As wine connoisseurship evolves, I look toward developing ways to express the aspects of wine I love the most. I recognize that wine is a product of nature and science; my goal is as natural as can be: to help make the connection between joy of taste and the bountiful pleasures of life.”

Friday, March 20, 2009

everything is transient...everything is falling apart,..thoughts on Oxidation

I began to think about how I have, until recently gone about developing a wine by the glass program/list. After years in the biz, its clear to me that most of what differentiates one finalized list from another is more about the front side of the development process. The buyers palate, the buyers likes and dislikes, the service and restaurant concept, the price points, varietal mix, old world vrs new world, layout and formatting etc.. If rightfully thoughtful, there is also some consideration given to the interplay of the culinary offerings likely to rendezvous with the juice and if really buttoned up, there is, amid all of this artsy guttural, creative gurgling some prioritization given to the idea of profitability. All of this and more depending upon who you ask are elements intrinsic to the process indeed however, not until my last bout with btg assemblage for all of our units did the idea of how the wine evolves while sitting open behind the bar really become a part of my judgment. As I mentioned in earlier posts, this all began when I tasted through 50 or so cases of potential btg wine placements for our 2009 core btg program. The basic idea was intended to illuminate those wines that didn’t hang on with extended airtime. Ones that after opening quickly gave way to brown flavors and or were adversely dominated by a flaw or alike unfriendly flavor or aroma. During this protracted tasting exercise the idea was massively helpful and above all showed me that most wines in the market today…yes, even wines that have single digit retail price tags are more often than not better with 4-10 hours of air than they are as I like to say,… “straight from the neck”. So,…after all was said and done I was a believer in decanting for aeration more than ever before and also became firm believer in the choices I had made as they were the wines from each respective category that really held up and actually became more interesting, more giving, more approachable and ultimately more likeable to more guests. Once complete though, the staff at a few of the units took some convincing. I took a bottle that had been offered by the glass for nearly 2 years, decanted it hours before the tasting and left it to sit. That afternoon I proposed a blind tasting of that very wine. The staff, had been staunch advocates of the wine and in fact used it liberally almost to the point of “crutch” status …like it was the end all be all for a wide variety of applications. As I suspected the wines character was met with sharp criticism, and judgment. They commented on its lackluster aromas, it’s non descript fruit and overall disjointed personality. I then asked one of the servers to pull a bottle of that very wine from the cellar. Without unveiling the disguised wine in the decanter, we tasted the fresh bottle along side the other. As expected, the staff compared it to the other ..pronouncing and exclaiming its glorious aromas, balance and charm. This was a classic example of a mal-allocated btg placement!! One that was allowed to slip beneath the that then stayed comfortable beneath the radar for months and months and months. The wine,…a Ripasso from the Veneto showed great charismatic, ripe, almost sweet dark bush fruit aromas, assertive mid palate presence and finish had totally changed but in this instance,…for the worse. In fact, all that was enticing and alluring about the wine had really dissipated and “fallen out” or “blown off”. This wine, a great wine for a btb offering but not btg breathed life into the idea and consideration of btg placements there forward. We tasted a few others without disguise but with similar purpose. A mid level red Burgundy with a touch of brett straight from the bottle showed fabulous but then after 8 hours stunk like stagnant water used to scrub the hocks of a quarter horse after a long gallop through a medieval countryside. With just a few hours of air ….again, another good btb wine but btg?? Not so much.
What I find most interesting about all of this is that while there are a number of wines that would by virtue of the varietal, youth and or quality escape this sort of evaluation, there are just as many that are placed as btg and added to lists straight from a bottle shown with little or no airtime. Often 3 or 4 hours just inst enough right? Imagine worst case scenario ... you open a bottle for one of your last guests at 9 pm on a slow night ,,…the bottle then sits essentially open until its poured again at 7 the next night…right? The wine is one of those that’s really great in its first 4 hours but after that….hey,…that’s what im talking about but how would you know???? Im not suggesting that every by the glass placement is evaluated like this. Clearly there are plenty of wines that one can evaluate immediately after pulling the cork. Sometimes you can just tell if its bullet proof or not…but not always and especially not when it comes to wines that are about refinement and nuance. Big lesson pour moi ….just thought id share…

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