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Much about wine can be intimidating. What years are good? What wine goes with what food? Will people know I like wine with pictures of cute animals on the labels? One of the most intimidating aspects of wine is how it should be treated. This month I decided to put some of the usual “dos and don’ts” to the test. To aid me in this endeavor I drafted Felipe Villaveces, owner-operator of the Wine Warehouse retail store in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Bill Fuller, one of Oregon’s founding fathers of wine making. With the enthusiasm of fifth-grade science fair hopefuls, we abused dozens of bottles of Columbia Crest chardonnay and merlot in several conventionally disapproved ways and tasted the results. In the process, we surprised ourselves and debunked a few myths. Myth 1: Wine, like liquor, will stay fresh once it’s opened. Testing this one was easy. We took three pairs of wines, opened them up for a few hours, then shoved the corks back in and left them on the dining room table for one, three, and six days. At one day, all the wines held up well. By three days, the whites showed a small drop-off while the reds smelled downright funky and had lost much aroma and flavor. At six days, all of the wines were in steep decline, with most of the whites barely drinkable and the reds not. General rule: While you don’t have to finish a bottle of wine the night (or morning) it’s opened, don’t let an open bottle sit around more than a few days. Myth busted. Myth 2: Modern technology can help keep wine fresh after it’s opened. Modern technology has provided a number of methods alleged to keep opened wine fresh. The best bet — Private Preserve, a small can of gas preserver that blankets the wine in a layer of heavier-than-air gas to keep out oxygen — worked well. Even at six days open, the wines were drinkable. The simplest solution, putting the opened wines in the fridge, helped maintain the wines’ flavors, but their aromas disappeared after a few days. The big loser was the Vacu Vin: a special rubber cork and reverse pump designed to pull much of the air out of an opened bottle of wine. While pulling out the air, it also seemed to extract all of the aromas and much of the flavor. Some methods work, some don’t. Myth plausible. Myth 3: Once you put a wine in the fridge, it’s ruined if you take it out and let it get warm (a.k.a. “skunked” wine). To test this one, we rotated unopened bottles in and out of the fridge every day for a month. The result: little harm done. The red wine was unscathed. The white lost some nuance, but not enough to notice unless you were looking for it. So don’t hesitate to pull a bottle of chilled wine out of the fridge for future drinking. Myth busted. Myth 4: Sunlight is a mortal enemy of wine. I left bottles of red and white on my interior window ledge fully exposed to the Florida sun for a month. Both wines fared very, very badly. Most notably, they developed nasty aromas including dirty diaper, sulfur, and rancid green pepper. Result: undrinkable wine. Myth confirmed. Myth 5: Accidentally freezing wine ruins it. The protocol for this one was simple: Put a couple of experimental bottles in the freezer for a day and then taste them. One change was obvious as the freezing process caused some leakage and pushed the corks partway out of the bottles. But the wine still fared very well. The aromas were subdued, but the wine smelled and tasted almost as good as the control. Freezing certainly doesn’t help wine, but it doesn’t hurt much either (unless, of course, it shatters the bottle and makes a mess of your freezer). Just drink it quickly, before the air that sneaks into the bottle can ruin it. Myth busted. Myth 6: Leaving your wine in a hot car, even for a couple hours, will ruin it. This one we attacked two ways. First, the obvious: I left a couple of bottles in the trunk of my car for a month. Second, since it never got very hot during the month, I set my oven to 130 degrees (which is the temperature my research revealed was the high for a closed car on a sunny 90-degree day) and popped a couple of bottles in for three hours. To our great surprise, the wines survived intact. The two left in the car were just fine. The fragrance and taste of the baked pair were a touch muted, but the wine was otherwise acceptable — even though it got so hot that the corks were pushed halfway out. So, while I don’t recommend leaving your wine in your car on a hot summer day, keep it out of the sunlight and you probably won’t ruin it. Myth busted. So don’t be intimidated by all the myths you hear about wine. While wine may be delicate or as hearty as a goat, it doesn’t necessarily need to be treated with kid gloves.
Phillip Dub� is a freelance writer living in Fort Lauderdale and an attorney with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff.

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