By Rick Riozza
This is a good time to get in some notes and ideas before we start in on all of the new wine reviews for the holidays. And, we have perhaps one of the best white wines to find its way on the Thanksgiving or holiday table. It’s a sexy choice indeed, so we’ll save that write-up to conclude this piece—keep reading.
Alright—so some quick comments on what we tend to forget about wine when the holiday season shows: And of course, the subject goes to decanting and/or aerating.
Aerating wine simply means exposing the wine to air or giving it a chance to “breathe” before drinking it. As you’ve no doubt figured out along the line, the bottle of wine you’re about to open has been sequestered without any added oxygen for a while. So under the law of chemistry and physics, there will be a reaction between the gases in the air and the wine in your glass. It could be a slow reaction, it could quick; and obviously the result will affect the taste.
For instance, recently a customer purchased a 2019 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon for about $65. Apparently the bottle was opened immediately for that night’s dinner. Now some folks like their California Cab at a very young age. Others realize high-end Cal Cabs need a little bottle age of at least four years or more. But when you pay $65 or more for a bottle of red, it’s all your decision when to open it. The customer opened it, poured it, and found it really distasteful, like shoe polish—he returned it back to the store.
He admitted that he did not decant or aerate the wine, assuming that if it’s for sale, it’s ready to drink. He is right! But he didn’t let it “breathe”. For a big young California Cab, I’d say give that pup an hour or so to acclimate and show the balance of fruit it is capable of.
Indeed, there are some red wines out there that are really slow to come alive. The California Petite Sirahs can always use at least two hours to show its stuff; and quite often, some of those bold bombers can totally come around in a full day or two. If you know you’re going to order high-end Petite Sirah at a fancy restaurant that night, call them and request that they open the wine stat!
The very delicious powerful, brooding but noble Italian red wine from Campania, Aglianico [Ah-lee-ON-nee-co], will only taste like pine resin if not given the proper hour or two to open up.
One can Google the “perfect” aeration times for particular wine. We found this little snippet:
Red Wine– 20 minutes to 2 hours, depending on style.
White and Rosé –up to 30 minutes, based on conditions.
Sparkling Wine–up to 30 minutes, based on certain conditions.
Please Note: Any vintage wine that is very old—is no doubt on its last leg. We know that a lot of this type of vintage wine is opened for the holidays. Don’t wait on these wines. Open the wine; pour a glass; and enjoy it slowly.
The next tip we’d like to alert you to is a smart way to bump-up that insipid white sparkling or still wine served to you at a party. It’s not that we’re seemingly ungrateful for the quaff, it’s just that at some gatherings, the quality of the white wine—particularly Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, served, is really poor and or distasteful.
Here, the remedy is to squirt a small amount of fresh lemon into the glass. Or, like you would do to make a Martini, add a twist of lemon peel. We recently tried some of the Prosecco and Moscato d’Asti on the market and were surprised by the lack of complexity in some of the more popular brands—both Italian and new world. (I can’t believe there are insipid Prosecco/Moscato d’Asti coming from Italy?)
And now: Our quality wine pick for the holiday table. It is a dry Riesling that just goes wonderfully with turkey and all poultry, pork, shellfish, spicy fare, and cured meats: Karthauserhof, 2017/2019 Alte Reben Riesling—Trocken Spätlese [troak-en Spake-lays-eh].
Spätlese means “late harvest”. Spätlese wines are usually rich and on the sweet side. However! When you see “Trocken” on the bottle you can assume it’s in a dry style with higher alcohol.
And this Karthauserhof is very dry, with a great balance of fruit and acidity. Perfect for food pairings with an alcohol level of a perfect 12%. The “sweetness” quality is only that of stone fruit and harvest apple with a quick note of very light honey with lime and citrus also in the mix.
Reviews of this wine state: “The wine offers a delicate and complex nose of white peach, pear, grapefruit, smoky slate, and a hint of green herbs. The long and elegant finish, which is both zesty and silky, already hints at its potential.”
Wine Spectator gave the wine 90 points: “An elegant, pure version, with notes of lilac and chamomile behind the melon, mango and lemon flavors. Savory mineral accents emerge midpalate and linger on the zesty finish.”
Look for the 2017 vintage, but the 2019 vintage is just as good, both bottles can be found at around $25. You’ll need to contact a wine specialty store to order. As mentioned earlier, this is the sexy choice, and the holiday pairing will impress all of the eager eaters. Cheers!