Friday, November 22, 2013

No closure on closures - Elvis' wine list?

If you don't want to read about corks, skip down to the picture! 
A semi-brief technical matter before the entertainment, kids:  some of you may have noticed that I have discontinued use of screwcap closures and have been using agglomerate corks of various shades and decorations as closures for the past few years, but not so-called 'natural' one-piece corks (except in one special circumstance which is immaterial to this discussion of materials).  I am still supportive of screwcaps despite their physical vulnerability to a 'rim strike' on the bottle, but my mobile bottler has five lines with varying schedules, and only one has a machine that applies screwcaps.  
The producers of agglomerate corks have made tremendous progress over the last decade, after some false starts and one persistently flawed product, the "1+1" - identifiable by the relatively large (2-6mm) and irregular cork chunks that make up the bulk of the cork cylinder, and the thin disc of 1-piece cork at either end.  The modern agglomerates, on the other hand, consist of small and relatively uniform cork pieces (under 2 mm) that have been carefully washed and purged of TCA and other contaminants.  They may look cheap, but they can cost 2-5 times as much as a one piece 'natural' cork.  (Of course, there are some very expensive "natural" corks available, and some producers of $100+ wines use them, but as there's no way to wash, purge, or reliably test one piece corks, they're playing Moldy Lotto.)  My quality control method is simple - I get a sample bag from a producer whose website says the right things about the specifics of their production technology, and then I bite a cork in half.  Sniff.  Repeat until I get a bad one, or the bag's empty.

Something to drink while the King sweats?   Chapoutier Tavel Rose, $12.  Puligny Montrachet, $22.  Two Cold Ducks!  Printed only two years before his death; it's a shame he didn't ask a lovely young thing in the front row for one of these.  
"Hey Charlie, get me one bottle of everything on this list, and I'll see what I like best.  These damn pills are killin' me."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Decanting For Wankers

The decanter differs from the tastevin in that it is not completely useless; some elderly wines are so sedimentary that the assistance of a sommelier with a candle and an expensive piece of crystal can be entertaining, if not actually helpful.  I've used a plastic pitcher for aeration and CO2 dissipation, upon occasion.  For aged, dormant or juvenile wines, however, the use of a decanter is hit or miss -  it can be a  ramp strike.

Decanting, properly done, excludes most bottle sediments and exposes the wine to oxygen, but it does not replicate the anaerobic aging of wine in the bottle, facts known to all professionals and knowledgeable amateurs.  What is less known, if in practice harder to employ, is that what we colloquially call the 'opening up' of a wine and, in the case of red wines, the softening (linking) of its tannins, is often best observed over a period of days, not the minutes or hours usually allowed by the use of a decanter in a restaurant, or at home when you have the best intentions but many an inquiring and parched guest.
So, try this:  open a dormant or young wine and pour a glass, then replace the cork.  Wait a week.  The effects are often far superior to decanting - as a simple test, leave the initial glass to breathe for an hour or so, and memorize it.  If the wine is better a week later, well, there you are!
This is a tried, if imperfectly true, test.  For what it's worthless, this post was inspired by recent experiences with the "Deep Purple" Petite Sirah, and the "Longboard Ambassador" Pinot Noir, amazing to behold.

Band practice

Band practice