Archive for December, 2009

Duck and Cellar

[ Apropos the dawn of a new decade in a couple days, a wine column I wrote about the anxiety surrounding the dawning of the last one — the infamous Y2K — and how savvy wine hoarders (er, collectors) might make the most of it. ]

It’s the beginning of a new year, but instead of optimism, there’s an undercurrent of unease about what life will be like 345 days from now. Forgetting the religious nuts and their threats of apocalypse, it’s geeks and the specter of core, computer-based systems taking a dive that really has people freaked out. Will there be water, gas, phone service? Authorities assure us there will, but the eerie thing is that no one really knows for sure. We certainly don’t. We’ve already heard reports of people starting to hoard food, so we say play it safe: start hoarding wine. In other words, start a cellar.

Indeed, when the infrastructure of American civilization grinds to a halt, it’s critical we remember that it won’t just be difficult to get food, it will be impossible to get wine. If you’ve thought ahead, you’ll be sitting pretty, with ample stores to wash down the leaves, berries, or grubs you’ve collected for a meal. In fact, your cellar will be a gold mine to barter for all manner of goods and services as unprepared wine lovers scrabble about, fermenting their socks and bits of string. Think of what could be yours for a simple bottle of French Côtes-du-Rhône: a mere $9 while money still works, it may be worth a chauffeur-driven, Flintstone-like car in the new millennium.

But as before the revelation of the Y2K bug, it will be important to follow a few simple rules to safeguard your investment. Read more

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A taste of 2009 — in 2009

Peugeot Nouveau 2009 labelOutside of Georges DuBoeuf’s Beaujolais Nouveau marketing scam, it’s unheard of: releasing a wine in its vintage year. But here in our basement lair, we’re always hearing the unheard (dear Santa: tinfoil hat patch kit, please), so we thought we’d try it, too. The result: last Thursday night, a small group of us got together to bottle the first expression of the 2009 vintage — a “second wine” (or “piquette”) of Cabernet Sauvignon — which we’ve pithily christened “Peugeot Nouveau.”

A second wine is kind of like “small beer”: you take the leftovers from the first round of winemaking (in this case, the cake left over after pressing), and reconstitute it with water, sugar, and sometimes tartaric acid. Since the yeast still lurk within, nursing hangovers from their first binge, the party starts again within a few hours.

Unfortunately for them, there’s a catch: the good times may be rolling again, but the bar’s now only pouring well drinks. Because the vast majority of a red wine’s flavor comes from, essentially, an infusion of juice with grape skins, the first press has carried away the bulk of the good stuff — or so you hope. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some oomph left in the skins, especially in our case, since our press isn’t pro enough to squeeze the daylights out of them. So for us, a second wine is aptly named: a second chance to capture all the flavor packed into the grapes we bring in.

Still, what you get isn’t exactly a Robert Parker, stand-a-spoon-in-it wine (“I had to use a knife and spread it on pain grillé — 100 points!”), so we decided to embrace its essential, uncomplicated nature. Like Beaujolais Nouveau, it’s fruity and easy drinkin’, but with enough verve and flavor to brighten a dark winter night.

We’ll be “releasing” it New Year’s Eve, just under the wire to taste 2009 in 2009. Happy new year, everyone!

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