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Drink the wine; Leave the Cork

article-picture_2013-10-22-16-46-286027Opening a great bottle of wine is always a huge pleasure and a tragic loss. You have been waited a couple of decades before drinking this Grand Cru Classé of Bordeaux and you will only be able to enjoy it one single night. Indeed, every time you open a bottle you are doomed to finishing it within the following hours. If you do not, the wine will get oxidized and will lose its flavors.

Coravin’s Wine Access System 1000 has just put an end to this curse. Thanks to a very accurate method, close to surgery, this revolutionary bottle opener will suck up a small quantity of wine, the equivalent of a single glass for example, without damaging the whole bottle.

The bottle opener took several years to be designed and be truly efficient. The team that made Coravin’s Wine Access System 1000 was even led by a former rocket scientist.

But how did they manage to elaborate a system enabling you to serve wine without popping the cork?

The whole system pretty much looks like an average sophisticated bottle opener. Except that the traditional corkscrew has been removed and replaced with a thin, hollow needle. When you push it into the bottle, it would release a small dose of argon inside the bottle’s chamber. This pressurizes the content to the point where the wine is forced up the needle and out of the bottle. No air could have got into the bottle during the process. When you are done, the cork would just fill up the little hole naturally. No air has penetrated in the bottle during the process. Your wine is safe and ready to be opened days, weeks or years after.

This new bottle opener arose a lot of attention in the wine-lovers community. Wealthy wine drinkers will not be afraid of the moment they will open their Château Lafite Rothschild or Château Margaux anymore. One bottle can be served on several special occasions.
Moreover, luxurious restaurants immediately showed enthusiasm. Usually, they could only serve one wine of exception to their clients. Now they can serve a larger selection of glasses of great wines to them.

Yet, the Coravin’s Wine Access System is reserved to a small community of people, since it costs about $300. But considering the current prices of Grands Crus Classés, Coravin’s Wine Access System will sound acceptable to the owners of such wines and will make them enjoy the wines way more than expected.

Decanting 101: How to Decant Wine

decanter-duck

How do you decant wine?

Decanting wine simply means pouring it from its bottle into some other container: a carafe, a decanter, even a water jug. Here are 5 easy steps to decant wine:

  1. To decant a bottle with sediment, first leave it upright for about a day to settle the sediment at the bottom. When you’re ready, make sure the decanter and the mouth of the bottle are clean.
  2. For the actual pouring process, stand a flashlight on the table so that it shines upwards—it gives stronger light than the classic lit candle. Place the decanter beside it and pour the wine so that the light shines through the neck of the bottle. This will allow you to see when the sediment is approaching, so that you can stop pouring then.
  3. Discard the sediment left in the bottle.
  4. Leave younger wines in the decanter for about an hour or two, and older wines anywhere from fifteen minutes to a half an hour.
  5. Taste the wine periodically to see how it’s opening up. If you decide that the wine has peaked, but the guests aren’t due for a while, drape a cloth over the top of the decanter to slow aeration.

decant-red-wine

Why decant wine?

Wines are decanted to get rid of sediment, the organic matter that naturally precipitates from the wine as it matures. The wines that throw the most sediment are mature, full-bodied red wines and vintage port.

The second reason to decant is to let the wine breathe so that it helps to warm up a wine that’s too cold, soften any harsh tannins and open up its aromatics.

This is especially true of rough-and-not-ready reds, particularly young, full-bodied ones: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Brunello, Barolo, Bordeaux, Rioja, Shiraz, Syrah and Northern Rhone wines.

Should some wines not be decanted?

Even decanting hardliners admit that some wines just aren’t made for airing out. Delicate red wines, such as Pinot Noir and gamay, aren’t usually decanted because their subtle aromas can quickly dissipate.

The same goes for zesty whites, such as Rieslings and Sauvignon Blanc: they can lose their crisp, refreshing edge.

Others are borderline: full-bodied whites, such as oakey chardonnays and some sweet wines, may benefit from decanting, depending on the style you like.

Which types of decanters are best?

You need a decanter large enough to hold the contents of a standard bottle, with some room at the top to allow the wine to breathe.

Decanters that maximize the wine-to-air surface ratio are best for young wines, while those with narrow necks that reduce air exposure are better for older wines that just need their sediment removed.

My personal favorite decanter is the “duck” style made by Riedel and others. It allows for lots of air exposure, but is very easy to pour and distributes the weight of the wine evenly. You also don’t get that awkward moment near the end of the wine when you have to tip a decanter like the one at the top of this post almost upside down to get the last drops of wine.

Wineries to Watch: Tamber Bey Vineyards

Tamber Bey Vineyards

Tamber Bey Vineyards

Barry Waite purchased his Yountville Ranch in 1999 for the primary purpose of raising his beloved horses. The name is after his first two Arabian endurance horses, Tamborina and Bayamo. But the fertile Yountville land called to him and before long he was planting grapes alongside the pastures, the Deux Chevaux Vineyards. He teamed up with winemaker Thomas Brown for his inaugural vintage and has been rocking since then. Brown has an impressive background in the wine industry including a little project known as Schraeder ($350/bottle).

Thomas Brown brought on “apprentice,” Mike Smith to help with the production of Tamber Bey. Smith is no slouch though, he has worked for a number of labels including Myriad. Barry later added a property in Oakville where they have been making a single vineyard Cabernet. The Tamber Bey wines overachieve given the price/quality ratio. Barry has strived to keep his price points reasonable, since this is not his primary business. These wines are under the radar and not submitted to press for ratings, relying on more word of mouth and delivering a high quality product. They make 3 wines: 2 from the Yountville and one from Oakville, all 100% estate wines.

Our favorites from Tamber Bey include: Tamber Bey Deux Chevaux Cabernet, Tamber Bey Deux Chevaux Rabicano, Tamber Bey Oakville Estate Cabernet.

What’s With All These Top 100s?

It’s that time of year…and no I do not mean the holiday season. It’s the time of year where we are bombarded with Top 100 lists of wines and beers from 2011. First there was Wine Spectator, then Wine Enthusiast, then a million wine bloggers….what’s next will Letterman come up with a top wine list?

In all honesty, I do read most of the Top 10/100 (pick a number) lists that come out every December. I’m interested to know what other industry members and journalists enjoyed over the last year, however I think the reason for producing these lists has become a bit misunderstood in the public the last few years.

What these lists are (on a very basic level) is a guide to what individual journalists and magazines felt was a well produced and appropriately priced wine. What they are not is buying guides. Wine is a product that is ever evolving and changing, and fortunately  (or unfortunately however you look at it) a Cabernet made from the To Kalon vineyard in 2007 may taste completely different in 2008. But that’s what makes this product so unique. These lists, produced at the end of a year often represent a summation of what was available for the previous eleven months. Most wines on the list (by the time its released) have been sold and moved on to the next vintage.

So what do I do with these top lists? I read them, looking for new wineries or up and coming regions that I may not have thought of. I try to pick out trends in the market and predict what regions are going to produce good quality wines in the next year. For example, if I notice that a lot of Spanish wines made the 2011 list I may search out those wines or regions in the next vintage.

What do you use the Top 100 Wine lists for? Is there one that you particularly prefer over another?

Bordeaux the new Napa? Napa the new Bordeaux?

It’s no secret that while Bordeaux’s temperatures have been rising, California has been struggling for sunny days. I hadn’t thought much of France’s weather conditions, since we have been so focused on Napa given our recent trip until the topic was brought up by Juelle Fisher, Fisher Vineyards, at a recent tasting we had with them. The discussion was that if France endured warmer temperatures similar to typical Napa weather, and vice versa would we experience a stylistic flip-flop in Cabernet from the two regions?

As most of us know, there is a lot that influences the style and flavor of a finished wine: land (most importantly), grapes/clones, viticulture, winemaking, climate, and weather. So would a change in weather conditions change a wine so much that it actually reflects another region all together? I would venture to say no, but it would make an impact. How interesting would it be to see a fully-ripe, higher alcoholic Bordeaux and a restrained, complex and earthly Napa Valley Cabernet? The French (and more likely British) would surely freak out but it is full to imagine.

Yes, the weather situations in both regions are going to present growers and winemakers with problems they have only read about. Each region will have a different approach and different technologies to correct those problems, but I do expect that the 2010 and 2011 vintages from both regions will be a unique spin on the typical styles that is sure to interest the curious wine consumer.

Prosciutto and Melon Makes a Meal; Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc

My favorite meals usually start with a traditional recipe that’s been flipped upside down and turned into something completely different; while still keeping the flavors that made it great to begin with.  Does that make sense? To explain further, this meal is the perfect example. Everyone loves the traditional Italian appetizer of melon and prosciutto. The sweet, creamy melon versus the sharp, salty prosciutto defines a sweet and salty balance perfectly. The only problem is, prosciutto and melon on it’s own is not substantial enough to be a main course. Not until now that is…

A full flavored, acidic wine like the 2010 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with the pungent anise flavor of fennel and in this dish fresh fennel adds a needed crunch.  This vintage has a background aroma of melon that is begging to be brought to life, and fresh melon will do just that. Since we have three of the four S’s of a culinary experience (sweet, salty, savory), we might as well add the 4th (spicy) with a homemade chili oil.  Not too spicy to overpower the vibrance of the wine, just spicy enough to add a punch of flavor.

Ingredients
4 red snapper fillets, skins removed
4oz prosciutto, thinly sliced
Salt, pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 ripe mangoes
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon, finely diced chives

Lightly season snapper with salt and pepper.  Prosciutto will provide some salt, so be careful with what you add.

Cover one side of snapper with slices of prosciutto (however many it takes to cover top and sides of fish). Press into the fish and let rest 5 minutes.

Heat olive oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add snapper, prosciutto side down and cook until crispy, about 3 minutes. Flip fish and cook on opposite side for another 3 minutes. Remove from pan and keep warm in oven. Continue with remaining fillets.

Remove peel from mango and cut flesh off center pit. Slice into rounds, about ½ inch thick.

Wisk red pepper flakes and EVOO in small dish until incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To plate: First layer several slices of mango on the bottom of the plate. Then layer in slices of fennel. Top with fish and then drizzle just
about 1 teaspoon of chili oil. Decorate plate with chives.

Wine Review: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Hands of Time, 2008

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Hands of TimeStag’s Leap Wine Cellars is one of the most storied wineries in the Napa Valley, most famous for their wine in the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris. The most important tasting for American wine history celebrates its 35th anniversary this year and I thought it appropriate to feature one of Stag’s Leap’s wines in honor of the anniversary.

After their success at the Judgement of Paris (they won the Cabernet Sauvignon category with a 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet, it is the part left out of the movie about the tasting, Bottle Shock) the winery became one of the top premium producers in the valley. Through their history a number of influential winemakers, growers and industry leaders have helped shape what the winery is today. In 2003, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars celebrated those individuals through a Hands of Time memorial which showcases the hands of each at the winery.

The 2008 Hands of Time wine is a reflection of those people and is dedicated to the winemakers whom were raised in the Stag’s Leap cellars. Some notable faces include: Bob Sessions (1973, Hanzell), John Williams (1975-6, Frog’s Leap), John Kongsgaard (1977, Kongsgaard Winery/Arietta), Richard Ward (1978, Saintsbury), Ricardo Hererra (1986-1994, Screaming Eagle), Paul Hobbs (1994-5, Paul Hobbs Winery), Michael Silacci (1995-2001, Opus One), and Abe Schroener (1998, Scholium Project). Not too shabby of a list.

The 2008 Hands of Time is equally impressive. The blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, and 3% Syrah provides a solid backbone with a smooth finish. Vibrant red fruit flavors precede cocoa and nutmeg that lead to a vanilla and spicy finish. The fruit is entirely from the Stag’s Leap vineyards, often called one of Napa’s ‘first growths,’ produced in the premium style of the winery but at a very friendly price point – $30. We don’t plan on seeing this wine for long, but we will definitely take all that we can get.

Top 5 takeaways from my wine certification course

Wine & Spirits Education TrustI recently finished up the Intermediate Level of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust’s (WSET) certification course. What does that mean? I have made a habit of telling people who I now have a piece of paper that certifies my drinking habit. All kidding aside, I learned a lot from the course that I didn’t already know about the beverage industry. Many of the facts that were new to be were based on spirits – as I am not a spirits drinker – but I did also pick up some tidbits about wine that I did not already know. Here were the top 5 ‘surprises’ to me:

5. Glera is the real name of the grape used for Prosecco. Although, Prosecco is still the popular named used for the grape that produces Italy’s sparkler, Glera is the proper name.

4. Some inexpensive German ‘Rieslings’ are actually blends of the Riesling grape and another inexpensive German varietal – Müller-Thurgau. Some of these wines are even 100% Müller-Thurgau.

3. Per British standards, women should only consume 1-2 units of alcohol per day (equivalent to one, medium-sized glass); men 2-3 units per day (equivalent to one, large-sized glass).

2. Argentina has actually been producing large quantities of wine for hundreds of years. The reason for the increase of Argentinian wines in the U.S.? They recently just discovered that they can make money producing quality wines, not just ‘jug’ or inexpensive table wine.

1. Even after much reading and studying I have found that German wine labels still not only confuse me, but confuse me even more so after trying to understand them!

Summer’s hot new white grape….Torrontes

There is no doubt in the wine industry that South America is the new ‘hot’ (in terms of popularity) growing region of the world. One of my favorite finds has been not the signature Malbec, but a relatively unknown white grape – Torrontes. See the details below and taste my recommendation at our Century Club Tasting this Thursday.

Grape Name:  Torrontes

Pronunciation:  Tor RON taze,

Color:  Green skin grape, produces white wine.

From:  Torrontes has recently become the standout white grape from Argentina – namely Mendoza. It can also be found in small quantities in Chile, as it is successful growing at high altitudes.

History: Torrontes is actually a general name used for three different varieties:  Torrontés Riojano,  Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino. Torrontes Riojano is the most common and has come to be referred to as simply ‘Torrontes.’ This is the majority of the white wine that you will see in the U.S. All three varieties are native to Argentina from the Criollas grape family, an American born family with roots from the European species -vitis vinifera. Recent DNA testing has found that Torrontes is a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and the Mission grapes.

Climate: Torrontes prefers a high altitude climate with dry and windy conditions.

Characteristics:  Torrontes can produce two very different styles of wine: crisp and light or full-bodied and fruit forward. The crisp and light style is most similar to an Italian Pinot Grigio with amble acidity, citrus flavors and a light body. The second style features flavors of honey suckle, tropical fruits and citrus. It is most comparable to a unoaked,warm climate Chardonnay.

Pairing: Depending on the style, this wine does best with seafood and poultry with light sauces that are lemon or white wine based.

Recommendation: Goulart Torrontes, $15

What confuses you about wine?

Today’s post is more of an inquiry, as we are finishing up some updates on decantedwines.com for a site relaunch (shhh!), I’m working on a new section to be announced to help individuals weed through the information about wine and beer.  So I ask, what confuses you about wine? I’m looking for honest questions which will be kept completely anonymous. There is really truly no stupid question, especially when it comes to such a confusing topic.

You can post your answers here, on Facebook, DM us on Twitter, or send an email to info@decantedwines.com.