Monday, March 19, 2007

Brunello Heaven

In February, we had to let Open That Bottle Night pass unobserved since we were out helping a friend celebrate his 50th birthday. A terrific night. But we knew we wanted to do something special in the near future to help make up for it. So we got together this weekend for a Brunello night -- each of us reaching into the cellar for a nicely aged '97 Brunello. I quickly forgot all about OTBN.

We had some absolutely killer wines, and fabulous food. And, we learned that 10 years old is just about right for this wonderful vintage of Tuscany's best wine.

First, we tasted an Azienda Agricola La Torre, which I have been sitting on for some time. It was a classic mature wine, right at or close to peak. It had wonderful aromas of black cherry, earth and leather with smooth, dusty tannins evident in the long finish. Twenty minutes later I was picking up sensational hints of smoked meat. This was just a perfect accompaniment to our lamb and a real treat, after having indulged in many new world wines of late.

Next we had one of Tony's wines, an Angelini Spuntali, and we were completely blown away. It's a shame that this wine was not served last because it was a revelation -- a completely hedonistic wine. No way another wine was going to top it.

From the first whiff I knew it was different. I picked up blackberries and cassis and even floral notes. But it did not seem especially mature. When I tasted it, I was thrown for a loop. This was an ultra rich, supple and delicious mouthful of joyous juice with a finish that just went on and on. There was so much velvety fruit, I couldn't believe we were drinking a 10-year-old European wine. But after 15 minutes or so in the glass, new dimensions began to appear as earth and lead pencil aromas emerged. Just a beautiful, beautiful wine that makes you extra happy to be alive. And, it still has plenty of life left to it, if you're lucky enough to have more.

Our last Brunello promised to be something special, a riserva from Altesino. It's a very fine wine with a lot of stuffing, but there's no doubt it suffered from having to follow such a delightful, open wine. In fact, the Altesino took quite some time to open up in the glass. When it did, it showed leathery, black fruit aromas in a very full-bodied package. But it was coy compared to the Angelini and required careful attention.

There was not a clunker in the bunch, and we were a happy bunch of tasters. Of course, you've got to figure you're going to be in a good frame of mind when you've got a lineup of mostly Brunellos. If only every weekend was this good.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

99 Bottles of Wine on the Wall

I just love this story out of Australia. Apparently a winery there has discovered that wine bottles filled with water are a pretty good insulator, and they have incorporated wine bottles into the walls of a building as part of a study.

It's not the first time recycled wine bottles have been used as a building material, but the Australian government sees enough merit in the project to award the winery a $20,555 grant to study its effectiveness.

I showed this story to my wife, who has been in the recycling field for more than 15 years, and she was understandably excited by the novelty of it. She's always collecting offbeat stories about the innovative ways people have learned to recycle.

Personally, I suspect she's intrigued by more than just the thought of a recycling breakthrough. You see, she's always been a bit nervous about what the neighbors might be saying about all those wine bottles in our recycling pails. Anything that might prevent our wine bottles from winding up on display at the curbside would really make her day.

But I've never worried about any of this, though I admit that after a winetasting weekend with friends we often have quite a few spent bottles to dispose of. Buying an extra recycling bucket solved that problem, from my perspective. I think we'll stick with fiber glass insulation in the walls for now. As for the neighbors, they're probably just jealous anyway.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Instant Cellar Madness

I'm just starting to get out from under quite a bit of school work, which has really put a damper on wine travels and tasting. But I have been doing a little wine reading this weekend, and I just had to comment on one article in particular.

Apparently, the fashion these days for a lot of the upwardly mobile owners of McMansions around the country is not just to build a wine cellar but to pay a consultant to fill this brand new cellar with thousands of bottles of wine. These buyers know little about wine; they have to have a fully stocked cellar to impress their friends. They have little preference for what's actually in it -- as long as someone will be impressed.

Now this is just wrong. Of course, as a wine geek who has long dreamed of building a real wine cellar but still cannot afford it, I confess to a certain amount of jeolousy. But it's not that simple.

I can easily live with the fact that lots of people out there can afford a lot more top notch wines than I can, as well as elaborate cellars. But buying a ton of wine mostly for show is frustrating and wasteful. First, as the article above says, these people are making wines already expensive and hard to find even more so. Secondly, they are assembling a large collection of wine in a relatively short period of time, which means that much of that wine will be maturing at about the same time. And, in all likelihood, they have no idea of when to open these wines. You just know much will be wasted because it won't be enjoyed at or near peak.

It just makes you want to...arghhhhhhhhhh!