Don’t be an amateur!

It’s been a fun but busy week, with travel to the Niagara region and back for a meeting and some fun. We visited 5 wineries and had some great meals! When putting away our treasures (11 bottles! and some mustard) from wine country, I realized that one bottle we had bought at Lailey (a 2009 Meritage)  we had also bought last September when in Niagara-on-the-lake for vacation and still had it. I decided it was time to open the older one as now I had another one to save for a rainy day.

After opening the bottle I’d been saving for almost a year, I noticed the cork was stained and a bit shrunken. I got a bit nervous and disappointed but still poured a glass. I had hope, faint hope it might be ok!

The colour looked fine but I took a few sniffs. Something wasn’t right. Maybe I just forgot what it should smell like? I thought it smelled a bit woody, but not oaky, almost like wet wood, bordering on mildew. I was missing the nice deep fruit aroma, with spice and cedar that I thought I should be smelling. Once I took a sip, my fears were confirmed. The wine was corked. How disappointing. 😦

My optimistic fiancé had a great suggestion which was to open the new bottle and compare them. Once the new bottle was opened, the issues were so obvious, but I can appreciate how a casual wine drinker might not understand exactly if there’s something wrong, or if they just don’t like what they are tasting. We also don’t always have another bottle to directly compare.

See the photo below for differences in the cork.

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Now, here is where I admit my amateur mistake and offer a warning – store your wine properly!! This wine was recently laying down in a cabinet but for a while after we bought it, it had been standing upright – for long enough to dry out the cork apparently. This is fine if you’re going to drink the wine in the near future but not if you want to save it for any extended period of time. The cork protects the wine from oxidizing too quickly and if it dries out too much air will get in.

A side by side visual comparison of both wines in the glass didn’t show the issues obviously, but the “good”Lailey did have more fullness and legs on the glass than the “bad” Lailey. When tasting, “bad” Lailey almost had a fizzyness to it, and was acidic and thin. That wet wood taste was there as well. “Good” Lailey was just as good as I remembered: nice and full bodied, with a deep rich fruit aroma and tasted the same with a hint of cloves and the nice cedar note. I was so happy to have a good bottle!

Many of us don’t have the proper conditions to store wine, our homes are too warm, and our basements are too damp (or in my case, non-existent). If this is the case, please don’t spend your life savings on the perfect bottle meant to be drunk when your child graduates from high school. Buy what you can properly store! If you really want to start cellaring wine, rent or share storage space, bribe your parents or friends with a big house to build a cellar or just wait until you’ve got the right conditions because you don’t want to be disappointed. I only have the room to lay down about 12 bottles so the few we have that we really want to save are getting the prime spots and the rest we will just have to drink. I guess we’ll need to have some company over to help!

JM