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james suckling uncorked

A Friend Indeed


Posted: Aug 2, 2006 5:29am ET

How’s this for a friend?

Hoyt Hill Jr. of Nashville commented on my blog yesterday, on drinking great wines on ice in hot weather, writing this:

“I recently handled the wine service at the wake for a close friend with a large wine collection. Unfortunately, it was in an un-air-conditioned tent on a 95-degree day. We were drinking old Bordeaux, Brunellos and Burgundies from my friend's cellar. It was doubly sad to observe my friend's passing and to see those wines consumed so hot.”

It was a shame to drink these wines hot. But what a last will and testament to friends. Hill’s buddy must have been a hell of a man. I wish I had met him.  He must have been smiling down on everyone as they consumed his precious bottles!

Geoffrey Coates
August 2, 2006 9:15am ET
If my friend had wanted the wines drunk at his wake, then thank you, well done, and a hearty hail and farewell, hot wines or not. I think reasonable alternatives would have been: indoor venue, ice the wine, or serve chilled rose from the South of France and reschedule a reaWAKEning during cooler weather. Those worthy of enjoying the wines and the memories would make the second wake.
Mark Mccullough
GA —  August 2, 2006 10:30am ET
James, nice thoughts. Great wines are best when shared with friends. And a great bottle in the cellar is only great wine when it's finally opened! Mr. Hill's friend was gracious in his passing to share his cellar. May it also inspire us to open and share more of our classic wines while we are still here. There's a life experience waiting to be uncorked in each bottle!
Matthew Hayes
Dijon  —  August 2, 2006 11:40am ET
Interestingly, at lunch last week with Alejandro Fernandez of Pesquera in Spain (sorry to name drop, but it will give me some validity) we ran a gamut of all his wines right back to Pesquera 1986; all were tinto fino and full bodied from the Ribeiro del Duero.... and all were systematically plunged into an ice bucket (by said saviour of Spanish wine). As importers of top Italian wines into France we have longed pleaded with sommeliers thoughout Tuscany and Umbria to give their over-warm reds a bucket of cool water. Sadly, we have mostly been regarded as quite mad and even insulting when it concerned Solaia & Co. However, strong bodied, high alcohol (-ish) reds will thank you for it, because nothing is worse than warm red wines falling apart at the seams, made dijointed and dishonoured by high "room" temperatures. At just above cellar temperature you retain the freshness in the wine that will keep the power, breadth and direction of the wine in line. Admittedly, for older wines the rules are different, but always cool rather than cold....
Tom Fiorillo
Denver, CO —  August 2, 2006 2:31pm ET
Hey, the conditions might not have been perfect but consider the alternatives. Send the wine to auction so it winds up in another cellar forever or worse, pass it along to an uninformed heir so it winds up in their 90 degree attic next to Dad's easy chair. Shudder the thougt. Here's to your friend, Mr. Hill, a great friend indeed!
Anthony Clapcich
August 2, 2006 3:24pm ET
Matt-- If the restaurant you are at brings a "hot" bottle of red to the table, how in God's name can you trust that it was stored properly? The answer is you can't. I'm surprised the bottle from '86 wasn't vinegar. James-- you live in Italy, you dine for business and pleasure throughout Europe, aren't you appalled by the conditions of the wines that are brought to your table from time to time? It's like taking a Stradavarius to the beach on a hot day for a little entertainment--yes it can be done, but the conditions would permanently damage the instrument!
Matthew Hayes
Dijon  —  August 3, 2006 8:46am ET
Anthony,In quick response, by "hot" I mean merely the much abused idea of chambr¿or "room temperature"...in the good old days before central heating, room temperature was closer to cellar temperature and thus chambr¿as cooler back then. The Pesquera 1986 was straight from Signor Fernandez' cellar, and the wine was really very good, incredibly vivacious and youthful. My point was that those in the know in Ribeiro systematically put their red wines into an ice bucket to tone them up, as it were, and that by extension, putting red wines into ice buckets should not be taken as a clear sign of advanced dementia...

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