GEORGE BALLING: Questions of age and preservation

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Over the eight-plus years we have written the wine column for the Coeur d’Alene Press, we have met many friends who contact us with questions on all things wine. It is great fun and rewarding for us to receive questions and to know that you all are still reading. Here are some of the latest questions.

We have had much interest expressed in the Coravin wine dispensing system. We have to admit this is one of the more ingenious wine gadgets we have seen; it is also one of the more expensive, retailing from $200 and up. The Coravin allows the user to dispense a small amount of wine from a bottle without removing the cork. It then replaces the wine with argon gas which is heavier than oxygen therefore sitting on top of the wine and preserving it from the deleterious effects of oxygen. It accomplishes this via a needle that goes through the cork.

As we said it is wonderfully designed and works well. It was designed with the high end collector in mind, allowing them to take a small amount from an expensive bottle without being forced to consume the whole bottle quickly to avoid it spoiling. It seems though, that it is garnering much interest from casual wine drinkers using it on far less expensive bottles than what was intended. It seems like an expensive proposition for everyday use. A better solution for a bottle that we only intend to hold over a night or two until we finish it is Private Preserve. Private Preserve is argon gas in an aerosol can that you can spray into the open bottle to preserve it. It retails for $12 for 120 applications. Seems to us like a better value for everyday wines.

A recent comment from a customer was that red wines are always more age worthy than white wines. Age worthiness is never determined by the color of the grape, or even the varietal. It is not determined either by the growing region, or the vintage. While all of these things are contributing factors, how well a wine will age comes down to winemaking. What gives a wine longevity in the bottle is acid. While some vintages and appellations are known for developing higher acids in the grapes and therefore the wine made from them, it is more affected by decisions during the winemaking process, from the time that is best to harvest, through the barrels used for aging and how long to age the wine before bottling.

We have been fortunate to taste white wine with 20 plus years of age that are vibrant and lovely. Similarly we have tasted red wines that are only a couple of years removed from harvest that are completely “shot.” The ability of wine to age is also never determined by price. Many producers of wines that any of us would consider expensive produce wines to be very “showy” in their youth. Are they delicious? You bet. Are they worth the price? Certainly. But don’t try to age them, as what gives the wine its youthful appeal is likely a lack of acid, which means they won’t age well. Similarly we have paid under $15 for a wine made with plenty of acid that we have then tried many years later and found to be delicious. A trusted wine professional will help in answering questions on how a wine will age.

One final, quick question. Someone asked where the recipes come from that are included with all of our wine club bottles. Those are my work. While I admit that my recipe writing, like most, is largely based on plagiarism. We go out to dinner or lunch or join friends at their home and then our next move is to go home and try to recreate it with our own twist. We do try to come up with a creative recipe for all of our wine club selections that our customers enjoy.

Keep your questions coming via email or stop by the shop to chat.

If there is a topic you would like to read about or questions on wine you can email George@thedinnerpartyshop.com or make suggestions by contacting the Healthy Community section at the Coeur d’Alene Press.

• • •

George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party — a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.

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