Issue 29

Wine Q&A: The Best, the Worst, the Most, and the Least

Wine Q&A: The Best, the Worst, the Most, and the Least

Wine, with all of its complexities, is basically a very simple product at its core. Grow some grapes, pick them, crush them, and allow them to ferment. Serve at room temperature or chilled. That’s it. But the mystique and intrigue surrounding the production and consumption of wine continually stirs debate, opinion, and lively conversation. Here are a few of my favorite wine questions, along with my rather opinionated answers.

What is the best way to preserve a half empty bottle of wine?

There are a plethora of wine preservation systems on the market. All are based the theory of minimizing wine’s contact with the open air, which causes spoilage over time. Some of the more popular systems over the years were hand pumps with special toppers, and aerosol cans filled with inert gases for spraying into the bottle prior to sealing the remains. Do they work? That’s debatable. There are also high dollar Enomatic and Cruvinet systems, which work tremendously well but are not very practical – or affordable- for us common folk. So where does this leave us? Fear not – there is good news to report. The most practical, easiest, most effective way to save the ‘other half’ of that bottle of wine is also the least expensive. Simply pour that half full bottle into a smaller container. An empty bottled water container is perfect. And fill it to the top – the less air space, the better. Trust me, it works. Pouring your fine wine from a water bottle may not create your preferred ambiance, but sipping on still-good wine will.

What is the worst wine preservation system you have ever seen?

Have you heard of wine “marbles”? Once upon a time there were wine marbles to drop into your partially-full bottle, to displace the air. And they were completely machine washable, with a cute little wine marble bag (yes, that’s really what it was called). I firmly believe that this system does keep your wine fresh. And such a system would be all the rage if only (a)-all of our best stemware was made from lead, and not lead crystal, and (b) earplugs and a spare ‘splatter’ shirt were provided with every purchase. Also, we would need a manufacturer’s guarantee against the breakage of that wine marble bag in your dishwasher. One can only imagine the gentle sound of Uzi shots ricocheting against the inside of one’s dishwasher. Fun for the entire family.

What is the most overrated wine variety?

Placing a value on any wine is highly subjective. There is no right answer here. But since you are asking, I will say that the Merlot phenomenon that first hit this country a generation ago will never cease to amaze me. There are many great merlots in the world. The most renowned come from the right bank of the Bordeaux region of France, and they can be of world-class quality. But historically merlot was primarily used as a ‘filler’ grape, as an additive to soften powerful, tannic cabernets and other various wine varieties. Merlot is also used to increase the supply of these other wines, as U.S. laws allow for the addition of up to 25% of other grape types in a varietally named wine. Merlot was never really meant to stand on its own, with the exception of the aforementioned right bank of Bordeaux. By itself, most merlots – but not all –tend to be inoffensive and pleasant, but pretty forgettable. While the great wine regions of the world justifiably tout their exceptional Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, etc., you just don’t hear a lot of clamor over the fine Merlot regions of the world. Maybe there’s a reason for that. Merlot is safe. It is neutral. Kind of like elevator music. Or paint thinner.

What wine variety represents the best value?

Five years ago I would have said that New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs were a steal. Since then, prices have crept up and are more in line with their quality. Today I would say that the Malbecs from Argentina are the best bargain around. And once the masses of red wine aficionados discover them, prices will rise. Check them out before they do.

And the most underappreciated wine is….?

This one is easy. Remember rose’? If you don’t, then you are obviously much younger than I. And if your idea of rose’ is a California White Zinfandel then you are not alone. Unfortunately you are also completely missing the boat. True rose’ is originally from France, is not innocuously sweet, and can be produced from many different grape types, in many different blends, in a wide range of styles. Rose’ can be terrific accompaniment to many foods. They can be delightfully simple, or surprisingly complex. And their diversity is unmatched. Best of all you do not have to pay a fortune for a good bottle of rose’. The irony here is that French rose’ is neither in short supply nor overly expensive but can be very hard to find. They are simply misunderstood and, therefore, scarcely represented in Midwest wine departments and largely omitted from restaurants wine lists. Do yourself a favor and search them out. You will be glad you did.

How can i avoid drinking too much wine at one sitting?

Wine is not beer. And if we are calibrated to drink wine in the same quantity, therein lies the problem. Know this: alcohol tends to dry one’s palate. As a result, alcoholic beverages may be the only liquid on the planet whose consumption actually increases one’s thirst. Discipline yourself to consume at least an equal amount of water when you drink wine. It’s easy, costs nothing, and it works. Glug the water for your thirst. Drink the wine for the taste.

The best way to improve the quality of your wines?

Serving wine at the proper temperature is certainly advisable. And storing wine properly on its side is also a wise move, especially for those intended to age for long periods of time. But the best way to improve the taste of all of your wine all of the time is to invest in quality stemware. If you are not sold on the influence of quality stemware, try this simple test. Pour the same wine in two different wine glasses and try it yourself. And then try the same taste test with a friend, not revealing that it is the same wine in both glasses. Ask which wine is preferred. And watch their reaction when you tell them that it is the same wine in both glasses. Trust me, you will become a believer in the power of quality stemware. It may be overkill to have separate stemware for each different wine variety in your arsenal. But a quality red wine glass and white wine glass in your cupboard is a must.

So there you have it. Hopefully the above Q and A’s have sparked some of your own opinions, and possibly some passionate disagreements. If so, then know that the magic of wine has once again succeeded in stirring lively conversation among friends.

John Finocchiaro

John Finocchiaro

John Finocchiaro is a former co-owner of Johnson Brothers Finocchiaro, LLC, a Nebraska wholesale wine, spirits, and beer distributor. Formerly the owner of Finocchiaro Wine Co., Inc., John has been in the wine distribution business for the past 25 years and the Finocchiaro family's association with the Nebraska wine industry has been continuous for the past 73 years, since 1935. John was a Certified Public Accountant before entering the family business and is a Certified Specialist of Wine.


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