Wine: Decanting versus Aerating?

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While catching up on some recent reading, I came across an article looking at wine decanting versus aerating. The bottom line presented in the article was that older wines should be decanted and young wines should be aerated. This caused me to pause.

Both of these methods allow a wine to have further exposure to oxygen that typically helps a wine to release any undesirable odors and, more importantly, to help soften the tannins in a red wine.

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But, what caused my pause is that older red wines typically have softer tannins just from the aging process. And, an older wine is usually a bit more delicate and can quickly loose its character, or go flabby, if decanted.

Young red wines often have bigger, bolder tannin and benefit the most from decanting. Sometimes for hours.

So, my advice would be a bit different than the article. If you are dealing with a young red wine whose tannins are too bold, I’d recommend pouring it into a decanter. Then, re-sample periodically. Usually after an hour or two, the decanting process has calmed the tannins and you’ll find a noticeable positive difference.

If you are dealing with an older bottle of red wine, I’d recommend trying it immediately out of the bottle. If you detect something odd or the tannins are still too bold, then pour it into a decanter (being especially careful to avoid pouring any sediment into the decanter) and give it 10 to 15 minutes. Then, re-try the wine.

As for an aerator, they are fun pouring accessories, and the do add a bit of oxygen to the wine during the pouring process. But, for really giving a wine some breathing space, give it some time in a broad-based decanter. Cheers!


Ever Wonder - What is Jug Wine?

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While strolling through the wine section of my local grocery store, I was asked “Do you know what Jug Wine is?” My attention was drawn to a sign above the shelves that identified the section as “Jug Wine.”

My first reaction was to state that it’s cheap bulk wine. But, the immediate follow-on question that I got was “What type of wine is it?” I had to shrug my shoulders and say “I don’t really know. Probably some blend of grapes.” Turns out, both of my responses were correct.

You’ll find that these jug wines are commonly sold as “Burgundy” for the red ones or “Chablis” for the white ones. These are trademark name of their wine brands and definitely not French wines. In France, red wines from Burgundy are made from Pinot Noir and wines from Chablis are made from Chardonnay. Some makers of the jug wines go so far as to call them “Reserve” which is just a bit of a stretch since that term is not regulated in the U.S.

So I did a little digging and learned, for example, that Gallo's Hearty Burgundy is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Teroldego and Zinfandel, while Carlo Rossi Burgundy is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Ruby Cabernet and Syrah.

Another blending wine is Barbera. In California, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Barbera was one of the most successful grapes being grown in the Central Valley, where it became a major blending component in jug wines. Unfortunately, Barbera still gets a bad rap because of this. Yet, it’s one of my favorite varietal wines, especially from the Amador and El Dorado Counties of California.

So, yes, jug wine is inexpensive bulk wine that’s a blend of different grapes. And, it’s very popular as a table wine in the U.S. So, enjoy! Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ - Alexander Valley Vineyards Primitivo

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2013 Alexander Valley Vineyards Primitivo ($45)

This week’s Behind the Cork™ feature is a special one. During my last visit to Alexander Valley Vineyards I had the pleasure of spending time in the tasting room with Denise Gill, their Tasting Room Manager. And, I got to taste a bunch of really great wines.

This Alexander School Reserve Primitivo was one of several that I brought home.

The grapes are from their Wetzel Family Estate, located on the property settled in the 1840’s by Alexander Valley’s namesake, Cyrus Alexander. And, the Alexander School Reserve wines focus on some of the best and most unique lots of grapes that they harvest each year.

If you know Primitivo, you know that its DNA analysis proved that Zinfandel and Primitivo are the same variety. But, at the Wetzel Family Estate, they grow both side by side in a tiny hillside vineyard planted high above the winery, and they claim that flavors of each are dramatically different.

They state that the Primitivo has “loads of black fruit with great acidity, while the Zinfandel has jammy raspberry flavors and lots of spice.” I have to strongly agree!

This is a special one. Next time you are in Alexander Valley, you must stop at Alexander Valley Vineyards. In addition to a great bunch of wines offered in their tasting room, they have extensive wine caves that can be toured upon special request.

This Primitivo was a real pleasure. Look for it. Cheers!

Wine - It's an Experience

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A friend was recently talking about wines that he received from a winery’s wine club. He had visited this winery a few years back and really enjoyed their wines. So, he joined their wine club. Every six months he gets a shipment of wine and puts them away for special occasions. A very common scenario.

But, my friend recounted, the last few bottles that he’s opened were just not as good as he remembers.

At the winery, he said, the wines were simply outstanding. They were unlike wines he had ever tasted. They had unique aromas, complex flavors, soft tannins and a finish that seemed to just go on and on. He remembers the wines were amazing!

He talked passionately about returning to the winery soon. To seeing the vineyards, to stand in the quaint little tasting room and sip wine while chatting once again with the very friendly owner. He couldn’t wait.

This is a scenario that plays out regularly with us wine lovers. The wines are often not as good at home as they were when we purchased them at the winery. Are we storing them properly? Does the wine need more time to age? Or, did we wait too long to open the bottle? Why isn’t it as good as we remember?

Or could it have been the vast rolling hills of vineyards, the beautiful winery facility, the fun little tasting room stacked high with wines aging in their oak barrels, the owner standing behind the tasting room counter and telling great stories as he pridefully poured the wine?

I can’t wait for my next visit to wine county. I know I can depend on finding a bunch of outstanding wines and enjoying every moment of the experience. Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ - Thomas Allen Generations

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2016 Thomas Allen Generations Red Blend ($7)

This was a new one to me. I’d previously tried the Thomas Allen Cabernet Sauvignon, but wasn’t aware of their red blend.

Thomas Allen is owned and operated by third generation wine grape growers, Thomas Michael Stokes and Allen Lombardi, who grown their grapes in Lodi, CA.

This Thomas Allen Generations is a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Tannat that makes for a very full-bodied wine. Bright fruit aromas and a hint of pepper hit your nose while its flavors include dark fruits, plum and sour cherry. The oak also gives this red blend nice vanilla and mocha flavors.

It’s an easy one on the palette, low tannin and a light finish.

This is yet another wine that fits the Behind the Cork™ mold being a great value that you should be able to easily find. Enjoy this one. Cheers!