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General Interest

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Weathermen have delivered an unpleasant forecast for this Tuesday, rain and plenty of it. Northern California is due to get at least 2 - 3 inches of rain in one day. In some places, like the Sierras, as much as 8 inches may fall.

This is a bad time for a big rain in wine country. While many wineries have already harvested the majority of their grapes, some have not. The bulk of the white wine grapes and Pinot Noir are happily fermenting by now. Red varietals that take longer to ripen, especially those in cool climate areas, are still hanging on the vines though. Particularly at risk are Syrah, Zinfandel and, in some areas, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Creating a New Wine Label

A wine bottle’s front label may be the most important tool a winery has for driving retail sales. Whether the bottle is in a supermarket, wine boutique or wine bar, the label needs to do the same things. It needs to stand out in a crowd and catch the attention of as many people as possible. Once that attention is captured, the label has about two seconds to communicate what kind of wine it is, whether its quality is appropriate for the price point and what kind of wine consumer it’s targeted at. And it has to do all of this from a distance of at least four feet.

6 Excellent Reasons to Decant a White Wine

Decanting a red wine is almost automatic for some people. If it’s a young wine — and not something light such as Pinot Noir or Gamay — SPLASH, into a decanter it goes. And most people readily decant older red wines to separate the good juice from the unpleasant sediment. How often do you hear about white wine being decanted though?

Christopher Watkins of Ridge and I had a brief discussion about it recently when I asked if he’d decanted the excellent 2008 Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay he’d poured for us on blogger day. (He hadn’t, the wine was fantabulous out of the bottle.) But, in his blog post yesterday, A Chardonnay Vertical? Oh, no you didn’t! Oh, yes I did!!!, Christopher touched on the topic of decanting white wines. He agreed that decanting can help some young Chardonnay blossom. There are other situations that call for decanting white wine too.

Here are 6 excellent reasons to decant a white wine:

  • The wine is too cold.
    When you’re in a rush, it’s easy to forget to pull wine out of the refrigerator soon enough. Almost all white wines should be served at less than room temperature. But, if the wine is too cold, many of the aromatics are hidden. Cold wine comes up to prime drinking temperature more quickly if you pour it into a room temperature decanter.

  • The wine is too warm.
    This may seem counter-intuitive based on the previous tip. However, the principle is the same. Wine bottles do a good job of insulating the wine they contain from external temperature changes. To get your wine to the right temperature quickly, you need to get it out of the bottle. By spreading the wine out over the broad but thin glass of a decanter, you can more easily change the wine’s temperature.


    To cool wine using a decanter, immerse the decanter in a bath of water and ice. Be careful not to let any water get into the decanter. Give the decanter a minute or two to chill and then pour in the wine. Leave it in the ice bath until it reaches the temperature you like.

  • The wine is “closed.”
    Most white wines, served at the proper temperature, having enticing aromas right out of the bottle. Some are shy though. This can be due to winemaking style, because the wine is very young or in an awkward phase, or just the nature of that grape variety. If you pour a white wine into your glass and it smells like... nothing, decant it. Believe it or not, some experts regularly decant Champagne for this very reason. Bubbles are pretty, but aroma and flavor are more important.

  • The wine evolves beautifully over time, but you don’t have time.
    Some wine has attractive aromas right out of the bottle, but they really blossom with time in your glass. A perfect example of this is Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé Blanc Reserve. Pour the wine and you’re greeted by lovely white peach, vanilla and gentle oak. But, over time, numerous more subtle notes of white flowers, spice, sweet herb and other fruits emerge.
 At a recent dinner party, I served that wine with one specific dish in a 6-course meal. I needed the wine to be at peak right away to optimize the guests’ experience and keep the dinner running on time. I decanted the wine and it blew people away.

  • The wine has some “bottle stink.”
    Okay, no reason to be embarrassed. We’ve all had moments when we weren’t as fresh as we’d like to be. That happens with wine too, but it doesn't mean the wine is bad. With young white wines bottle stink is most often due to excess sulphur (used by winemakers to kill bacteria) or a very tight seal, such as screwcap, that doesn’t allow any gases to escape from the bottle. If you pour that wine directly into a glass, some of the gases will go with it.  And other gases that were in-solution with the wine will gradually emerge in glass too. Splashing the wine into a decanter gives those (ob)noxious gases a chance to dissipate well away from your sensitive nose. Some  German Rieslings I own show a lot of sulphur on the nose when first opened. Decanting them really helps.

  • Two bottles of exactly the same wine are showing bottle variation.
    This isn’t a situation that will arise often for most people, but it is common for those who regularly lead large wine tastings or classes. With a large group, you need more than one bottle of each wine. Yet each glass of wine should taste and smell the same so everyone has a common frame of reference for discussion.
 If there is significant variation between bottles of the same wine, whether they are at slightly different stages of development or one bottle is a touch flawed, you can blend the bottles using a decanter. A magnum decanter easily holds two bottles. If you only have a one bottle decanter, you’ll need to pour just half of each bottle (or less if you have three or more bottles) in at a time.

 

Decanting white wine isn’t something you need to do every day. But it is something that can add to your enjoyment on occasion. Don’t let a wine’s color make you shy about decanting it if necessary.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

10 Tips for Selecting Wines for a Wedding

 

Keep things in perspective.
The wines served will be well down on the list of important wedding memories, even for hardcore wine enthusiasts. Don’t try to elevate the wine above its place by selecting something with a big personality or “fascinating” characteristics that typical consumers might not enjoy.

Here a Blend, There a Blend

I’ve read that there are at least 3,000 different decisions made about a wine from the time a winery starts to consider where to plant vines to the time a bottle is actually released. Blending decisions are made very late in that timeline. However, blending has a huge impact, arguably more than any other decisions, on the final taste of a wine.

It is impossible for a wine consumer to really understand how much difference minute variations in blend can make without actually having a blending experience first hand. Fortunately, a number of wineries now offer you just that opportunity.