Sunday, May 16, 2010

Need Air? Don’t Feel Like the Lone Ranger

Three of us recently attended a tasting of white and red wines produced by the new owners and operators of Remoissenet, a once venerable estate and winery in Burgundy that fell into gradual decline and was acquired in 2005 by a small group led by New York developers Howard and Edward Milstein.

They subsequently retained as President Pierre Rovani, who achieved fame in the world of wine as the first person hired by Robert Parker to help Parker rate a widening array of wines, among them Burgundies. Rovani worked with Parker for 10 years, joining Remoissenet in late 2006.

As Rovani described it, his job is “to produce the finest wines their terroirs can muster.”

There’s that word again: terrior. Rovani offered as good a definition as I have heard -- “all non-human influences on wine,” which is to say things like the composition of soil and the location and aspect of a vineyard.

In any event, shortly after beginning a lengthy and somewhat helpful discussion of the wines at hand, Rovani declared with great import: “All of our wines are desperately in need of air. They actually are better on the second day.”

The manner in which he said it made it sound like this characteristic put Remoissent wines into some special category. Based on our experience, nothing could be further from the truth.
Rovani may have been talking about his white wines as well as his reds, but for the purpose of this posting, I’m restricting my comments only to red wines.

In our now considerable experience with comparative tastings, many, many red wines improve with exposure to oxygen and a lot of them need plenty of it. As regular readers of this blog know, we have regularly revised our opinions of red wines – generally in a more favorable direction – after reopening a partially consumed bottle and trying it a second time a day or more after we first sampled it.
I’m talking here about red wines  made by traditional artisan methods in relatively small lots. Mass-market reds made by major corporations are, in effect, “homogenized” so as to taste pretty much identical year to year. And most don’t tend to improve much if at all with exposure to oxygen.
Unfortunately, those of us at the Remoissenet tasting didn’t get to try the wines a day later ( in any case, all of the bottles that were opened appeared to have been be depleted in the course of the event ) so I can’t say if wonderful things happened in the moonlight.

But it later occurred to me – perish the thought -- that Rovani’s comment may have been somewhat disingenuous.
“If for some reason you don’t think the wines you are sampling are the nectar of the gods, its because you didn’t get to taste them on the second day, when they show their true colors.”


And then I thought about the poor souls who order Remoissenet Burgundies in a restaurant and fail to call a day in advance to tell the wine steward to open a bottle for them and let it sit overnight.

Which, by the way, would defeat the purpose of that ritual at the table where one is first showed the sealed bottle – so you know you are getting what you ordered – and then it is opened as you watch.
Why does that go on? Well, I suppose in times past, consumers ordered one thing and got another. If a bottle arrives at your table already open, how do you know what’s really in it?

Perhaps it would be best to enjoy Rovani’s wines at home. It’s less expensive that way and you’re in control all the way.

Which ones might be worth trying? I’ll cover that in a subsequent posting.

Stay tuned.

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