A Wine Storage Horror Story

written by Julie Cohn

I’ve mentioned before about the importance of properly storing wine, but today I want to explain exactly why you should store wine properly, with a personal precautionary tale…a wine storage horror story of sorts!  It’s easy to put wine on an inexpensive wine rack, but are you keeping it safe from heat, humidity…or little fingers? How do you store your wine?

A Wine Storage Horror Story

Perhaps I should have titled this how NOT to store wine, as this is a story of how, by not storing our wine correctly, we had a catastrophe…

Flash back to about twenty years ago…I had been dating my (now) husband for about eight months.  Every Friday, after work, I stopped off at the local grocery store to grab supplies for whatever gourmet feast I was preparing at his house that week.  One particular Friday, as I hopped on a checkout line at the store, I noticed the guy in front of me purchasing a bottle of Opus One wine.  For most people, this would not warrant a second glance, but for a oenophile like me, (particularly one with an admiration for all things Robert Mondavi), I was impressed that:
1. The guy in front of me had such good taste in wine, and…
2. The grocery store even carried the Opus One brand.

opus-one-2The cashier proceeded to ring up his order, and when she came to the Opus One, it rang up for $8.99.  At that time, this particular bottle of wine was retailing for approximately $89.99 – 99.00 a bottle.   Shocked, I whispered to the guy, asking him if he knew how much the Opus was really worth.  He replied that he did, but they had a sale price sign, indicating the $8.99 price, so he was not going to complain!   I asked him if there were any more bottles left, and he replied yes.   I hopped off that grocery line, sped over to the wine section, and grabbed the last two bottles of Opus One faster than you can say vino.

When I got back on line, the honest streak in me came out, so I advised the checkout clerk that the bottles were marked incorrectly.  She retorted that the price was correct, that pricing was done through their corporate office, so there was nothing she could do about it.  Okay.  Fine.  Who was I to argue with her.  Their loss was my gain, right?!  I rushed to my boyfriends house, burst in the door with my two crimson-colored treasures, and declared myself Queen of wine shopping.  I later found out that the bottles were actually worth about $109.00 per bottle, and I had purchased two bottles for under $18!

The Disaster

Fast forward a few years.  Boyfriend and I were now married with a three-year old in tow.  We opened one of the bottles of Opus One when we moved into our first house, but were saving the other bottle for a special occasion when we were older (say-retirement).  We had recently moved to Phoenix, and I became a stay-at-home Mom, so finances were tight.  We certainly could not afford a wine cooler, so our lone bottle of Opus One resided on a small wooden wine rack, alongside several bottles of much less expensive wine.  No refrigeration.  No safety doors.  Nothing.

Fast forward about a year.  I was involved in a playgroup/Moms Club, and it was my turn to host the moms/kids playgroup at our house.  Everyone was having fun, laughing, singing children’s songs, hanging out.  All of a sudden, there was a loud CRASH from the dining room.  One of the children, who was not being supervised well by her mom,  pulled on the wooden wine rack, and knocked the bottle of Opus One to the ground..  Thankfully the little girl was fine, but our precious bottle of Opus One was shattered!  At the end of the day, it wasn’t the price tag on the wine, it was the sentimental value between my husband and I.  It was a valuable lesson for us on proper wine storage.  Until we could afford a wine cooler, we stored our “finer” wines in our bedroom closet, out of reach of inquiring little hands, and safe from the sun and humidity.

Why was the Opus One so important?

Most importantly, for for sentimental reasons.  I purchased those two bargain bottles just when boyfriend/husband and I were getting serious enough to talk marriage.  Those bottles were a bond between us of a love of good food and wine, and of our journey together, through marriage, childbirth, and two homes.  The idea that we would open that last bottle together when we were older was precious to us.  Many people associate good wine with memories, and those bottles represented both the past, present, and future for us.

Secondly, as a wine, the Opus One is a rock star.  Developed as a partnership between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild of the famous European wine-making Rothchild family.  This partnership was significant because it was one of the first times that a great French wine was blended with a California wine.  For California winemakers, this heralded a new era of respect for California wines.  In 1981, a single case of Opus One sold for $24,000, the highest price ever paid for a California wine.  For wine lovers, the Opus One blend was heaven on the tongue.  The particular vintage that we owned was 1992.  The high tannins in the wine required it to be stored for several years before opening, which is why we set it aside. The bottle we opened was powerful-a strong earthiness with plum, vanilla, and spice, yet the tannins were still quite high.  A few more years of storage and it would have been pure ambrosia.

As with most people, you probably have items in your home that are precious to you.  If wine is one of those items, please take care to store the bottles properly.  Keep them out of reach of little fingers, small pets, and other accidents waiting to happen, just as you would your other treasures.  Do you have a wine storage horror story of your own?

By the way, if you ever get a chance to try Opus One, do not pass it up, it is truly an experience.  To find out more about the Opus One brand, go to their website at:  http://www.opusonewinery.com

If you want to learn how to pair wine with food, be sure to check out my Tips to Pair Wine with Food

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