One of my favorite things about writing this column is the questions readers ask. Some I can answer immediately but others, I must confess, I need to research and sometimes even do a little experimenting. These are some of your recent questions to Uncorked.
I left a bottle of wine in the freezer overnight. Is it still good to drink?
It is best to not put wine in the freezer. If you need to chill a wine quickly, placing the bottle in a bucket of ice, water and a little salt for 30 minutes will get the job done. But, if you left the bottle in the freezer overnight, chances are you opened your freezer to a sticky mess. Wine is mostly water and will begin to freeze at 32 degrees, but the alcohol will prevent it from freezing entirely. What usually happens is wine freezes just enough to push the cork out and cause the wine to leak. Is the bottle drinkable? After thawing there will be some changes in the taste and it will not be the wine the winemaker intended. But that would not cause the wine to be undrinkable.
What’s the best way to clean mold off a wine’s cork?
The general culprit for mold is humidity during storage. Wine cellars need to be humid, thus mold will sometimes appear. (Most experts recommend keeping cellars at 70 percent to 75 percent humidity.) Because corks are porous you generally will not be able to destroy all mold. But to clean off what you can, start with a small brush (I use a soft bristle toothbrush) or a soft clean cloth. Rub the area, adding a minuscule amount of filtered water if you need too. A more aggressive cleaning method is using vinegar and hot water. Avoid chlorine or bleach because chlorine can lead to “cork taint,” a fault that gives wine a musty aroma. Remember, the wine inside is not damaged, it’s just a cosmetic aspect of the bottle.
What is a barrique?
A barrique is a wine barrel. You generally see the term when referring to a certain shape and size of barrel. It’s the most common type used in Bordeaux, and traditionally holds 59 gallons. Barrel size is important because of the impact it has on the finished wine. If a winemaker is seeking less oak influence, he would use a larger barrel, traditionally one that holds 79 gallons. Want the oak influence to be more noticeable? Use a smaller barrel, like a barrique.
What does it mean when someone describes a wine as cloudy?
Cloudiness usually indicates the growth of yeast or bacteria in the wine. It is generally considered a fault due to poor winemaking. The wine will not be harmful to drink but will most likely taste unpleasant. Some older wines are described as cloudy, but for different reasons. Some wines are bottled unfiltered, per the winemaker’s preference. This is done without removing the tiny grape particles they believe enhance a wine’s flavor. This type of cloudiness is not necessarily considered a flaw and generally will not change the taste of the wine.