For when the weather outside is frightful: tips for transporting wine in cold weather.
Over the summer Europe was hit with record heatwaves. Back then we did a blog post on Tips for Transporting Wine in Heat to help circumvent cooked wine. Of course we are now entering the timeframe that is the antithesis - transporting wine in cold weather.
So close to Christmas and New Year’s a lot of people transport wine for their holiday festivities. Whether your planning airline travel, road trips, or shipping wine, it’s important to know how to make sure you don’t freeze your wine. It can have just as much of a negative affect on your juice as cooking it.
Understanding wine temperatures
We know that water freezes at 0 °C / 32 °F. Wine is primarily water, made up of somewhere between 12 and 15 percent alcohol. That said, wine freezes at temperatures between -9 to -6 °C / 15° to 20° F. What’s the big deal, you ask? Wine exposed to extreme cold conditions can have muted scents and flavor. In addition, the bottle itself can crack, and the cork may be comprised, both leading to oxidation.
So, how do you ensure the health of your bottles when transporting wine in cold weather?
1. Take wine inside. The easiest way to safeguard your wine is to make sure they are not exposed to cold conditions. Temperatures drop dramatically from night to morning, and without the protection of your warmed up car, they are sure to be affected in freezing conditions.
2. If you are on a road trip and don’t want to lug your bottles into an overnight stop, package them in a styrofoam wine packing container. Studies have shown that these boxes are insulated enough to deter significant temperature fluctuation. On trips we pack our wine in the Lazenne Wine Check. They come with a styrofoam shipping container that protects the bottles, and the wheeled bottom makes it easy to get them from the car, inside, and back again.
3. If you are shipping your wine, use a shipper that uses heated vehicles so the bottles aren’t left in the cold overnight or during an extended stop. If you can’t be sure of either, hold the wine until temperatures increase.
There is nothing better than opening a nice red in front of a fire on a cold night, so keep that wine at its best with these tips. If you have other tips for traveling with wine in cold weather, please leave them in a comment below.
We recently learned about this issue first hand when shipping some wine and Champagne, from France to Poland. With the temperature well into the negatives, some of our bottles simply froze, pushed up the cork, and leaked. Our decision to ship the bottles, instead of taking them with us on the airplane (shipping was more expensive, but less luggage to and from the airport), was regretful and we have learned our lesson. We will be using our wine luggage from now on.
Catalunya, tucked away in the North-East corner of Spain, has one of the most fascinating stories to tell. A proud, independent sea-faring nation with prominent ports and military significance, it still suffered various attacks over the centuries from the Greeks, Carathaginans, Romans and the Moors. A convoluted medieval history full of intrigue, betrayal, alliances and war followed and even a lost civil war and extreme dictatorship in the 20th century couldn't quell the local spirit here. Today the capital city of Barcelona is the single largest port in the country, an artistic and cultural wonderland as well as being home to some of the countries best chefs, restaurants and bars. It shouldn't then come as a surprise to learn that Catalan wine is also enthusiastically celebrated locally and increasingly so in international markets as well. 11 of Spain's 69 Denominación de Origen's (Individual, high quality wine regions) are located here, and 95% of the countries entire Cava production as well.
Italy is a country of thousands of wineries large and small. If you are a wine lover planning a trip to visiting Italy, you are surely wondering which wineries are most worth visiting and which wine producers create wines most worth tasting and potentially purchasing to bring back home.
Slow Food International offers an English-language edition of its unique guide to Italian wines whose qualities extend well beyond the palate. Drawing upon visits to more than 300 cellars, the 2000 wine reviews in Slow Wine 2017 describe not only what's in the glass, but also what's behind it: the work, aims, and passion of producers; their bond with the land; and their choice of cultivation and cellar techniques--favoring the ones who implement ecologically sustainable wine-growing and winemaking practices. An essential guide for travelling oenophiles.
If you look around the world of wine today, you'll notice that most wine is made with the same grape varieties. Pretty much every 'New World' country produces wines made from grapes native to France; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot... the list goes on. This is no bad thing as stylistically, all the above varieties can be drastically different depending upon climate, soil, viticulture and vinification. The vast majority of glossy, bold Shiraz from Australia is, literally and figuratively, a world away from the savoury, peppery wines of the Northern Rhone, for example. However, in the last 10 years the fashion has been to move away from seeking out the 'best' examples of these well known varieties and instead to look for unique expressions, typically from grapes native to specific countries and regions. This has seen the emergence of some new stars in the world of wine, from the austere, mineral wines of Mount Etna in Sicily to the powerful, racy Assyrtiko of Santorini in Greece. Austria has re-modelled its vinous reputation with the versatile Grüner Veltliner and even as afar as South America, Bonarda and Pais are resurging on both sides of the Andes, in Argentina and Chile respectively.
However, no country has been rediscovered in quite the same way as Spain. There are somewhere in the region of 600 grape varieties on the Iberian Peninsula, the vast majority of them indigenous and regionally specific in production. Despite this, Spain was for decades synonymous with oaky, extracted wines from Rioja, and to a lesser extent Ribera del Duero, with Tempranillo the only celebrated indigenous grape hailing from the country. Short-sighted producers ripped up their old, unfashionable vineyards and replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and anything that was currently selling, not realising that in doing so they were giving up their major point of difference on the international market-place. However, this wasn't true for all producers and quietly, many went about their business as they had done for centuries; cultivating their families vineyards and producing wines of distinction and style, as their vines slowly became older, sturdier and produced better quality fruit. To look at the market now compared to 20 years ago is staggering. Shops in Barcelona are awash with local Catalan wines, Galician field-blends are appearing in top restaurants across the world and even Sherry is making a come-back! To cover the entirety of this resurgence would take a strong liver and a lot of time, but I'd like to share a few exciting varieties from my own little corner of Spain, the fiercely independent Catalunya: