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What I call slow wine

Have you ever noticed, when on vacation in Europe, that life somehow seems to go slower there? Especially in Southern states like Spain, Italy, Greece or France? It’s not only their siesta and taking time to enjoy their lunch with a glass of wine. I believe it’s a different attitude all together towards life.

I lived in Europe most of my life, and moved to America eight years ago. There are things I enjoy in both parts of the world and some that I may complaint about here and there. So maybe I am qualified to make a comparison. I think that what Americans enjoy when visiting Europe, is the fine line between hard work and enjoying a life.
I try to bring this “European spirit” here, and believe me, it’s possible. You don’t have to eat dinner in front of TV or computer, with your eyes pierced at your blackberry display.

Dinner should be your time to relax, share stories, appreciate food and wine and enjoy a pleasant conversation (unless, of course, you don’t have anybody to enjoy a pleasant conversation with).

I changed myself. I used to be workaholic. If I didn’t work, I was thinking about the work or talking about it. I was truly obsessed. It must have been annoying too. My mood would change directly based on success or failure on the work front.

Sometimes you need a loved one to remind you, sometimes you need a shocking event to change your point of view. I had both. And quickly realized, that I don’t want to sprint through my life without noticing what is wonderful about it.

That’s how I discovered my “slow wines”. I gave this name to wines that need to age in bottle and/or to be decanted. Simply because they “force you” to take your time to enjoy them. Although, there is plenty of wines on the market (probably 80% of all) that are meant for fast consumption. You go to the store and buy a bottle that you plan to drink tonight for a dinner. Or to bring it with you to the party.

But when you start to appreciate wine more, you began to be curious. What is it about all those aged wines (like Bordeaux, some Californian high end stuff, Italian Brunellos, Amarones or Spanish super reds) that make people to pay a lot of money, become a wine collectors and wait for years to enjoy them? Do they really taste so much better than?

To me it’s the fascination with development. I mean how the wine develops in the bottle. How could somebody in Bordeaux predict how their blend, tasting really harsh at the moment, it’s going to develop in 10 years into an excellent symphony of mellow flavors? I have a huge respect for that.

Unfortunately, many “accidental wine drinkers” or wine snobs, loving to show off in front of their friends, often pay big bucks for well known superior wine, just to kill it by opening it right away (long before its prime time).

The result is that they either hate it openly – and kill the wine for everybody else, or they pretend that they admire it and hate it secretly. Both isn’t fair to the wine. The worst scenario is when some of them actually believes that this is how the wine supposed to taste. Their friends, that might not be as “knowledgeable” don’t know what to think and they all shared a secret thought: “Oh my God so much money for such a …%@#&@*$ ! What a waste!”

You think I am exaggerating? I remember when 2005 Bordeaux wines were released and the reviews said it was a vintage of the century (the price definitely reflected that). I remember one of my customers, a high end Steak house, calling me repeatedly that they needed more of (preferably classified) Bordeaux reds because they were sold out. Wow! Those wines will be in their prime in about 8-10 years! So sad.

No, you don’t have to wait for all wines this long. Some are improved even with a few years in the bottle. If you want to be sure, there are vintage charts available that can give you some idea when to open your “special bottle”. I think the trend in general is to drink younger wines anyway. Even some wines from Old world are lately being made this “modern style”. They are approachable right now, but will also improve with a few years of aging.

Still, if you buy wine like that, give it the proper treatment to enjoy the most of it! Let it breath. Take out your decanter and pour it slowly to let the oxygen in. The wine will reward you for that. What is the proper time to let wine breath? It depends. Even 15 – 30 minutes makes a difference. Some wines are just wonderful after an hour. And I had wines that were so over the top huge that I let them stand in decanter for a day. What a difference!

Being on the road, tasting wines with my customers, I often had a dilemma how to aerate wine “on to go”. I couldn’t possibly carry a decanter with me. That’s when I discovered a Wine decanting pourer. What an excellent tool! If I wanted to sell the wine, it was in my best interest to present it to my customers at its best. And this pourer helped me to do just that.

Great when you decided to open a special bottle on date and you are outside, having a romantic picnic. It fits in your pocket. Works also for those that don’t want to spend money on expensive decanter.

One of my friends (and he was Italian!!!!) once told me: “Who has time to wait for the wine? I want to drink it right now!” Really? The winemaker had time to wait for the right quality of the fruit from his vineyards for years, than the time spent carrying for it, waiting for fermentation, aging it in oak to develop the best flavors to express that grape – and you don’t have a half an hour to let the wine shine?! What a shame!

Sure, you can drink it as it is. Sometimes, by the time you get to the bottom of the bottle, you might realize how great it suddenly tastes. Yeah, it’s just about opening up for you. And you, in such a hurry, missed the whole show!

Take a test yourself. Open a good bottle of wine and take a sip right away. Than pour the rest to decanter and wait 15 minutes. Taste it again. Most likely it’s going to taste slightly different. If you have a patience and time, taste it again in another 15 minutes. If it’s a good bottle, the wine will be slowly growing on you and changing as it’s opening up. It’s worth the time.

One of the best examples of this experience to me was a great Italian wine called Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Martinenga. It’s made from 100% Nebbiolo grape, coming from one of the finest Cru vineyards in all Piedmont.

I had the pleasure and honor to meetsignore Alberto di Grésy personally and it was as unforgettable to me as his wines are. Don’t worry about vintage, this wine doesn’t change its quality by the weather. This historic estate never fails to deliver the highest quality of Nebbiolo in the region.

Marchese di Gresy Barbaresco starts like a light bodied wine with an amazing aroma, flavors and depth. It just keeps opening up with every other sip you take. At the end your palate is approached with a wonderful full body red with an extraordinary long finish.

This wine works like a magic, like reading an exciting book and getting new surprise with every page you turn. When you think it can’t get any better, it does. I can never forget this wine and how I felt while drinking it. It was a beautiful adventure.

So take your time enjoying your slow wine. It will reward you with an extra ordinary experience and memories.

2 thoughts on “What I call slow wine”

  1. Tom, thank you so much for sharing your story. It touched my heart. Also, it makes me feel good to see that I am not the only one who can be a "tiny" obsessed with wine. You inspired me to try it again!


  2. I'ts been quite a few years, but I recall an article that I read wherein the writer described how he drank the entire bottle over the period of a day and what he learned about the wine and his palate. I tried the same thing with a not-too-old vintage of Italy's Sassicaia and my recollection is that it resulted in something more than a tasting/drinking adventure. It was a very sensual experience.


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