Friday, February 14, 2014

We will sell no wine before its time ...

Aging wine overnight?

Remember the old TV commercials of the1970s in which a burly, bearded Orson Welles would intone in a most dignified voice, "We will sell no wine before its time"?

Like most Americans, I wasn't enough of a wine geek in those early days to have any idea that the California wine brand that Welles was hawking - Paul Masson - was a cheap, industrial beverage that neither required nor would benefit from cellar time.  But that didn't stop us from yelling "It's time!" and pulling out the cork.

The problem of table wines that really aren't quite ready to drink, however, is a real one, and it remains with us in this age of much broader wine knowledge and, in my experience, a far broader range of possibilities on wine shop shelves.

While many, many wines, including most "industrial" brands that make up the lion's share of all wines sold, are ready to drink the day we buy them, and won't gain a thing from further aging. Toss them on the wine rack for a year or three, and they'll eventually fade, lose their fruit and eventually turn into a brownish, stinky fluid that won't poison you if you drink it, but won't please you either.

But when we come to the artisanal, interesting, hand-made and small-production wines that I believe fascinate most readers of this column, we run into a whole 'nother story.

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