Saturday, May 16, 2009

To Breathe or Not To Breathe, That is the Question.

No, Shakespeare, I am not talking about the Guinness World Record for holding your breath. Think about a large mouth.

Decanting aerates wine or is used as a method to separate wine from its sediment. Typically red wines are the ones to benefit most from breathing before serving. However, there are select whites that will also improve with a little air exposure. In general, most wines will improve with as little as 15-20 minutes of air time. However, if the wine is young with high tannin levels, it will need more time to aerate before enjoying. Aerating might also change how a wine's alcohol is perceived. For example, you might find that with some air, a wine seems smoother and the alcohol more integrated; or if it's exposed to too much air, the fruit flavors might fade and the alcohol can stick out more.

Some believe that merely uncorking a bottle of wine and allowing it to sit for a bit is all it takes to aerate. This method is futile, as there is simply not enough surface area at the top of the bottle to permit adequate amounts of air to make contact with the wine. So what's a wine lover to do? You have two options: decanter or wine glass.

Any large liquid container with a wide opening can be used as a decanter. For pouring wine into glasses, make sure that you pour into the center of the glass with a good 6-10 inches of "fall" from bottle to glass to allow for further aeration during the actual pour.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What's The Word

Since the release of a new study from the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University, enjoying that nightly glass now comes with an ominous warning. Light to moderate amounts of alcohol consumed by middle-aged women can increase the risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer.
To read about some positive effects, click on this link for an article from Wine Spectator titled Wine and the Human Body.,3963,443,00.html

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hitting the Mark

Reaching half a century is quite a milestone but drinking a gracefully aged French Bordeaux to celebrate was momentous. The wine was a 2003 Château Haut-Colombier from the Côtes de Blaye. This appellation stretches over a large area, but in fact the wines are limited to the best terroirs.

It was cellared at 55 degrees and decanted for nearly 30 minutes. The silky blend of 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauv., 5% Cab. Franc was full bodied with rich berry and chocolate on the finish.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wine Lingo

Before enjoying your next glass of wine, refresh your knowledge of some common wine terms.

Acid-Used as an adjective to describe sharp or sour flavours. Acidity is a vital component of wine: it helps red wines keep their color and gives white wines their balance. Too much acidity, and a wine is tart and unpleasant; too little and the wine is 'flabby' and uninteresting.

Balance - A wine is balanced when all the component parts, such as tannins, natural fruit sugar and acidity are correctly matched and in harmony. This is mostly determined by weather and timing of the harvest. No one component should stick out or draw attention to itself.

Body- Weight of the wine on your palate. A full bodied wine will have good concentration, lots of alcohol and plenty of grape extract as opposed to a light bodied wine.

Mouth feel- Texture of wine on your tongue. (Silky, sharp velvety or Velcro-like)

Nose- 1. The thing between your eyes on the front of your face. Your nose gives you much more useful information about the characteristics of a wine than your tongue. 2. Another term for the smell, aroma or bouquet of a wine.

Tannins- Collective name for a bitter, astringent group of chemicals that are found in skins, pips and stems of grapes, and also in the oak barrels that are commonly used to age wine in. Take a young, dark monster of a red wine and swish it around your mouth. That bitter, tongue curling, tooth-coating, drying sensation you get is from the tannins.

Terroir- site-specific differences in wines that are caused by factors such as soil types, drainage, local microclimate and sun exposure. Debate rages about the importance of terroir versus the role of the winemaker, and also exactly how factors such as soils influence the flavour of the wine.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hillsides vs. Valley-Floor Vineyards

A good viticulturist makes many decisions, especially when planting a new section of the vineyard. A common myth states that better quality wines come from hillsides rather than the valley-floor. This ultimately depends on varietal, rootstock and management as the tannins and berry size differ. Hillside soils do tend to have better drainage and most great wines are grown in poor, shallow soils.

Try your own experiment tonight. Pick an Oakville, CA producer such as: Franciscan Oakville Estate, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Robert Mondavi Winery or Sterling Vineyards. They are large enough to encompass both terroirs. Across the board, these are wonderfully proportioned wines with bright, succulent fruit marked in most cases by an appealing minty or herbaceous character. Descriptors most commonly associated with Oakville District Cabs include muscular, substantial fruit reminiscent of black currants, blackberries and plum.

Friday, January 30, 2009

ABC- Anything But Chardonnay

For those of us who have deserted an oak-y Chardonnay, Viognier is the new white wine star. The origin of the Viognier grape is unknown. Most experts agree that it may have been brought to the Rhône by the Romans. It can be a difficult grape to grow and is prone to powdery mildew. When fully ripe the grapes have a deep yellow color and produce wine with a strong perfume.

Viognier wines are well-known for their floral aromas, due to terpenes. These primary constituents of essential oils are found in many types of plants and flowers allowing Viognier to pair well with spicy foods. We opened a 2005 Bodegas Escorihuela Don Miguel Gascon Viognier to serve with creamy mustard chicken. This medium bodied wine stood up well to the flavorful sauce.

Next time you think "What about some white wine tonight?", try a Viognier.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Drunken Pasta

Although it was not "off", the 2000 Rioja Reserva we opened tonight had expired. Normally, the structure of this wine should have kept it "alive" for a couple more years. Somewhere during it's life in the bottle, it aged prematurely.

To call itself a Reserva, a Rioja is required by law to age for at least three years at the bodega, including at least one year in Bourdeax-style, 225-liter oak barrels. The tannins from this tight grained wood also increases the wine's longevity.

Wide fluctuation in temperatures will damage both the wine and cork. High temperatures (>65ºF) cause wine to lose its flavor and balance while chilling affects its aromas. Keep wines away from sunlight, heat exposure and vibrations; store in cellars, a wine fridge, or temperature controlled rooms. The ideal range of temperature for storing red wine is 50-55ºF. White wines can be stored at lower ranges at 45ºF.

Humidity is also very important. If the humidity is too high, mold can grow on wood racks and can damage wine labels. If the environment is too dry, the cork will crack and air will leak into the bottle, again ruining the wine. Ideal humidity for wine storage ranges from 60-75% RH.

So, what do you do with an "dead" bottle of red wine. Here was our solution:

Drunken Roasted Caprese Spaghetti

1 pound spaghetti
1 pint red grape tomatoes
Salt and ground black pepper
1# Italian sausage (made from ground pheasant)
8 oz. button mushrooms
1 cup Italian flat-leafed parsley, washed and stem ends removed
1 cup basil, leaves removed from stems
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted and cooled
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large ball fresh mozzarella, cut into small dice

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Bring a bottle of dry red wine mixed with additional water up to a boil, generously salt the liquid and cook the spaghetti to al dente, according to package directions. Before draining pasta, reserve about a cup of the starchy cooking liquid.

While the tomatoes are roasting, start the pesto: In a food processor, add the parsley, basil, pine nuts, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times, add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, then drizzle in the oil with the machine running until it's all combined.

Crumble and cook the sausage and drain on paper towels. Brown the mushrooms and then season with salt and pepper.

Scoop pesto into a mixing bowl, add the reserved pasta water, drained pasta, sausage, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and mozzarella, and toss to coat. Serve with some warm, crusty bread alongside.