plex­ing ar­ray of new flavours that I found here in the heat of the west.

I later re­alised th­ese off­putting sec­ondary flavours were heat as­so­ci­ated.

I know two Western Sub­urbs Weekly read­ers who have each thrown out tens of dozens of Aus­tralia's great­est wines af­ter warm sum­mer stor­age had left them un­drink­able.

How do you know if your wines have been af­fected by heat?

TEM­PER­A­TURE

Heat-af­fected wines show an in­crease in tan­nic acid, giv­ing them an out-of-bal­ance bit­ter fin­ish.

Heat-af­fected wines lose their pro­tein sta­bil­ity and de­posit a fine haze (sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent from nor­mal crust or sed­i­ment) that can be whisked into the wine like a puff of smoke if the bot­tle is shaken. This ap­plies to both white and red wines.

Fif­teen to 17 de­grees centi­grade is an ac­cepted cel­lar tem­per­a­ture in to­day’s world.

Above this tem­per­a­ture the wines ma­ture more quickly and lose some of their sub­tleties.

The next bench­mark is at about 25C, when the wine will be­gin to de­te­ri­o­rate.

Be­fore say­ing that the cel­lar­ing is per­fect in the lime­stone foun­da­tions of your grand­mother’s Mt Law­ley house, check the tem­per­a­ture on the third day of a 40-plus de­gree Perth heat wave.

A stable tem­per­a­ture is ideal, not es­sen­tial. Hugh John­son, one of the world's best known wine au­thors, says his cel­lar varies sig­nif­i­cantly (an­nu­ally not nightly) and the wines re­main in per­fect con­di­tion.

HU­MID­ITY

The Texan oil bil­lion­aires built multi-mil­lion dol­lar cel­lars in the 1960s but found that the es­sen­tial air­con­di­tion­ers dried the air around the corks, thus caus­ing shrink­age which al­lowed oxy­gen to seep into the wine.

Hu­mid­ity for much of the year in Bordeaux, Bur­gundy and Cham­pagne av­er­ages 65-66 per cent and so we know this fig­ure is fine.

Perth cel­lars need air­con­di­tion­ing and hu­mid­ity con­trol to keep within the pro­fes­sional guide­lines of be­low 17 to 18Cand above 65 per cent hu­mid­ity.

If you have a se­ri­ous wine col­lec­tion, you must look af­ter it.

This may cost money, but so does ser­vic­ing your car or look­ing af­ter your pool, boat or pets and you have no al­ter­na­tive. SO WHAT TO DO? Buy a hy­grom­e­ter (Al­tron­ics, 174 Roe Street. North Perth) as th­ese mea­sure and record max­i­mum and min­i­mum tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity, and eval­u­ate your cur­rent stor­age fa­cil­ity.

Then ei­ther im­prove the cel­lar or con­tact a com­mer­cial wine stor­age op­er­a­tion such as Guards­man in Melville or Winex in Os­borne Park.

With John Jens

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