Wine tasting (and how and why we do it) is perhaps the most popular subject in my blog portfolio. It seems that whenever the subject is broached, there’s a healthy discussion and plenty of followup questions.
I’ve addressed this on several occasions and will take it up once more.
In response to a query about re-tasting wines. I re-taste a wine when I think it merits a second look, or I want a second taste. The reasons vary.
Sometimes when a new vintage comes to market—as in the case cited last week with young 2006 Pinot Noirs—I might taste a dozen or two and determine that most of the wines are tight and closed. Tasting the first wave of wines from an infant vintage is different than wines that are two or three years old.
Another situation might be where a wine that usually shows well doesn’t and that can be for any number of reasons, from bad corks to storage and beyond.
I also routinely re-taste wines I really like, or simply want to taste again. In instances where a wine is tasted two times—with one being better than the other—I typically give the wine the benefit of the doubt and the better review, since when a wine shows poorly one time and better the second, the second, or superior showing, is more indicative of the wine’s quality.
There are no hard and fast rules but I’m sure my colleagues each approach their re-tastes with similar thoughts in mind.
While the general approach to reviewing wines remains anchored by blind tastings, we’re always trying to find ways to improve our system. One example: We’re giving wines a little more air (we pour out about a glass from the bottle and let it air for at least an hour) and we’re decanting more wines than we did five years ago.
As for Anthony’s inquiry about how long I let the 1977s breathe: Those wines were decanted around 2 p.m. and tasted immediately. I also tried the Insignia and Mayacamas later in the evening and both held up well, for at least six hours.
I’m not aware of my colleagues decanting older wines for hours. I’d consider that risky. But if you’re familiar with how a 1961 Latour will show, and you know it can take the air, then it might make sense. Certainly château owners have that kind of experience with their wines. But typically, older wines fade much faster than younger wines, just like people. Ideally you want to taste the wine at its peak and usually that’s sooner than later.
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — December 3, 2007 2:05pm ET
Larry Schaffer — Central Coast — December 3, 2007 2:27pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — December 3, 2007 4:58pm ET
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — December 3, 2007 6:59pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — December 3, 2007 11:51pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — December 4, 2007 2:41pm ET
Daniel Grotto — December 4, 2007 2:51pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — December 4, 2007 3:54pm ET
Sandy Fitzgerald — Centennial, CO — December 4, 2007 6:30pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — December 4, 2007 8:40pm ET
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