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Wine questions I'm most frequently asked

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
June 5, 2002
Where there are wine lovers, there are questions. Let's run through the most commonly queried subjects.
Q: Is it true the shape of the glass influences the flavor of the wine?
A: Absolutely. More and more of our tasters have learned that. We never hold an event without seeing those wine lovers who have learned educating those who have not.
More and more people come with their personal Riedel red wine glasses shaped for the maximum enjoyment of bordeaux, cabernet, burgundy, zinfandel and other red wines.
Riedel glasses are about $20 a stem and sold in several Meridian stores. There is a less expensive glass, the Spiegelau. We find that very satisfactory but I don't believe they are available in our city, although they are available in the state.
The country club glass is small, heavier, made to be sturdy in a dishwasher. At every tasting, I see one or two owners of the better glasses ask someone to check the bouquet and the taste out of their Riedel glass and compare it with the country club glass.
The response always is, "I wouldn't have believed it." Believe it. It's true.
Q: What's the proper temperature for serving wines?
A: To a degree it's a matter of taste. I prefer my red wines at room temperature, somewhere between 65 degrees and 70 degrees.
White wines should be served a few degrees cooler, perhaps 55 degrees to 60 degrees but not cold.
Cold robs white wine of its subtle flavors. Last week, the chardonnays had been stored in a cooler. The first wine of the evening was served too cold and most of our tasters didn't care for it. But an hour later those who went back to try it again were amazed at the way the flavor had improved.
It was cool by then, not cold, and it made all the difference in the world.
Q: What can you do to protect wine if you don't have space to build a wine cellar?
A: Consider buying a stand-alone refrigerated cellar. They are made in a variety of sizes, from 24 bottles for under $300 (about the size of a small apartment refrigerator) to a giant 630 bottle size for about $2,800.
They come in various types of wood, with solid or glass doors, and are very attractive pieces of furniture. The temperature control runs from 52 degrees to 64 degrees. I recommend the 52-bottle mini-cellar priced at $579.95 plus shipping. Four cases of wine is the right size. You can age some and still have some to drink. Call International Wine Accessories at (800) 527-4072 for more information and a catalog.
Q: What's the best wine bottle opener?
A: My personal opinion is the Rabbit corkscrew. It clamps to the bottle top and extracts the cork with a lever action. Reverse the action and the cork is automatically deposited in your hand. The lowest catalog price is $67.95, but my wife recently found one in a discount store at the mall for about $50.
Q: If I find a small winery wine I really like on an out-of-town vacation, can I usually buy it in Meridian?
A: I'd love to say yes, but chances are not good. All wines have to come through the state warehouse.
While their inventory list has improved in recent years, they are not long on small, boutique wineries. In addition, even if it's in the warehouse, the wine stores in Meridian can't stock everything.
They have to buy full cases, not two or three bottles. If you ask them to buy a particular wine, they may be reluctant to do so since what you don't buy has to go into their inventory. The warehouse will take special orders of wines not normally carried but be prepared to take the entire case. Ask your favorite package store if they will special order for you.
Q: What are the best values for the dollar on the market today?
A: Australian and Spanish wines. There are beautiful wines from each country being offered at prices which, in my judgment, are substantially below their quality level.
Chilean wines are not yet uniform. There are some excellent wines for the dollar but only a few. However, Chile may be the next Australia. California wines vary widely.
The middle bracket, $10-$25, has some lovely wines at fair prices. But in recent years certain wines Silver Oak, Beaulieu De Latour Private Reserve, Beringer Private Reserve, Pine Ridge Howell Mountain and Pine Ridge Stags Leap District, Robert Mondavi Napa Reserve and Thomas Fogerty Napa Valley, for example have responded to enthusiastic critical review by posting retail prices that are out of line with the wine's true value.
The Robert Mondavi at about $120 a bottle is ridiculous. The Thomas Fogerty carries a rating of only 88 but the winery has it priced at about $125. It makes no sense to me.
French winemakers have also pushed prices to the point where Americans with budget problems are buying less and less of their product.
Q: What about the under-$10 wines?
A: There are a few we recommend. Meridian wines from California are universally fine values reasonably priced. The Black Diamond labels by Rosemount are wonderful values. Their white labels are also great but they are a bit pricier.
Toad Hollow wines, also from California, have an ugly name but are excellent values. Columbia Crest from the state of Washington is outstanding for the dollar, as are the St. Michelle's. Almost all red zinfandels represent great value.
If you have any questions my e-mail address is stant@strato.net.

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