Time, Patience (and a Decanter)
Ever notice how life’s various little truths keep coming back to us, each time dressed a little differently, accent and demeanor evolving roughly proportionate to the ground covered in the existential rear-view mirror? It’s not unlike the way a great book, re-read with the a few years’ experience packed away in the archives, can tell, if not an entirely different story, at least the same old tale in greater detail.
Being “in the biz” means that a parade of bottles passes through the kitchen counter chez The Accomplice and I, some on missions of professional assessment, others seeking life, liberty and the pursuit of (our) happiness. In the past few months, that parade has underscored the astounding difference a little (or a lot of) “air time” can make in allowing a great wine to reveal its depth, strut its stuff and show all the facets of its various charms.
Astounding. Really. We're not talking just a little more nuance or a few more shades of flavor, but a whole different wine. Enough so, that near the top of our to-do list for the coming year, right up there with “drink more Champagne” and “drink more sherry” is the one word imperative, “decant.” While you could just take my word (trust me on this), a sense of duty, a vague memory of Writing 101 and the need to spew verbiage prompt me to lend an example or three. (Thus reassured, feel free to go forth and decant.)
“La Noblaie” Chinon Blanc. I found a few bottles of this quasi-oddity (the Chinon appellation is 99% devoted red wines) in my “cellar” and pulled one out to investigate its progress. Right out of the bottle, it was lean, a little minerally, showing great acidity and a sauvignon-esque, rather than chenin blanc, character. While I flailed at finding positives, The Accomplice was unimpressed, advising “let’s open something else.” Case closed, sort of. The next afternoon, we each poured glasses of what had developed overnight into a thoroughly gorgeous wine—purely chenin blanc, with notes of honey, white flowers and perfectly ripe fruit, underscored by a steely mineral character.
Naches Heights Vineyard “Carmen.” Both tempranillo and mourvedre tend to come to an ignoble end at the hands of most Washington wine”makers” – who, in seeking to turn them into the wine equivalents of botox, silicon and steroid-infused caricatures. Not so with this muy splendido blend of 56% tempranillo, 44% mourvedre (monastrell). It was great, right out of the gate when Phil Cline dropped off the sample one afternoon, got better still that evening, and continued to show even more layers of smoke, fruit essences and wild brush as we tasted it over the next three days. Lovely, and appropriately seductive, given its moniker.
Domaine la Fourment Visan “Les Garrigues.” We opened this one literally fresh off the boat – a time when wines tend generally to be “shy” inversely proportionate to their overall character and potential. This cuvée of biodynamically farmed, old vine grenache was certainly pretty right out of the chute, showing plenty of promise, with notes of cherry, raspberry liqueur, river stones and garrigues. Time proved an enchantress, as the next 20 hours transformed a wine that showed hints of promise to an impressive sketch of what the final work would become. Think elegance, Burgundian texture, profound depth, character for days…
I could go on….and on. But the point is, that in addition to the usual candidates for decanting (Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, great Bordeaux), just about any well-made, non-manipulated wine will benefit -- often greatly – from an hour two of “air time” – be simply opening the bottle in advance of serving, or decanting (preferable).
Interestingly enough, the aforementioned “manipulated” wines, even those of considerable pedigree, tend to show their hand right from the get-go. A fine thing for those who want pleasure on demand and ready-made accessibility – just the sort of thing for people who like that sort of thing, in fact.
But most great things aren’t free, don’t come in a blink of an eye, a click of the mouse, or a simple turn of the corkscrew. And that’s a good thing. Give that next lovely bottle an opportunity to unveil its charms in the spacious confines of the decanter – then enjoy both wine and metaphor. All you need is time and patience.