Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Book Review

Most of us will never have to worry about the possible pitfalls or experience the exhilaration of owning a vast, expensive fine wine collection. Keeping that in mind, All About Wine Cellars by Howard G. Goldberg is still an interesting read. Perusing the wine book section at Border’s one day and having 10 bucks to spend, I picked up a copy. It’s a short read (112 pages including some photos) but a rather rich glimpse into the world of collecting fine wine, from purchasing it on the secondary market at wine auctions to fastidiously establishing the ideal storing conditions at home. (These ideal storing conditions for wine are, inarguably: constant, cool temperature, darkness, moderate humidity, no vibrations, and bottles resting in a horizontal position.) Included in this reference are chapters on making/designing a home cellar; organizing your cellar (by vintage? by region? by price? perhaps simply alphabetically?); what besides the wine itself you should have in said cellar; critiques on the types of corkscrews one should use for opening delicate, old bottles; and ordering wine in restaurants.

Goldberg’s account is informational, punctuated by anecdotal experience, and he lets interviews with wine professionals do some of the instruction for him. For example, for advice to those starting a wine collection (not necessarily a cellar full of wines to put away for a long time) but don’t know where to begin, he interviewed New York wine writer and educator Harriet Lembeck. She proposes that buying wine should be dictated, quite simply, by taste, and by making comparisons among wines that are stylistically similar. Compare a few different crisp, dry, unoaked white wines and the ones you enjoy most are the ones you should invest in. Do the same with oaky whites, lighter-bodied reds, robust reds, dessert wines—you get the idea. Before you know it, you have a nice stock of wine you can work with, some to enjoy sooner and some to enjoy later. Collecting wine and housing a swanky cellar in one’s home is usually the purview of the affluent, but I like that Goldberg eschews snobbery, proclaiming, “A real cellar, in my view, arises primarily from a love of the thing in itself, like a garden, not from a love of showing it off. It’s the difference between having a real wife and an—ugh—trophy wife.” Point taken, Mr. Goldberg. One final jewel: besides the usual bread, cheese, and crackers to cleanse your palate between tastings of wine, imagine olives! Particularly those from California’s C. C. Graber Company (since 1894). Now that’s a tidbit of advice I can begin using tomorrow!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wine + Technology = Yay!

A brand new wine bar opened up in Decatur, GA called Tastings. They’re a franchise operation originating in Florida and their big draw is a wine serving technology manufactured by Enomatic (made in Italy—is there any surprise there?). Bottles stand in neat rows, each with a plastic straw inside it, which dispenses wine in measured pours: tasting, a half-glass, or a full glass. You insert their pre-paid card into the machine and take your pick of how much to sample. It’s a playful, Dave & Buster’s-like approach to wine tasting—and I had a blast. Selections included over 100 wines ranging from budget-friendly ones at $1.70 per tasting to a Barolo priced at a whopping $10 per tasting (and $45 per full glass! Yeah, impress your date with that one!) Tastings brings in new wines every week so you can go often and not get bored with the wines offered. A retail wall of closed bottles means you can take something home with you, and a small bistro menu means you won’t have to record your tasting notes over a rumbling tummy. Does your date love wine but you’d prefer a brewski instead? They have a bar with some lovely nice beers on tap and spirits too, not to mention cigars!