Winter in Napa Valley.

Winter in Napa Valley.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Make Yourself Special, Not the Bottle!

In my most recent posting I proposed, given the Covid19 lockdown effect on our lives, that we be a bit more self-indulgent when enjoying the little things in life. Little things like wine . . . and food. In addition to uncorking that “special bottle” that’s been patiently waiting to be appreciated, I suggested that you upgrade your wine philosophy (and self-worth) to include higher quality wines. That is, make yourself special, not the bottle. 

And so, I’m offering below a few time-worn ideas and advisories that hopefully will enhance your level of wine appreciation. You may be aware of these, or occasionally even employ them, but either way, just consider them friendly reminders, or at worst, an encouragement to make your wine experience a bit more fulfilling. 

First, is the “thirty-minute rule.” For optimum enjoyment, pull whites from the fridge thirty minutes before serving. Also, for countertop or otherwise, poorly stored reds (and whites), pop them into fridge for thirty and then uncork. Implicit in this routine is that, YES, wines do reveal their best qualities at certain temperatures. Catatonically cold whites and tepid reds simply do not reflect their best qualities of aroma, flavor or finish. (Your own trial comparations, before and after, will confirm the verity of this advice.) 

Second, dust off those underused decanters and put them to use for worthwhile reds. A minimum of thirty minutes aeration brightens aromas and flavors. Reds older than, say, five years or so, will reward you with their liberation from cork and bottle confinement. And further, a decanter full of wine, and a candle or two, always makes dinnertime a bit more special. 

Third, besides upping the quality of your current wine consumption, consider taking the long view, and set aside a few quality reds and whites to age and evolve for several years. (Hopefully in a temperature-controlled environment.) Large scaled reds and high acid whites will settle down, soften and develop into elegant and savory pours. If you’re unsure or insecure about which wines benefit from aging, your local wine retailer is the place to go. 

Fourth, even though it’s cool, winter weather, Rosé wines can be and are reliable workhorses in food and wine combinations, particularly after they warm up in the stemware (or taken out of the fridge, like whites for thirty minutes). Also, with many now enhanced with neutral oak, and/or enjoying a long soak on the skins, they have the added dimension of structure and complexity which simple, alfresco pours don’t have. 

Fifth, make changes to your standard food and wine pairings. Also, consider a comparative food and wine dinner/tasting by pouring two very different wines. Just keep in mind the primary flavors (and structure) of the food, and compare and/or contrast with the flavors and structures of the wines. Red wines can, and do, work with fish; and whites can pair well with certain herbed and spiced meats. It all depends on the herbs, spices, condiments and sauces. 

Sixth, Sparkling wines need not be enjoyed only during celebrations or special occasions. They’re whites with an extra shot of vitality, and they easily can be substituted at dinner time for your routine dry, still whites. In fact, their acidity often makes them more food friendly than vanilla-laden Chardonnays and other whites that have been oak-aged. Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy and many California Sparklers are veritable bargains, and shouldn’t be overlooked. 

And lastly, THINK while you drink and eat. Don’t let life’s little pleasures slide by heedlessly unaware of the inherent joy in front of you. Sniff that cup of coffee. Savor that cup of Assam tea. Pay attention to the specific ingredients in the food on your plate (whether at home or dining out). And, of course, take the holistic view of the wine in your stemware; its overall structure and how the different components (acidity, tannins, sugar, alcohol) come together. Enjoy your life, stay safe and healthy, and have a great 2021!