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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Having stored older vintage wines in my EuroCave cellar, only to find they are spoiled when opened, I am wondering whether the purchase of them at a wine store that keeps them on shelves or in boxes at room temperature may be the problem. How can I be assured when I buy older wines that they have been properly kept? I read of auctions and sales at premium prices ... how does one know that they are not buying products that have not been properly stored?
—Ken H., Borrego Springs, Calif.
It's so important to find retailers you can trust, because it's up to each wine shop to determine its own standards for storage. If you walk into a wine shop and it's sweltering hot and bottles are sitting in the sun, I don't recommend buying there. Good wine shops are cool when you walk into them. I think it's OK to say to a wine shop owner, "Before I spend a bunch of money here, can you tell me about how you store your wines?" I have faith that most good retailers love wine and care about how wines are cared for (and desire return customers).
Auction houses generally require evidence that wines have been well stored before taking them on to sell. Collectors that can afford premium wines usually can afford the facility to store them.
Older wines tend to be more fragile than younger ones, so one solution is to buy wines young and age them yourself, in conditions you control.
I'm trying to be upbeat, but the truth is that there really is no way to tell for sure what has happened to a bottle before you buy it. I suggest that you be a proactive wine buyer—seek out retailers that share your concern about wine storage.
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