Is Old Wine Better?

To join in the fun of Open That Bottle Night  I decided to open a wine special to me- a 1986 California Cabernet Sauvignon (this was the year I graduated High School).

Since I am often asked, “Are old wines better?” AND I had a younger   Napa Cab downstairs in the “cellar”- I opened them both.

2006 Atlas Peak (L) / 1986 Beringer (R)

About Older wines… Approximately 95% of wines are made to be consumed within 1 year of their release (when they are first on shelves).

As a general guide, the wines that usually reward aging are the robust reds – the better Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhones from France, their counterparts (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah) from the New World; sturdy Italian reds like Brunello and Barolo; and the rich, strong dessert wines like Port, Sauternes and the fine late-harvest Rieslings from Germany.

 On to the wines…

As you can see from the corks above there is a big difference in the color of the wines. Whites wines get darker as they age but red wines actually get lighter and less saturated (less colorful) as they age.

The 2006 Atlas Peak in the glass, was purple and opaque but the 1986 Beringer was more transparent and brick orange-red in color.

Tasting the wines proved they tasted as different as they appeared.

Atlas Peak 2006 is still a young wine and has some noticeable tannin that will soften as it ages. It had VERY ripe flavors of dark fruit (blackberry, currant), almost jammy, with noticeable OAK.

Made from Cabernet Sauvignon from different Napa Valley mountain vineyards it is a great wine for the price (around $25).

The 1986 Beringer, Knights Valley was much more subtle and restrained. As wine ages in barrel,   the tannins, imparted from the grape skins and stems, become less apparent. The flavors of this wine were less ripe fruit, but still darker fruits, like currant and black cherry, with some earth and iron. Although this wine still had some life left it was nowhere near as  fruit forward as the Atlas Peak.

So which is better?

Kinda like comparing your niece and your grandmother. One is youthful, carefree and full of life, the other has experience/wisdom and has “mellowed” a bit with life and age.

But you love them both.

 

Why don’t Americans drink Chianti?

I recently attended the launch of the Slow Wine Guide as well as the Italian Wine Masters class on Tuscan wines.

One of the wines that we tasted and discussed, was Chianti.

Forget everything you know about straw basket Chianti. The main grape of Chianti, Sangiovese, with it’s high aciditiy, produces some of the most affordable, food friendly, versatile wines that I enjoy.

Also, because Chianti can be made in so many styles you are sure to find one that suits your tastes.

So why don’t we drink Chianti, more often? STRAW BASKETS!

It is probably due to Americans past negative experiences with Chianti…

1. Originally the laws for making red wine in Chianti were very restrictive:

•  Wines needed to include a white grape, Malvasia (they don’t anymore)

•  Producers had to match the “recipe” or established percentage of each grape set in the mid 19th Century (now vast improvements have been made by winemakers)

2. Quality of wine exported to the United States was not very good. Producers focused on quantity, for exports, and kept the best wines for the local market (Italians)

3. The main grape, Sangiovese, doesn’t grow well outside of Italy so we are not as familiar with it as we are with other California staples like Cabernet and Merlot.

NEW, IMPROVED Chianti… On to the wines

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What adult loves a big pile of leaves…Cabernet Franc anyone?

This weekend I traveled to the North Fork Wine Trail but when I returned home I needed to clean up  the many scattered leaves that are a constant reminder that winter is soon approaching.

The smell of the leaves swirling in the fall wind took me back to the vineyards and tasting Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Franc is native to Bordeaux, France. Generally it is used as a blending grape along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  But in some areas of the Right Bank of France (Pomeral and St. Emilion) along with the Loire Valley, they use Cabernet Franc to make a single varietal wine.

These wines have aromas of fall leaves, potting soil, wet bark as well as tea, and some other spices. If you have ever stuck your head into a damp pile of raked leaves you will recognize the scent.

Cabernet Franc is called by many names: Bouchy (in the Southwest of France), Bretton, in the Loire Valley, and Bouchet on the Right Bank of Bordeaux.

The grape has more recently found a home on Long Island where the conditions are well suited for growing single varietals that share the same woodsy components of the French wines.

Cabernet Franc actually crossed with Sauvignon Blanc, to create Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is lighter in tannin and color (pigment) than Cabernet Sauvignon. The lower tannin makes it is easier to drink on it’s own, yet it is also very food-friendly, easily pairing with a number of fall dishes like roasted butternut squash or pumpkin soup.

 

Some of my favorites producers of Cabernet Franc in New York :

Castello di Borghese

Shinn Vineyards

Paumanok

If you would like to try an example of a French Cab Franc, Bourgueil Nuits d`Ivresse Breton is an easy drinking excellent value from the Loire Valley. The name of the wine translates into “Drunken Nights”.

 

 

Wine of the Week- Print, Press, (squid) Ink

We met some great friends for dinner, Lori and Michael, who were in town for birthday celebrations. Very cold in New York this weekend and they had a great restaurant in their hotel…easy decision on where to eat.

The new Kimpton Hotel property, Ink48 was previously a printing house. It is made up of the hotel, “Press” Lounge on the rooftop, and “Print” Restaurant, on the ground floor. The meeting rooms are named after typefaces, Garamond, Courier, Helvetica. Being a print production guy I love all of the references but I couldn’t locate anything that reminded me of any printing plant I have been in (no ink or varnish smells, no rolls of paper or heavy machinery). Not even a noisy, packed restaurant, can come close to the activity and decibal level of a pressroom.

Sorry, I digress. On to the rooftop lounge…
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