The Five Stages of Wine Grief
Old Asia hands will know this saga well; first, there is that moment of sheer bliss when you stumble upon one of your favourite wines, in some unassuming wine store in some far away corner of South East Asia. A gem, enjoyed regularly back in the old country, not tasted for many years, a memory of sensual sensations past.
Then, there is excited anticipation as you bag it, tag it and dash it off home. It’s finally yours, little shrieks of anticipation, you scurry about the kitchen like a stowaway mouse, almost quivering in frantic preparation for the liquid joy that you are literally about to pour down your throat.
You take a quick whiff, something seems not quite right but you let it pass, you sup, POW! All of a sudden, you are smacked with the shock! The abject horror, as neurons begin to take in and interpret the confusion of information conveyed along synapses, from receptors, through the olfactory system; something is wrong, something is terribly, terribly wrong.
- Just as quickly, denial, this can’t be right, you and this wine go way back, you share bloodlines, a postcode, a nation, you know what it tastes like and that was definitely not it.
- Then there is anger, how could they treat your treasured tipple with such disdain how could they ruin it, why would they tease you like this, toy with your emotions, its cruelty.
- Perhaps you could take it back, do a deal, surely they would listen to you, see the error of their ways? Probably they would just give you another bottle of something just as ruined and dreadful.
- This is a travesty, you feel tormented, you want to lock yourself up in a dark room and chant mantra’s till the dark clouds and heavy gloom finally go away.
- You want to cry, as the realization sets in that you will not be getting to relive past glories and re-taste treasured memories anew. You slowly resign yourself to the fact that the life of an adventurer, with all its fresh new challenges and breathtaking moments does mean you will forever have to forgo the treats and charms of the life you left behind.
Yet even as you utter these words, you know you have been gutted and left hanging out to dry, the wine is vinegar or something far worse.
The sun, the humidity, the kilometers, the miles, the bumps in the road, the rough seas, the air turbulence, global warming, all have conspired against you and taken their toll, what was once your favourite nepenthe is now little more than cactus juice!
Having a trusted and true wine importer, distributor and retailer in South East Asia is crucial to your survival, if the wines are not shipped with genuine love and care and not stored with the same attention to detail, then chances are the climate will impart its wrath on your wine and it will be cooked, spoiled or just plain off.
Wines need to be transported within containers that have -at the very least- some form of temperature control or insulation, containers can spend weeks out under a searing sun and the contents inside will cook just as well as if they were in a convection oven.
Quick clearance through the port is also essential, so that wines don’t basically boil away in the parking lot. Transporting wines on long haul trucks in hot box containers is also a quick way to damage quality if not totally ruining the wines.
Once in a warehouse, the temperature must also be controlled and hopefully the humidity as well. Air-conditioned rooms are very, very dry. Wine bottles with corks must be stored in such a way as the wine itself is in touch with the cork, keeping it moist. If the cork dries out completely it will slightly shrink in size and then let air in too fast, causing spoilage from premature oxidation.
A little tip, wine bottles where the cork is pushing out slightly show signs of excessive heat, wines were the corks have sunk into the bottle slightly show long term storage in air conditioning, not ideal if there is no humidity control. Protruding corks can be a sign the wine is cooked and spoiled, shrunken corks can be a sign the wine might be dull and prematurely oxidized, (the cork may also be hard to extract and even snap in two).
As screw caps are totally sealed off from the outside environment, this is not a concern but reduction is an issue in screw cap wines so, make sure you give your glass a very good swirl to get some air into the wine and free up potential bound sulphites which may detract from the initial aromas and flavours.
New players in the wine supply market may only be in it for a quick dollar and not have the requisite commitment to the industry so, buyer beware. Most of the larger, well established suppliers are well aware of these issues and do have appropriate quality control, so ask questions, get to know your suppliers and make the quality choice, sometimes cheap is even worse that just nasty.