Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wine Wednesday: the proper care and feeding of Bordeaux

Real wine lovers, I've heard, will go to any lengths to track down a special bottle -- call dozens of wine stores in search of their quarry, cultivate relationships with wine merchants so they can have first dibs, drive out of state or even travel out of the country to get their hands on the object of their desire.

I've only done something like that once, and it was over an $11 Bordeaux I had at a restaurant in Denver: the Chateau Saint Sulpice 2003 Bordeaux.

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The 2005 label was the only one I could find.

When I returned to the East Coast, I started asking every wine store in town if they carried this wine. They all said no. At this point I was determined to find it, so I started looking online at the inventories of large wine stores in New York City. I found two that carried it, and the next time we went into the city, Econo Boy and I bought two bottles.

A week later, we opened one ... and it was awful. Sharp, too alcoholic, no hint of fruit or the lovely soft finish I'd enjoyed at the restaurant. Baffled, we corked the bottle halfway through. What went wrong?

The next night, I poured myself a glass from the half-drunk bottle (I wasn't about to pour it out, not after all the work I'd done to find it), and was stunned to find that it was now delicious. A bit of Internet searching revealed my mistake: Bordeaux needs to breathe for at least an hour, preferably two. Oops. (I should note that anyone who knows anything about wine is probably laughing at me and my total ignorance right now. Oh well. The best way to learn is by screwing up, right?)

Does popping the cork two hours early sound like a drag? Buy a decanter.
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I always thought these were just pretentious, goofy pieces of glassware, but now I understand what they're for!


Sweet T said...

decanters are lovely, lovely things. our Xmas wine (2000 Bourdeaux) was the same way. much better after an hour in the decanter.

Bride in Exile said...

My dad got us a Bordeaux decanter for Christmas, Sweet T, and I think we'll be drinking a lot more Bordeaux now that we don't have to remember to uncork it so early. I haven't yet figured out how to get those last drops out of the decanter without spilling, though.

Is it just me or are Bordeauxs really hit or miss? When you get a good one, it's magic, but some of them are still tight and thin even after an hour in the decanter.