Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Right Time to Open That Bottle

The clock of time is a wild child...” - Priyansha Vashi

Lately, as it seems I have a lot more time on my hands, although it is somewhat abbreviated compared to 30 years ago, I often muse upon the logistics of when to open a bottle. During the recent holiday, I wanted to find something red and with a little bit of age on it, maybe 10 years. Along with that, I needed a crisp fresh white wine to complement the foods we were serving along with the preferences of the other folks enjoying the wine with me. Both wines needed to be opened at the right time. In the case of the white wine, that was a little bit easier. But in the case of the red, a 2013 Barolo, I wondered just what I might be getting myself into. No, not anything dramatic. More of a desire to pinpoint the right bottle at the right time kind of thing. And if it didn’t work, well, there are plenty more willing participants in that cold, dark room, where they huddle in peace waiting for their moment to shine.

The white, a German, is a favorite quaff of mine lately. A 2021 Sauvignon Blanc from the Pfalz and the Von Winning. Denoted as “II” among the different cuvees of SB made by the Weingut, this one is their entry level, which sees no oak. I love this wine. It’s German, it’s white and even though it isn’t a Riesling, it has similar characteristics of one. But it is a bit more tarty, edgy and super clean in the finish. Went very well with the smoked turkey, the mashed potatoes (with lots and lots of butter) and the traditional green bean casserole (albeit a bit more artisanally created). Anyway, it was deelish and perfect.

The Barolo, a single vineyard 'Pernanno' 2013 from Cascina Bongiovanni presented a bit more of a complex challenge. Reviews had pegged this wine as maybe being a little too oaked, and slightly hot in the alcohol profile. I took that into consideration to go along with the smokiness of the turkey. The grapes, grown in Castiglione Falletto, had good enough of a pedigree, for sure. And the 2013 vintage, now ten years old, received a fair share of laudatory acclaim. What better way to find out than to pop a bottle and see where we were at?

Folks write about the strong tannins of Barolo, but for years that sensation has eluded me. I didn’t feel it. Maybe it was growing up on California wine. Or going to En Primeur in Bordeaux for years. Now there were a lot of tannic wines I tasted in Napa and Bordeaux. But Piedmont? Nahhh, I didn’t get that gene.

But this wine was très tannic. I decanted it rather ruggedly, as the picture denotes. We were going to spank this baby and welcome it into the cruel world of the living. The wine did not back down, came out screaming, bawling. But it did calm down, eventually. And in the period of an afternoon and evening, the life of that wine was laid out for all to see and feel.

So often, we labor over when is the right time to pull the cork. I think that humankind wrestles with that issue over many levels. In the case of wine, though, what I have found is that there is an infinitesimal number of times when the conditions are perfect. Conversely, there are rare few times when it isn’t the right time. Sure, we’ve all experienced those moments when the spirit of the wine inside the newly opened bottle of wine had passed years ago. Such is life. And death.

What I have learned, in my dotage, is to not sweat the small stuff. If the wine doesn’t feel right, open another one, chances are very few of us who have wine collections will live to see all of our bottles opened up in our lifetime. So, take that into consideration. And in the meantime, learn to pivot when pivoting is needed, and appreciate and be grateful for the small miracles that open up in front of us every day.

P.S. The Barolo was just fine, it was the right time.

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