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Dr. Apstein's Case for Quarantine
By Michael Apstein
Mar 17, 2020
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I’ll leave the medical advice concerning the need to quarantine to your personal physician and public health experts.  My advice is for a case of wine you’ll need for those two weeks.  Of course, depending on how many other adults are with you in quarantine, you may need more than a case.

For many, planning dinner two nights in advance is a task.  I know of no one who could plan meals two weeks in advance.  So, you need flexibility in the wine you select.  You’ll need reds and whites that go with a variety of dishes, since you may not know exactly what you’ll be eating each day. 

Let’s start with the obvious: Champagne or other sparkling wine.  You’ve heard the statement about Champagne, attributed to Napoleon or Churchill, or maybe both, “In victory, you deserve it.  In defeat, you need it.”  At this stage of the pandemic it’s premature to declare victory, just as it’s not appropriate to throw in the towel.  Regardless, you still need Champagne.  And a Champagne stopper, which allows you to enjoy a glass, re-stopper the bottle to conserve the bubbles, and have another glass the following night.  I recommend the graceful Chardonnay-laden Laurent Perrier NV Brut ($47) or the more powerful and equally seductive Louis Roederer NV Brut ($55).  Champagne’s too pricey with economic disaster looming in the near future?  Try Roederer Estate Brut from California’s Anderson Valley ($25) or Ferrari’s Metodo Classico from Trento in Northern Italy ($24).  Less expensive still, but still worth putting in the case, is Bisol’s Prosecco, “Jeio” ($15).  One of the best French non-Champagne sparkling wine bargains is Paul Chollet’s beautifully balanced rosé, Crémant de Bourgogne Brut “Oeil de Perdrix” ($16).

Undoubtedly during a two-week spell you’ll have pasta, maybe linguine and clam sauce (using canned clams), macaroni and cheese, a robust spaghetti putanesca, or a subtler rigatoni and Bolognese ragú.  With all the time on your hands, this would be a good time to make risotto.  And chicken breasts, thighs or whole a roasted chicken will find their way to the menu, along with steaks or lamb chops that you’ve thought to freeze.  Hearty beef stews or lamb shanks always improve after a day or two.  With that array of flavors, you’ll need an equally diverse group of wines. 

Let’s start with whites.  Riesling is always a favorite of mine because it really can go with most foods—even steak—because of its mouth-cleansing acidity.  Trimbach, one of the great names in Alsace, makes consistently excellent Riesling.  Their 2017 ($19) has enough body to offset the acidity and be a good match for that spaghetti putanesca.  I go off the beaten track and suggest William Fevre’s 2017 St. Bris ($24).  St. Bris is a tiny appellation near Chablis that requires the use of Sauvignon Blanc.  Fevre’s combines the bite of that variety with minerality imparted by the limestone of the region. 

Moving to southern Burgundy, pick up a bottle of Louis Latour’s 2018 Viré-Clessé from a small appellation in the Mâconnais.  The backbone of acidity in Latour’s whites is well-suited to ripeness imparted by the warmth of the vintage.  This is a great introduction to white Burgundy.  Pieropan’s single vineyard Soaves are consistent winners, but so too is their regular one.  The 2018 ($23), which just won a double gold medal at 2020 Toast of Coast International Wine Competition, should certainly be in your case.  It has good stuffing and a piercing acidity that keeps it fresh.  Cerulli Spinozzi, a top producer in Abruzzo, makes a fabulous Pecorino (a wine, not the cheese).  Their 2016, with a pepper-like bite and saline stoniness, is lively, refreshing and a bargain to boot ($15).

Turning to the reds.  I’ll state the obvious.  You want wines that are ready to drink, so avoid those that would benefit from even a year of bottle age.  The 2016 Chianti Classicos are perfect for drinking now with those hearty pasta dishes.  Try Machiavelli’s savory and racy 2016 “Solatìo del Tani ($25),” or Fontodi’s ripe and racy 2016 ($45), or Frescobaldi’s graceful 2016 Tenuta Perano ($23).  Similarly, save your Brunello di Montalcino for another time and embrace the 2016 Rosso di Montalcino, such as the finesse-filled one from Col d’Orcia ($22). 

In Beaujolais, Château Thivin’s Côte de Brouilly never fail to impress, so look for their mid-weight and savory 2016 or 2017 (each about $29).  For the steak that will likely be on the table once during the two-week period, try Jed Steele’s 2016 Stymie Vineyard Merlot ($38) from Lake County in California.  Though it’s a big wine, it’s not over the top and the fine tannins and suave texture allow immediate enjoyment.  For those of you, like myself, who could not stand the thought of being away from red Burgundy for two weeks, I suggest Jadot’s 2017 fleshy and charming Pernand-Vergelesses Clos de la Croix de Pierre ($49), a premier cru that the family has owned for decades, and delivers a balanced mix of fruity and savory notes.  This is a 2017 red Burgundy that’s enjoyable now.

Cheese won’t spoil over two weeks, so you can look forward to the occasional cheese course, which, means a sweet wine, in my opinion.  Sauternes will keep beautifully after being opened for a few days, so this is the time to find a bottle of it.  Château Coutet (from the famous Sauternes sub-section Barsac) is one of my favorites.  The beautifully balanced 2005 is still widely available ($68).  Equally good with cheese, is Port.  I favor a well-aged Tawny over a Vintage Port because there’s no need to decant and the wine will stay fresh after opening for at least two weeks.  Look for Taylor’s or Fonseca’s 20-year old Tawny (each $52).  Those wines might seem pricey, but remember, you’re drinking them over a week.

So, there’s Dr. Apstein’s recipe: a bottle of bubbles, a sweet wine, five whites and five reds.  Adjust as necessary.  Consider doubling the quantities just in case you get a recurrence and need to re-quarantine.

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E-mail me your choices for your case for quarantine at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @MichaelApstein

March 16, 2020