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Joel Gott, Côtes Castalanes (Roussillon, France) Grenache "Shatter" 2014 ($20)
 An unusual and very delicious wine, Shatter is medium-bodied yet full and lush on the palate thanks to its fruit density.   It has soft tannins and is refined and well structured.  The Grenache vines grow in Maury, a village in Southwestern France better known for its dessert wines.  Maury’s black, nutrient-poor soil, along with strong winds and scorching heat, stress the vines and cause “shatter” in the grape clusters (shatter naturally thins the vines, leaving smaller clusters of intensely concentrated grapes). Shatter is a collaboration between Joel Gott and Trinchero Family Wines.
93 Marguerite Thomas


Posted by Michael Franz on February 16, 2018 at 5:49 PM

Don't Worship Your Wines: Grip 'Em and Rip 'Em

When I first fell in love with wine, I was frequently tormented by conflicting desires regarding the bottles that I acquired.  Cellar them or drink them? 

Just as it is not possible to have one's cake and eat it too, one cannot keep a wine to build a stash while also getting to drink it to build an inventory of tasting experiences.  To make things worse, there's no way to know whether you'll be catching the wine at the optimal point of maturity until you've pulled the cork.  If it seems too young once opened, there's no undoing the damage of premature opening.  And if it seems like you've waited too long, there's no undoing the damage of an overly delayed opening.

I know that my torment over this issue isn't just a personal peculiarity (though I do have plenty of those), because I've spoken with many consumers who ask anguished questions about the optimal time for drinking cherished bottles that sit, enshrined, in their dwellings.  After years of wrestling with the issue, I now find it quite easy to advise them, and I invariably advise them to get over their reverence and just drink the damned things.

There are several reasons for this.  First, I've found that many more wines suffer from being held too long than being drunk too young. 

Second, winemaking has changed so much during the past two decades that few wines--even sturdy red wines--really require ageing before becoming enjoyable.  Even Barolo and Barbaresco and many classified growth Bordeaux can be enjoyed shortly after release these days if decanted and paired with food that has a little dietary fat (which is a natural sensory buffer against astringent tannins).  You may not catch these wines at their absolute apex of complexity by cracking them while still relatively young, but you know for sure that you won't catch them at their dried, dead nadir. 

Third, you don't need to worry about drinking rather than aging wines from great vintages, because there's sure to be another great vintage somewhere almost every calendar year. 

This is a new situation.  For example, if you were debating in 1970 whether to drink or cellar your one bottle of 1961 Bordeaux, you had a real dilemma on your hands, because there just weren't many regions making great wine back then.  There was no telling when you'd get another opportunity to replace that bottle with another of comparable quality.  However, a truly revolutionary diffusion of technology and expertise over the course of the past generation has now transferred potential excellence so widely across the globe that there's no such thing as a bad year.  If Bordeaux gets drenched, you can still drink what you've got and be secure in the knowledge that you can replace it with this year's Don Melchor from Chile or Vilafonté from South Africa or Catena from Argentina or Penfolds Bin 707 from Australia or Quilceda Creek from Washington.

They might not all be good in 2018, but I would bet my ass that one or more of them will be fabulous.  And when I taste it, I'll tell you so that you can buy it to replace the Sacred Cow you'll wisely drink on your next special occasion.

A final reason to grip 'em and rip 'em is that even the luckiest person isn't guaranteed another day, and you can't drink your treasured wine tomorrow if you get hit by a bus today.  Sure, maybe there's a heaven, and if so, it would surely be well stocked with wine.  But just in case, I'm going to open a really good bottle tonight to toast my good fortune....

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Lessons from 2018 Winemaker Challenge
Robert Whitley

While pricey Napa Valley wines dominated the top awards at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge at the end of January, other trends emerged, as they always do. The Winemaker Challenge is a 'blind' tasting, as all credible wine competitions are. Judges evaluate each wine without such vital information as producer or price. Blind tastings level the playing field and allow each wine to be judged on the merits rather than reputation or price. Anything can happen, and often does.
Rediscover Alsace: Unique Geology, Extraordinary Wines
Wayne Belding

Despite producing a profusion of stellar wines, Alsace is often overlooked when it comes to French winegrowing areas. The wine press covers events in Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne with great alacrity, while Alsace is accorded a footnote. Although wine has been made here since Roman times, the tormented political history of the region has prevented Alsace wines from gaining the same recognition as other French producing regions. Between 1870 and 1970, Alsace was under German control more than French. Whether its lack of notoriety is due to fragmented vineyard holdings, political history or the sheer diversity of its wines, it's time to rediscover the greatness of Alsace wine.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Pork and Veal Meatballs in Brandy Cream Sauce

Traditionally European in both style and flavor, this preparation lifts meatballs from familiar everyday fare to a sphere of greater elegance and complexity. Veal is lighter and more delicately flavored than beef, and Italian cooks generally add pork when they are making meatballs or ragu, both for its sweeter taste and finer, fattier texture. You can ask the butcher to grind both the veal and the pork for you. We found that red wines worked best with these meatballs, and that the best partners were reds with fairly soft tannins and echoes of spice or earth complementing their more forward fruit flavors. Especially if served on a wintry evening, this is a rich, satisfying dish. The wine you choose should have a similar profile.
On My Table
Overachieving Sauvignon Blanc and Extraordinary Cabernet
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

'How high can you score a Sauvignon Blanc?,' my fellow taster and I mused. Can a mere Sauvignon Blanc attain scores worthy of white Burgundy, for example? Philosophical discussions of quality and scoring aside, we acknowledged that we are not accustomed to finding Sauvignon Blanc wines from California that even raise those issues. In this wine, we had found one. The wine's fresh, pronounced aroma evokes citrus, tropical and stone fruits: Lemon and grapefruit mingle with melon and guava, and with nectarine. In your mouth, the wine is dry and nearly full-bodied with creamy texture and vibrant acidity. Its flavors are concentrated and vivid, echoing those in the aroma, with mango and herbal notes joining in; these flavors are enduring on the palate as you hold the wine in your mouth. Nothing about this wine says 'oak' except the rich texture and the slightest note of toast on the finish; in fact the purity and intensity of flavor skews this wine itoward the unoaked stylistic camp. Dry, rich, extremely flavorful, with great depth and enduring length: this is a Sauvignon Blanc that offers the ready expressiveness of the variety and yet is actually an important wine.