Posts Tagged ‘wine and time’

Coming Up This Saturday: #OTBN – Open That Bottle Night

February 26, 2015 8 comments

wine and time 3Just a quick reminder to all the wine friends, oenophiles, aspiring sommeliers and all the other folks who find wine to be an indispensable part of their lives – OTBN is here, so get your thinking hat on and go visit your cellar (those without a cellar can settle for the visit to the good wine store).

Open That Bottle Night, usually abbreviated as OTBN, is a movement created by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, writers of the Wall Street Journal’s Tastings column. In the year 2000, they declared last Saturday in February to be a special night for the wine lovers – it should be the night when that special, cherished, admired, preserved, treasured bottle gets right on the table – and gets opened. The wine needs to be enjoyed – as the life is unpredictable, we should really create those special moments in the “now”, instead of waiting for them for the eternity.

Since its invention, OTBN became an international phenomenon, celebrated all over the world. This upcoming Saturday, February 28, 2015, is the last Saturday of February – so it is the time to get that special bottle ready and open. I don’t think you need any special instructions, but in case you feel like you need someone to tell you what to do, here is the link to the Wall Street Journal article which will give you the detailed instructions on how to enjoy OTBN.

I know you are hoarding more than one special bottle – it is the time to put at least one of them to the good use. If you care to share what you will be opening, this what the comment section is for. Open That Bottle! Cheers!

When Is The Wine Really (Really!) Ready To Drink?

April 7, 2013 16 comments

P1130633 Heretat Mont Rubi DuronaAbout a week ago, I opened the bottle of 2004 Heritat Mont Rubi Durona Penedes D.O. This is my second experience with the wine. The first one was about a year ago when I opened a bottle to celebrate Wine Century Club’s 7th anniversary (one of the grapes  this wine is made of, Sumoll, was a new grape for me).  Here is how I described the wine at that time:

very interesting herbal nose of sage and may be some oregano ( lightly hinted), and some nice red fruit on the palate, medium body, well balanced with pronounced tannins – I think it can still age for a while. Drinkability – 7+“.

Why am I telling you this and even citing my own tasting notes? Let me explain. This time, I opened the wine for a casual evening glass of wine, not for a dinner. I had one glass, and put it aside (using my faithful VacuVin to remove the air). The wine was tight and firm, with some cherries and good acidity on the palate. It was pleasant, but there were no problems with putting the glass down.

The next day, I opened the bottle again. There was not much of a difference with the previous night. May be the fruit became a touch softer, may be some raspberries showed up in addition to cherries, but tannins and acidity were still firm – not biting, no, but firm and present together. I had a glass or two, and closed the bottle again.

On the third day, something happened. The wine transformed from “ok, nice” to “WOW” (by the way, I think we need a new rating system for the wines – “yuck, ok, nice, wow, OMG” should do it – what do you think?). The wine became luscious, velvety, layered, showing the wide range of dark fruit – plums, cherries, touch of blackberries, touch of spices, all very balanced – it was impossible to put the glass down (no need too – there was nothing left in the bottle). In the three days, this wine transformed. It transformed from just an okay to wow, from the wine you can drink if you need to, to the wine you crave.

The subject of wine and time is one of the most fascinating. It is literally impossible to know what time will do to the wine. But I can honestly tell you, for the most of the “drink by” recommendations from the wine critics, I’m almost at the point of laughing. Okay, may be not laughing, but definitely ignoring. No, not all the wines will improve with time. Yes, there are general rules, like “drink Beaujolais Nouveau by the next May”. Yes, there are wines which are not intended to age, especially among the white wines, and especially if the white wine is Pinot Grigio or may be Sauvignon Blanc.  Yes, I probably wouldn’t age most of the Rose – but have you ever tried Lopez de Heredia Vino Tondonia Rioja Rosado? The wine was 11 years old when I tried it, and it was stunning.

The way I look at the wine aging is this – most of the wines can age, until it is proven otherwise. I had 1947 Rioja recently, which was youthful, exuberant and outstanding. During recent Rioja seminar, I listened to our presenter to describe his experience with 1917 Rioja. He tried the wine in the group of 8 wine professionals at the dinner – after the first sip, the table got quiet for the next 5 minutes – people simple had to reflect on the wine. If you look through this blog you will find my accounts with well aged California wines, such as 16 years old Flora Springs Chardonnay, 20 years old Justin Cabernet Franc, 15 years old Estansia Meritage and Toasted Head Cab/Syrah blend (probably $12 at the time of purchase!) – the list can go on and on – all the wines I’m mentioning were outstanding, however I’m sure none of them would be declared aging-worthy by conventional wine critics or even winemakers.

The tricky part of wine and time relationship extends even further. We want to drink the wines at their peak. How can we know when the peak will be? I don’t have much experience with red Burgundy wines in general. But I understand that their aging process looks rather interesting – very drinkable form the beginning, they shutdown after a while, and then they come back. How can you know you are drinking the wine when it is ready, and not only that – when it is at its best? I’m not sure… I had my own experience last year with 2002 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. From the moment the bottle was open, it was literally undrinkable – dense, rough, no fruit, just tannins – and it was like that for the 4 days. I didn’t try any aggressive decanting, but I tasted the wine every day. And then on the day number 5, the same magic happened as the one I described at the beginning of this post – the wine opened up into a beautiful WOW nectar – but I could’ve dump it just the day before!

Where am I going with all of this? I don’t have the destination. I want to make you to think about wine and time. I wonder where we, oenophiles, collectively are on this subject. I will hold my position no matter what – “the wine can age until proven otherwise” – but what do you think? What is your experience with “wine and time”? Can we do something to educate all the wine drinkers about it, do we even need to do it, or should we just drop the subject as you don’t believe it’s worth the bits, bytes and emotions? I will keep bringing up this subject from time to time, but hey, don’t be shy – see that comment box below? Cheers!

Touching Time

February 5, 2012 3 comments

I have a special fascinations with man made things which last through time. I remember looking almost in awe at the stone in London which had guarding rail around it and little plaque declaring that this stone was laid there in 1012 (I might be off by a few years, but you got the idea). On another occasion ( about 20 years ago, very shortly after I came to US), I was visiting Metropolitan Museum in New York, and I saw a large structure in one of the rooms which resembled Egypt Pyramid, actually bearing the age of many thousands years. I couldn’t help myself not to put a hand on the wall and touch those thousands of years – the very next second extremely loud and angry voice came out with the words “Don’t touch the Temple!”.

Wine holds special place for me when it comes to its relationship with wine (here is an earlier post on that subject).  While in Miami, I was able to literally touch upon wine and time once again (only touch, not taste). We went for a dinner to the restaurant called The Forge, located in North Miami Beach. This restaurant is a landmark on its own, being in existence sine 1920s. But the object of particular interest is their wine cellar, located on the lower floor.

From the first look you take on those bottles, the only thing you can say is “wow”. Then you say it again and again, as you walk around that spacious cellar, beautifully appointed in mahogany. Inside the cellar there is a separate gated section which holds owner’s private collection. That collection has a full line of Chateau Lafite, starting from 1822! The collection is curated by the Chateau Lafite itself, and recently the bottles were re-corked and toppled off with 1982 Chateau Lafite, which was deemed “good enough” for that purpose.

Leaving owner’s collection aside, the main cellar holds so many jewels that any oenophile will tremble in the knees just walking around. Here are few pictures I would like to share with you.

1873 Mouton Rothschild:

Here is close up on the label, in case you can’t see well enough on the previous picture:

Mouton Rothschild Artistic series ( don’t know if picture is good enough for you to see, but it is Chagal and Picasso labels):

Domaine Romanee Conti, of course:

Look at this beauty – 1957 Petrus!

The cellar holds quite a few large format bottles:

And here are couple of general views ( note that cellar is available for private parties…):

And one more:

If you are curious if the opportunity to look at the bottles was enough to replace the dinner – no, we had dinner there – but food was not on par with the view we had before.

We did pretty good with the wine – 2006 Stella Maris Red Wine from Washington state was nice, round wine, with good red and black fruit both on the nose and the palate, good acidity, medium to full body. Overall, while wine list appears to be a huge book, split into countries and styles of wine, it is not easy to find something interesting and affordable at the same time. Of course, you will be gladly served that 1957 Petrus for about $45,000, so if you plan to celebrate something that special, can I please (did I say “pleeease”?) get an invitation?

Talking about the food, for the appetizers we ordered Salmon Croquets and Roaster Cauliflower florets. The Cauliflower was probably one of the tastiest I ever had, but the salmon croquets were on the mushy side. Here is the picture:

Then we had two steaks, and while the place is considered to be a steakhouse, they were just average, not memorable at all (I would gladly take instead Capital Grille steak at any time). Here are two pictures –

New York Strip:

And “steak and eggs”, steak was encrusted with coffee and pan-seared:

The dessert somewhat compensated for the entrees, though, as it was the best souffle I ever had – chocolate grand marnier souffle:

All in all, it was a great and very memorable visit. If you have an expense account, your possibilities are endless at The Forge. If you are like me, coming for the great “wine and time” experience, you might have better luck with fish. Cheers!


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Wine and Time

January 10, 2012 3 comments

Of course time had being here forever, always moving, and always in one direction (someone, please prove me wrong!). Wine had being around for about 8,000 years, first appearing in the ancient Georgia (no, not the one down south, but the one from the Caucus region, on another continent). Wine is one of the few products literally not changed for such a long time in its form and its production methods – sans reverse osmosis machines, electrical presses and micro-oxygenation boxes. Considering such a long history, you can imagine that relationship between wine and time is very complex, and you would be right.

First, time is a necessary part and an attribute of the wine making process. For the vast majority of wines, if you read winery’s description of the wine, you will see something like “aged for so many month in …”. Sometimes the wine is aged in stainless steel tanks. Sometimes the wine is aged in clay vessels (very popular in Georgia now, the vessels are called Kvevri and produce very distinct wines). Lots of red wines are aged in oak barrels – American oak, French oak, Hungarian Oak, new oak, old oak – variations are endless. For many wines, duration and the type of the aging is a sole decision of winemaker (no pressure, but this decision will greatly affect quality and the taste of wine, and will define success and failure for it). For some of the wines, aging in a specific type of barrels is mandatory before the wine can be released – Rioja Gran Reserva should be aged for a minimum of 2 years in oak barrel and 3 years in the bottle to be officially designated as Rioja Gran Reserva. Barolo must be aged for 3 years, at least two of them in the oak barrel, and Barolo Riserva should be aged at least for 5 years. During the aging process, the wine is changing. Oak imparts very specific flavor, which we, humans, tend to like. Oak aging also acts as a preservative and helps wines to live long life.

Once all the aging is complete (in the tanks, barrels and bottles – whatever the aging was), wine is released – and this is when the second phase of the wine and time relationship kicks in.

This second phase is as tricky, if not trickier, as the first. Have you heard the phrase “needs time” in relation to the particular bottle of wine? If you will look at the wine reviews in Wine Spectator or any other publication which provides wine reviews, you would often see one of the phrases “Drink now”, “Best 2014-2020”, “Best after 2013” – these are the suggestions for how long the wine should be kept in the cellar before it should be consumed.

Why is that? What with all this aging? Why not open the bottle right away and just drink the wine? What was discovered at some point (don’t ask me when, but it was long time ago) is that wine actually changes its taste as it spends time in the bottle (the aging). And it doesn’t just change the taste arbitrarily, it tastes better. Young wines are often sharp, or somewhat single-toned in their taste – you might get pronounced acidity, or only sweetness, or lots of white apples – but only white apples. During aging, trace amounts of air are making its way into he bottle, and they lead to the wine changing its taste, improving to the better in majority of the cases – it becomes complex, bite softens up, bright and diverse fruit tones compensate for the pronounced acidity and the wine brings a lot more pleasure compare to the young wines. Mature wines deliver more pleasure – this is the whole philosophy behind wine aging.

Simple and easy, right? Well, this is were everything becomes complicated and confusing – as not all the wines should be aged (do not try to age Beaujolais Noveau, please) and also it is very tricky to make sure you would drink the wine at its peak – as whatever comes up, goes down in mother nature. This is where time transforms from the friend to the foe – and as a foe, it is merciless. After reaching maturity and staying there for a while, the wines are typically starting their decline in the taste (wine loses fruit, become very acidic, may be oxidized – and it stops delivering pleasure). Different wines made in the different styles will have different peak times and different lifespans. Some of the Jerez, Madeira and similar wines can go on literally for the hundreds of years. Good Rioja, Barolo or Bordeaux can be perfectly aged for 50 years or longer. Simple Cote du Rhone might only last for 3-5 years, same would be true for many of the Chardonnay wines. There is not crystal ball telling you precisely how long the wine will last and when will it taste the best – human trial and error is the best way to find that out. Of course there are many factors which might help you to decide whether to age the wine and if yes, for how long – the winery, the winemaker, the region’s wine style, success of the vintage and many others – but in the end of the day you would need to do the work (err, I meant the wine drinking) as the wine ages to find out when it tastes best to you.

So, does it worth to age wines if you don’t know what will happen to them in the end? For anyone who is into wines, and who had an opportunity to try a mature wine, the wine which reached its optimum taste, I’m sure this is a no-brainer question – yes, of course, and please, please give me more.

How one can experience aged wines? You got a few options. First, you can age it in your own cellar. Second, you can buy aged wines, either in a good wine store, such as Cost Less Wines in Stamford or Benchmark Wine Company. Note that you have to buy aged wines only from the trusted source – not aging the wines in the right conditions will simply ruin them, so you have to trust your source. Third option is to attend a wine tasting, such as PJ Wine Grand Tasting, where you can taste really amazing wines. However, you don’t have to wait of the Grand tasting, which takes place only once a year. If you live in a close proximity to Stamford, CT, you can attend a wine tasting at the Franklin Street Works gallery on Thursday, January 19th at 5:30 pm (here is the link for RSVP). The event is free and open to all. Here are the wines which will be presented in the tasting (the list might change at any time):

2003 Riesling, Mosel Saar River, Germany

1998 Merlot, Italy

2009 Stag’s Leap Hands of Time, Napa Valley

2009 Stag’s Leap Hands of Time, hyper-decanted using Nathan Myhrvold’s methodology.

So you should come and experience the relationship between time and wine for yourself – there is a good chance that you will even enjoy it! Cheers!

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