We’ve all been there…. You’re hosting a small gathering at your pad and since your friends know how much you enjoy your vino, they figure ‘What better gift to bring over than a bottle of wine?!’ Unfortunately, some people’s taste in wine may greatly differ from yours, or the bottle they choose to bring just may not fit in with what you had planned to serve that evening. Or maybe that bottle is a surprisingly good one, but just not ready to drink. Or…you may have some friends that are just friggin’ cheap.
So there you are with a bottle in hand that you are trying to get out of opening, but of course you don’t want to be a complete jackass and hurt anyone’s feelings either. This can be a sticky situation as people can be a little sensitive about wanting to taste the wine that they bring (however, technically it is acceptable etiquette to choose not to serve that gifted bottle). So how do you avoid having to open that potential ‘swill’ without coming off like a total wine snob while using a legitimate excuse? Check it out…
Feel The Heat – Most times people will stop off at a wine shop to pick up a bottle to bring. If so, there are very few stores that keep their wines at a cool enough temperature to serve right away, even reds. So if you have a white in the fridge, or a red from your wine cellar, at the perfect serving temperature… that is an easy out to open up something a bit more readily enjoyable.
Youth Gone Wild – Not many folks will bring quality older vintage wines over… and if they do then you should ignore this post and open anything they bring! More often the most recent vintages are what ends up coming through your door. So if you offer to open up a selection that has a bit more age and is ready to drink, your guests should be more than happy to forego their gifted bottle.
How About An Upgrade?– When family and friends come over that are known to enjoy some quality juice, I have no problem breaking out the big guns. So if someone brings over an average bottle of Napa Cab for example, I like to offer something slightly higher up on the food chain and preferably with some bottle age (most recently I cracked open a 2005 Far Niente Cab as an upgrade…sick juice!). Again, if the parties involved enjoy and appreciate wine as you do they will most likely be more than happy to oblige.
The Missing Swill – I’m not saying that I’ve done this… but sometimes in the confusion of a party things can go missing or end up misplaced. So if that $5 bottle of cheap-ass Chianti accidentally ends up in the bread basket or the dog’s crate, that may not be the worst tactic to avoid suffering through some brutal juice that can cause a lot of pain both going down as well as the next morning.
I De-cant Drink This – If all else fails, the easiest route is just to open up the bottle and set it to the side to aerate a bit or possibly even throw it in a decanter. If it is a half way decent wine it just may improve, but in the meantime it allows you a chance to open some of your own juice. And let’s be honest, after a few choice bottles it probably won’t matter much what you’re drinking anyway 😉
I was discussing California wines with a buddy of mine the other night, and he explained an issue with some of the expensive Napa Cabs that he has tasted recently and I think it is a pretty common one. He purchased a bottle of the latest 2011 vintage of Caymus… a well known “Cult” Napa Cab. He opened it with his wife the other night and felt it was just good, not great….and for $70 he was expecting great! So what happened? Is Caymus overrated and not worth the money? Possibly, depending on your palate. But I think there is a different reason for his disappointment, and something that is overlooked by many wine drinkers.
Certain wines, especially big and tannic red wines from California, France and Italy, really need some time to age and evolve before they are ready to drink. These wines can have high levels of alcohol, tannins, acid, oak treatment and concentrated fruit. In a younger stage they can either be overtly over the top and massive (which actually suits certain palates) or they can be out of balance and discombobulated where the body or “mouthfeel” of the wine doesn’t match up with the nose or the finish. When this happens it can leave you with that “eh” kind of reaction to what should be a fantastic bottle of wine.
Caymus is a great example because unlike most of the big Napa Cab names they release their wines rather early. They are putting out 2011 right now while most big names are putting out ’09 or ’10. If they are releasing vintages a few years back then they have been doing the aging of the wine for you in their own wine cellar. So a 2008 Silver Oak that is just released will be much more approachable (ready to drink) than a younger Cab of the same caliber. Many Italian red wines, like Barolo and Brunello, require up to 5 years of aging before they are even released and depending on the vintage they can still use some time to mature.
Does that mean that all the wine you buy has to be laid down and aged for years before drinking…not at all! Only about 10% of wine on the market is meant for short to long term cellaring, meaning most of the $10-30 wines you typically purchase are ready to drink right away. But some of the more expensive and better made wines will certainly benefit from a few years of aging in a properly climate controlled wine fridge or wine cellar. As the saying goes, patience is a virtue.
Have you been disappointed with a wine recently? We’d love to hear about it!