You never want to be stuck with a wine bottle you can’t open, especially when you’re in the middle of the woods. I know a wine enthusiast who once took a spontaneous weekend trip with friends to a campsite hours away from his home. He brought along a couple bottles of Merlot, thinking he’d relax by the lake and leisurely sip on wine all weekend. By the time he set up camp, he realized he’d made a terrible mistake: he forgot the corkscrew. Craving wine, and not knowing what else to do, he broke the bottle’s neck and poured the remaining wine through a piece of cloth to get rid of stray shards of glass. Needless to say, you shouldn’t try this at home.
His story is just one of many potential nightmares that await you when you decide to camp with wine. If you’re caught unprepared, a wonderful wine drinking experience can quickly become miserable. You need to know how to go camping with wine the right way by considering location, travel arrangements, and backup tools.
Location, Location, Location
Heat can cook your wine, so your first step to a happy camping trip is to plan around the weather. You don’t want to bring your finest bottle of DRC Montrachet knowing that temperatures will hit more than 100 degrees by midday. Instead, choose different wine varietals depending on the time of the year you plan on camping, and your location. For instance, if you plan on camping in a mountain cabin during the fall, winter, or even early spring, while the weather stays a cool 55 degrees or less, it’s perfectly safe to bring along white wine like Chardonnay, or lighter red varietals like Pinot Noir. If your campsite stays between 45 and 55 degrees, you might not even need to bring a cooler; you can let mother nature do the work. However, if you’re planning a summer trip at sea level, you’ll want to leave your white wine at home, and take special care with your deeper red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon.
The most common problem I see with wine collectors who want to learn how to bring wine camping is that they insist on taking their best bottles, even when the weather is a scorcher. The number one rule to remember when camping with wine is to expect the worst. Ask yourself, “If this bottle were to fall into a lake right now, would I be devastated?” Never bring wine that you can’t afford to lose.
Traveling with Your Wine
Now that you’ve coordinated the time and location of your trip with your favorite wine varietal, you’ll need to pack the wine properly in your car. The easiest method is to place cold packs in the base of a cooler large enough to hold your wine. Rather than putting your bottles directly on top of the packs, you should pack them with Styrofoam holders specifically designed for standard wine bottles, setting those holders on the ice packs. The foam keeps the wine at a steady internal temperature, without getting too hot or too cold, while the gel cold packs allow the interior of the cooler to stay below 55 degrees for hours at a time. The Styrofoam method is what Vinfolio uses to ship its wines around the country, and it is a highly effective, safe way to travel with wine.
Keep your driving time under 10 hours to ensure your bottles stay cold. If you know your trip will take longer than this, consider renting an RV, and connect a wine fridge to one of the outlets inside. You might also want to rent an RV if you’re set on taking a lot of wine in bottles. Alternatively, you can pour your bottled wine into a special bagged tap to save space in your car. The good news is that pound-for-pound, wine is a better choice for camping than beer because it has greater Alcohol By Volume, meaning you get more alcohol for less space. Fortified wine like Port will offer you the highest ABV for the size, and fortified wines can also withstand harsher weather for short periods of time.
The Tools You Need to Survive Common Camping Problems
To become an expert on camping with wine, you need to pack the following tools: two corkscrews, rope, a sealable container, and extra gel packs. Always have both a handheld waiter’s corkscrew and a more complex double-hinged screw that includes a small knife to cut the foil. To remember your corkscrews, put a sticky note on the bottles you plan on taking with you as soon as you plan your trip. Write down everything you need to care for your bottles.
Getting your bottle open is only the first hurdle; you’ll also need to keep your wine cool for days in the unpredictable outdoors. You have two methods to choose from: direct water cooling, or night cooling. Water cooling only works if you have access to cold water, like a lake or a well. Using the rope, you can either tie your bottle’s neck to a stake in the ground or another solid object, then carefully submerge the rest of the bottle in the lake. If you’re not near a lake, you can pour cold water into a container and set the bottle inside. Make sure you keep the cork out of the water to avoid contamination.
For night cooling, simply set your gel packs out in the coldest spot overnight, and let them naturally cool off. Once they’re cold, get them into a cooler, and set the cooler in a dark area of camp, or inside your tent. You can also run cold water over the gel packs to keep them cool. As long as your wine stays at a comfortable 55 degrees, and you’re able to open your bottles, you’ll have the perfect camping experience.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s best wine.