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Wine Wise - Stocking Your Cellar

( Originally Published 1933 )

"What bottled wines shall I buy to start with?"

This question will be puzzling to experienced wine users facing the problem of rebuilding their cellars, and to the younger generation who have never had a real supply of standard wines in their homes. After thirteen years of prohibition very few people have pre-Volstead wines left. The amount of aged wines, in the United States limited. Most of the good sound wines available will be comparatively new wines which need aging. I would be a little suspicious of pre-Volstead dry wines because dry wines kept fifteen years will not be at their best unless they have been carefully handled. Sweet wines of course will go on improving year after year for a great many years, but most Dry wines produced in this country are at their best when they are from four years to eight years old.

In building up a cellar the wine buyer should remember that two or three times as much Dry wines as Sweet wines will be used in the average household, because the Dry wines are served daily as a part of the regular diet.

The average person who wants to be in a position to serve his family and his friends who are guests at lunch or dinner should by all means put in a supply of the various types of red and white dry wines. I would suggest a case each of Claret, Zinfandel, Chianti, Burgundy, Riesling, Sauterne and perhaps one of Chablis. That takes care of the table wines for your wine diet requirements. If you can afford several cases of each, you will be able to set some of this wine aside for further aging.

Everyone should have some Port and Sherry on hand for medicinal purposes in case of illness and for culinary flavoring. A host who is prepared to extend a glass of Port wine during the evening with a piece of cake or a cooky is always prepared for the unexpected guest. Sherry makes a splendid appetizer. In Europe today the trend is away from the American gin and whisky cocktail habit and back to Sherry. Angelica, Tokay and Muscatel are other sweet wines that make excellent after-dinner drinks. Because of their high alcoholic content, sweet wines will keep even after part of the contents of the bottle is used. A well-stocked cellar should include a variety of sweet wines. Several bottles of each type make a good start in building up your cellar.

For festive occasions it always adds to the life of the party if Champagne or Sparkling Burgundy is served. The cellar should include a case of Champagne and possibly one of Sparkling red wine so that birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and other big occasions can be celebrated properly.

The cellar stock should likewise include a few bottles of Grape Brandy. Owing to its purity, physicians recommend brandy for the sick room. It is esteemed as a cordial and stomachic and is frequently given in the form of toddy or milk punch in the sinking stages of low fevers. The housewife finds grape brandy valuable for omelettes, sauces and puddings and to serve with black coffee.

When the family is small, consisting of only two or three members, it may be better to buy the wine bottled in pints rather than quarts. This is particularly true of Dry wines, because wine is better if the entire bottle is consumed at one time. Once a bottle of Dry wine is opened, the wine left over oxidizes and is no longer at its best.

If the entire bottle of Dry wine is not consumed at one meal, replace the cork carefully and place the bottle in a horizontal position so that the wine covers the cork. If you stand a half-filled bottle upright and do not insert the cork tightly, air will get in and your wine will turn to vinegar in a short time.

Most of the wines that go bad after they are bought do so because they are not properly stored. The corks dry out and the air gets in, causing the wine to deteriorate or turn to vinegar, or the corks may have a taste which is imparted into the wine, making it "corky." About the only thing to do with a wine that has grown bad is to destroy it. Blending it with any other wine simply spoils that much more wine. Trying to restore the wine by various devices usually gives unsatisfactory results. On the other hand, there is a condition known as "sick" wine. Sick wine is often troubled wine which has become cloudy. Such wine frequently recovers and becomes good wine if stored under the proper conditions and let alone.

Unfortunately, during the prohibition era a new generation of wine drinkers has grown up knowing very little about real wine standards. This generation has tasted only the wine made by amateurs and muddy bootleg Claret, most of which was less than a year old. Such wine lacks the qualities that make wine beautiful. Therefore, I would say that the person who is unfamiliar with real wines should treat himself to some of the better wines first to develop his wine taste properly. He should buy a bottle or two of each type, choosing the best brand available. Then, when he has acquired a taste for good sound wine and knows what to look for in wine, he will be in much better position to judge those that are offered him for his cellar.

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