Welcome back to this month’s “you ask and I’ll answer.” I welcome you to email me with any wine-related questions and I will use this monthly column to answer them. While I will not be able to answer all of them, I do promise to always provide an answer via email.
Q: Carla B. from Margate asks, does vintage matter when I’m buying wine?
A: Just as a refresher for all of our readers, vintage refers to the year the grapes were harvested. For example, if you’re drinking a wine of the 2015 vintage, it means that the grapes were picked in 2015. It does not refer to bottling, release dates to the public or anything else. Vintage is a very big deal. The analogy I often use is that of Jersey tomatoes. Are Jersey tomatoes the same every year? Why do they differ from year to year? Simply put, it’s because vintage matters. Now, with that being said, I will also tell you not to become obsessed with finding the perfect vintage. I see too many people referring to vintage when buying everyday wine, which sometimes becomes a barrier to enjoyment. Lastly, if you ever have the chance, seek out a vertical tasting, whereby you have one producer, one wine, of multiple and consecutive vintages in a row. This will surely create some ah-ha moments.
Q: Diane W. from Ocean City asks, when do you decant wine?
A: The idea of decanting (pouring wine from bottle into vessel) is to have as much of the wine come into contact with oxygen. As oxygen hits the wine, a chemical reaction occurs, whereby we say the wine will begin to “open up.” This is why we swirl wine in a glass. This can be advantageous with extremely tannic or youthful wines. Decanting will soften (the tannins) and allow the wine to find its maturity more quickly, than not. As with all wine, we’re trying to enjoy it at “prime” — the point at which fruit, body, acid and tannin are all singing in harmony. Sometimes it’s a guessing game. Other times you can be technical and strategic. Ultimately, explore and have fun with it. One experiment to consider: buy two bottles of the same wine and decant one for (30-60 minutes), while the other open and pour. What can you discern? Do you smell a difference? Taste a difference? Lastly, a quick note about decanters. They can be very fancy and expensive. Don’t be intimated by this. You can easily consider a water pitcher, a vase or even a blender (not kidding). Let me know how you make out.
Q: Bob M. from Somers Point asks, can I get away with just serving one white and one red for Thanksgiving?
A: You bet. In keeping it simple, I highly recommend a Pinot Noir for the red and a Gavi for the white. Gavi refers to the southern region of Piedmont, Italy, whereby the grape variety is Cortese.
Q: Deb S. from Absecon asks, throughout the holidays we host a lot of parties and are gifted a lot of wine. Often, I’m not sure how expensive it is and whether it should be saved for another (special) occasion.
A: Ahhh, ‘tis the season for gifting and bottle shares. Love this question. I get it … you open your front door to greet your guests and they hand you a bottle. You look down at it, then back up to their faces, and back down to the bottle … and your mind is asking, is this a $10 or $100 bottle of wine? Do I open it tonight, or save it? Unless your invitation states, BYOB (bring your own bottle), it’s considered a gift. Put it aside and research the price later. Lastly, feel free to use this line when presented with an unknown bottle: “Thank you! I’m not familiar with this wine, but it looks delicious. Is it a personal favorite?” This usually stimulates some conversation.
Lastly, we finish with me asking YOU a question. Email me the answer, and I’ll reply with a prize.
Q: What is not a permissible grape variety of Burgundy, France?
c. Pinot Noir
You keep asking, and I’ll keep writing.