I don’t make resolutions.Champagne Coups 2016

I don’t KEEP resolutions.

I don’t MAKE resolutions I can’t KEEP.

Let’s just run with that last statement.

We’re two weeks into January – rocketing towards this 2016 thing – and I think a little each day about how people receive the gift of a new year.

Most who know me know that my household is one filled with food, wine, cheese, more wine, desserts, dessert wines, and other bacchanalia.  For all of my adult life I have been in a restaurant based job where the objective has been to take food to people to make them happy and satisfied.  And for the most part, the food + wine = happiness equation works out!  Conversations start to flow.  Smiles spread wider.  Songs are sung louder.  Hugs are hugged longer.    I love watching this process and I love even more being a part of it.  It really is the essence of life.  That being said, you can see how dieting is never a resolution for me.


How about more exercise?  While I do admire the committed running habit that my sleek counterpart (sauce) keeps, I allow myself no delusions and fully recognize that my fitness routines are much more sporadic.  If I must be resolved to make an improvement it is usually more inwardly focused than out.  This is something I encourage even the body image resolution makers to include into their routines – and most will see that an examination of their inside is just as challenging as transforming the outside.  There are fewer benchmarks to follow and the goals are not as measurable but when you start to get results you will be glad of that.  While each of us aim to reach a certain number of inches or pounds or minutes and seconds – none of us aims to count the number of laughs or hugs or tears of joy we’ve had as those should all be infinite.

And so for 2016, I’m resolved to:Super Busy

  • be less busy and more productive
  • talk less and say more
  • disconnect to reconnect
  • have a really good laugh
  • be authentic
  • “get it together”

And to start checking off my list, I’m going to go finish up making dining reservations and tasting appointments for the coming weekend in Napa & Sonoma!

Catch up on a few posts from 2016 and Pass the sauce…

Whole Hog: an introduction to tiffandsauce  If you’re confused about who “we” are, read this and you’ll surely be more confused.

Drink Me!  If you failed to do an audit in your cellar back in the Fall of 2015, you can be resolved to do it in the New Year.


Falling Bright Wine Merchants Visit our gallery of Fine Wine Online if you’re resolved to drink better wines in 2016.



What the Teeter-Totter Taught Her about Balance

There are no teeter-totters on the playgrounds of today.  Teaching children the usefulness of a practical grasp on physics is no longer considered appropriate or necessary (or safe).  But since I spent my last blog pretending to know anything about Economics, why not shill out a few thoughts on physics here.  Kidding!  Rather, let’s get even more ridiculous and talk about balance.  Balance in the context of wine;  Absurdity.

Teeter Totter

I’m going to make a general assumption that a wine drinking audience will know that a reference to balance in the context of wine is a reference to the structural makeup of the wine.  The sweetness/dryness, tannin, alcohol, and acidity should all come together to form one cohesive swallow-able unit.  So if the concept of balance is so simple, what’s all the fuss about?  For more than a few years now the topic of balanced wine, with a focus on the Pinot Noir varietal in particular, has been hotly debated and there seems to be a line drawn in the playground sand at around 14% alcohol by volume.  Somehow, alcohol comes to the forefront of the debate and other elements of “structure” have been somewhat left in the dust as if they aren’t a part of the one cohesive swallow-able unit we call wine.  I will venture to guess that this piece of information (%ABV) is one of the most accessible to the general consumer as it is required to be included on the label by the government whereas other technical information is not so readily available so it would take deeper research to form a critique on the particular wine you may be tasting.

All of this aside, what I am meaning to get to is that you don’t need any tools or tech sheets beyond your own palate to decide if you are pleased or displeased by any wine in particular.  Could this information be helpful in making purchasing decisions?  Yes.  Would a tech sheet be more helpful to a consumer than a tasting note?  Maybe, that depends on the consumer.  Is the advice/opinion of a professional helpful in comparison to the information on a tech sheet or a tasting note?  Possibly, that depends on the integrity of the professional.  All at once, everybody whip out your trusty hand-held device (I’m talking smartphones here guys…) and begin a mad search for an answer to the previous three questions.  Google:  best way to choose a wine.  Fail.  That just turned up a bunch of editorial trash ranging from Men’s Fitness magazine to Marie Claire and they’re discussing the pictures on the labels.  Google:  how to choose wine at a restaurant.  No, now we have GQ talking about prices on restaurant lists and that’s a WHOLE different argument.  Google:  best wines 2015.  You’ve got big box retailers and major publications selling wine to you now.

Ok, smartphones down (unless you’re reading moi on that tiny screen).  Stop making wine into a boring, empty, white space devoid of passion.  I’m bad at physics.  I failed calculus.  Don’t take me into this torturous world of numbers and graphs when I just want recess to come so I can play on the teeter-totter with my glass of Pinot.

Teeter Totter Pinot

I will tell you that as a professional wine buyer I am one of the guiltiest parties in analyzing and breaking down wine while I taste it – especially if I’m tasting for trade purposes vs. tasting for pleasure.  (Every taste should be for pleasure you say here…right?)  There are two sides to me as a taster.  Side A:  In a split second, before you even know that your taste was poured, I have determined if the wine is “sound”.  By sound I mean passable as a quality wine.  If this is not the case, I have no place for this wine on my list (or in my mouth).  Side B:  This is where it gets more complicated and I make an assessment for varietal typicity, regional typicity, price-value relationship, and then a whole slew of passion evoking qualities…is there a sense of place?  is the wine unique?  does anything stand out?  how is the palate weight?  how is the finish?  does the palate echo the nose or does it surprise me?  was the surprise pleasant?  would I drink more of this?  is it cumbersome or relentless or ethereal or special or is it just Wine?  Basically you could say that my Side A could fit on a tech sheet, my  Side B could write a tasting note, and a combination of both would give you the more complete experience of “ask a professional”.

Here is the breakdown, and possibly some answers to the above questions.  Wine is not about a pursuit of balance.  Wine is not about tech.  Wine is not about correctness (being ME and saying THAT is really difficult if you know me on a personal level).  Wine is about People.  People are about Relationships.  Relationships are about Trust.  Who will you ride the teeter-totter with?  The playground bully that jumps off to leave you helplessly crashing to the ground on the other side…a fun-loving friend who might just tease that they will drop you…a partner in play who really wants to have a good time on the ups and downs?  Throughout life you are sure to experience each of those rides many times over, even if safer playgrounds try to protect you from that, and you will be better for it.

If you ever find yourself talking with a wine pro that chooses wines only with their Side A, you might find yourself being bullied into making wine choices based on charts, graphs, and %ABV.  You might also find yourself crashing from time to time when the numbers fail you.  If you want to elevate yourself beyond the sandbox full of passable “Good” wines that have correctness on their tech sheets, you need to drink wine on another level.  I will leave you with the Marcassin bon vivant John Wetlaufer’s thoughts on this topic:

I’ll only note that balance (of what is rarely stated) seems more like a necessary condition of useful or O.K. wines than it does a sufficient condition for what the great French enologist and teacher Emile Peynaud calls a “grand vin”, a great wine:  “…a work of art, complex with personality, rich in sapid and aromatic substances, defying description and therefore the more fascinating to taste.”

John goes on to say that he intends to make wines that push the limits, reset the bar, and induce wonderment rather than wines that are just boring (balanced).

People like John (and Helen) and an army of other fine wine growers and fine wine makers out there are pursuing their craft out of curiosity and drive and passion and a love of the adventure that wine is.  If they were in need of safety or surety they would not choose this path.  People who make wine in pursuit of a number are not considering the purpose of art itself – to strike up a conversation, start a debate, inspire controversy.  I won’t say damning things about people who make wine that way, but always consider your source and consider the use they intend for their product.  To be consumed?  Or to be treasured?


More Reads for your Wine Journey:

Loving Wine Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry  -Mitch Frank on the Wine Spectator Blog

Subjective Theory of ValueWine  -more from Moi at the tiffandsauce Blog

The Wrath of Grapes – Bruce Schoenfeld for NY Times Magazine

IPOB Manifesto – Raj Parr and Jasmine Hirsch on their pursuit of Balance

Palate Talent -Yours Truly at the tiffandsauce Blog



Subjective Theory of ValueWine

Back when I was a youthful twenty-something I took it in the ribs a few times from friends and family that would say I had returned to college to get my M.R.S. degree.  Somewhat true <grinning sheepishly>.  However, I did not meet my husband until after leaving Oregon State University and all her splendid Northwestern beauty for the great State of California.  Truthfully, I forced myself into completing my Bachelors Degree – by hook or by crook – just to finish.  I had become notorious for starting things and not reaching completion and I wanted to end that nonsense.  At the same time, I wanted to be able to some day offer a somewhat educated parent to my future child(ren).

I forged my way through a liberal arts degree knowing full well that there was no end “Career Goal” in sight and I will admit that along the way there were some failures.  As in, F for Failure.  Math 119b Survey of Calculus II;  F the first time around and a passing grade on the second try after my instructor was probably so tired of my ignorant questions that he just pushed me through.  Chem 320a Organic Chemistry; no passing grade in sight and the realization that I don’t actually enjoy Math, Chemistry, or Physics and that pre-Med would be a bad idea.  Econ 101?  Only suffered through that course to fulfill a requirement and the whole thing was a bad dream – BUT – I did take away one concept that has stuck with me since that class:  The Subjective Theory of Value.

Before continuing, I will strap on my Helmet to deflect the stones that are certain to be thrown in my direction for the following reasons:

  1. I am not proficient enough in Economics to properly explain the theories associated with this field (so of course, publish my feeble attempts to understand, right?) and…
  2. The way this Subjective Theory of Value ties into a discussion on Wine will make some people cry foul; or just cry.
Class is in session, let us begin.
Value is thus nothing inherent in goods, no property of them, nor an independent thing existing by itself.  It is a judgment economizing men make about the importance of the goods at their disposal for the maintenance of their lives and well-being.  Carl Menger, Principles of Economics
If value exists as Menger defines it, why then do we continue to question the high prices of Cult Wines, First-Growth Bordeaux or Grand Cru Burgundy and then continue into a diatribe/sales pitch about “value wine”? This topic is beaten to a pulp in popular wine media, social media, the Blog-o-Sphere, etc..  and the entire debate has no leg to stand on.  Price is not Value.  Before we get all heated up about wine, let’s consider some other consumer commodities:
Chocolate.  Nestle Semisweet Morsels 20.7 cents/ounce.  Sharffen Berger 62% Cocoa 61.8 cents/ounce.
Coffee.  Yuban Traditional Medium Roast “Premium” Coffee 25.8 cents/ounce.  Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend “Deep Roast” 74.9 cents/ounce.
Diamonds.  Where 1 ounce = 141.747616 carats and an average diamond is about $1500 per carat give or take…we’re looking at about  $212,641.42 per ounce.
Water.  A liter bottle of Evian comes in at about $1.79 making it 5.3 cents/ounce…penny for your thoughts and a nickel for a sip.
The question of price is answered objectively as the above examples convey.  The question of value is subjective…and as explained by Menger, gets a little confusing.  Why pay more for coffee or chocolate?  What was the cost of producing these goods?  Which goods required more labor?  How much is water worth to you?  What value does a diamond represent for you?  Are we lost in the desert and dying of thirst?  Or are we wandering in a proverbial love desert of loneliness hoping to get engaged?  Questions like these will begin to guide you toward your own subjective interpretation of value.
Carl Menger on Screaming Eagle
The last time I put my finger on the pulse of the consumer base in the wine industry, the heartrate was strong and nobody was dying of thirst. But there were plenty of connoisseurs hoping for love at first sip from their next bottle.  My point here is that wine is a luxury product.  And that’s it.  Wine is not a resource that we need for survival (though I treat it as if it were the air I breathe).  It is the Diamond and not The Water in the Paradox.  There’s no “fair and equal distribution of Wine” Act.  There’s no “Price point to make wines affordable for Everybody” Act.  However, there IS fierce competition, a free market, ingenuity, creativity, sustainability, talent, marketing, vineyard designation, oak programs, “Rock-Star” Winemakers, art labels, wax caps, screw caps, original wood cases, Parker Scores, Spectator Reviews, corporate conglomerates, mom and pop shops, and everything in between.  And then there’s you – and your discriminating palate (by the way, it’s not PC to “discriminate”) and hopefully your discriminating consciousness.
YOU will be the one to make the final decision about what a wine is worth to you and what you can afford to pay.  Coming to the realization that a wine you might want is out of your price range is not a reason to tear it down.  That is a promotion of mediocrity and when provisions are made for mediocrity you get people like me who are granted a Passing Grade in Econ 101.  The world does not need more of that – go back and read paragraph 2 to decide for yourself the value of this article, the value of your time, and the value you now place on not promoting mediocrity.
If a wine you want is out of your price range, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, understand that wine is one of life’s Beautiful Luxurious Pleasures, and go find a bottle that gives you enough pleasure per dollar for you to consider it a value.  Then step back from the article/blog post/commentary that is deriding Screaming Eagle and Lafite, compose yourself for one second, and understand that the prices for wines like these are ridiculous because enough people paid them.  <I will enter a plea here that we not digress into a dialogue on “supply and demand” as that is such a sophomoric approach to this discussion.>  We are all well aware that scarcity drives up the price of a rare bottle.  In truth, the price paid for a status bottle of wine was a simple expression of the consumer’s perception of value – and they were entitled to it.  No sooner could we make everybody drive a Honda Civic and not a Mercedes or everybody have bare walls in their mud hut rather than Monet in their Mansion, then we could make every wine drinker swirl <insert your favorite value wine here> in their glass.  And thank God for that!
If the intention is to share ideas about which inexpensive wines drink better than their price point, and a popular opinion grows on that shared idea, then go with it.  But if the aim is to convince an ultra premium category buyer that they won’t find value in the rare or exclusive bottlings they are purchasing then you might as well be talking to an empty room. This category of wine consumer does find value in obtaining nearly unobtainable wines and they quite possibly spend a fair share on less expensive wines that they enjoy for another purpose as well.  So why is there a bully push to get the biggest supporters of wine out of the game?Inexpensive wines that cost conscious consumers enjoy are not mutually exclusive to astronomically expensive Wish Wines that are collected and curated and occasionally chugged down with wild abandon.  Both price categories can exist in the same economy and really one has little effect on the other.
The bottom line is that all wine should not be equal.  All wine should not be the same.  All wine should not be priced under a cap that a cohort of wine writers deems to be appropriate.  Sitting around speculating about what that saturation point in the market will be is simply a waste of good wine drinking time.  One man’s affordable luxury is another man’s swill and vice versa.  And that, my friends, is my Subjective Theory of Value as it pertains to wine and I encourage you to continue the debate and commentary.  Should name calling (Elitist!) and Stone-throwing commence, I’ve still got my helmet on.
If you haven’t had enough, please enjoy the following
Elite Wine Bashing Posts for your Reading Pleasure:
-Richard Hemming for Wine Searcher gives us “Hemmings Rule” where if you love expensive Bordeaux you will find more “value” in spending less on a Bordeaux varietal wine from another region where the most expensive wine costs less than 10 times the price of its cheapest equivalent. Sounds simple, right?
-Mike Steinberger rails away on how he agrees with Keith Levenberg of Noble Rot Magazine that Sine Qua Non wines are vile and disgusting and more expletives than you can say in front of a sailor.  Steinberger then continues to say that critics who give high ratings to both wines like Sine Qua Non and wines like La Tache and other DRC are a huge farce and are misleading consumers.  Don’t miss the comments section where somebody actually asks, “Do we really need all these different wines from everywhere?” <— is your Screen Name “The Wine Nazi”?
-W. Blake Gray ponders the mysteries of Screaming Eagle and passive aggressively calls for transparency from a Cult Cabernet producer.  There is hope…by #10 We don’t know if Screaming Eagle wines are worth the money… Gray is beginning to understand the Subjective Theory of Value.
-Chris Mercer for reports on an incredible wine sale and at least sticks to facts and information.  A breath of fresh air.


I always loved a good parade.  It could be the smallest Hometown, USA version: with high school bands playing, the mayor riding in a convertible furnished by the local Ford dealership, and the town fire department proudly demonstrating the lights and sirens for kids lining the curbs of Main Street.  Or even the big productions of the Rose Parade in Pasadena or Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York – they still capture my fancy and most likely always will.  Parades are patriotism and Americana in top form.

Within this celebration of our towns and communities across the nation it is only appropriate that we take time to include a thanks to our Military Service, so we often see our Veterans honored on parade.  I remember watching columns from the VFW march along in the annual Chief Joseph Days parade of my hometown and as I sat observing in the late July heat my child-minded concept of a Veteran was… all those “old guys” that were in a war a loooong time ago.  In the beautifully ignorant bliss (call it innocence) of childhood, anything that happened before you were born is just not on your radar.  My fourth grade class in elementary school would write letters to the soldiers in the far-off war that we saw glimpses of on the evening news.  Desert Storm.  The full concept of war was only beginning to occur to me and it remained a very distant and disconnected notion.

Considering this disconnect from the reality of world politics and the climate of conflict in the place and time of my in-so-far short lifespan, I can see how it came as a shock to me in my twenties that the Veterans of War were my peers.  And my brothers.

I’m often at a loss for words so I write with a good old fashioned Roget’s Super Thesaurus on my desk (yes, I know there is an internet).  If you have a copy (or the internet), take a moment to look up Veteran.  Here you go – Veteran.  Were you just transported back to my childhood mind – sitting curbside at a parade in the Late July heat?  Now we’re both speechless.

I want to use this moment of speechlessness to quietly say something very loud.  I owe a debt of Gratitude to the men and women of the United States Military Service – Young and Old.  And may I constantly remind myself that these Veterans have made a great sacrifice in relinquishing the innocence of their youth – they are not just “old guys” from a long ago war.  And in the case where they have reached an age of true wisdom and experience – they most likely gained their Veteran status many years prior as a young person in Military Service.  Thank you for committing your youth, your strength, and your life to protecting the freedoms we enjoy in our country.  May God Bless you and may our Nation show you the deep respect and honor you deserve.



Drink Me!

Dusty Bottles in the Cellar

So many wine knowledge seekers have come to me with their confessions of one wine sin or another – added ice cubes to their Merlot – created their own “blend” – had a sticky affair with a Beerenauslese after vowing to love honor and sip only complete dryness – made leftover dessert wine into a spritzer (ok, you caught me I actually did that) – DrinkMe1But one admission that stands out is a crime of time.  There are two sides to this no-no:

I drank it too early.


I waited too long.

All is forgiven.  The truth is that I really think you can drink your wine whenever you want – I try consuming some on a daily basis actually.


But I’m feeling the sense of a lot of harrumphing coming my way so I will qualify this statement.  The best time for a wine is anytime, as long as you know how you like it.

If you’re one of those S&M pain-for-pleasure punch me in the face with the tannins but caress my sore cheek with your soft fruit type of wine drinkers… then party with the Young Cabs!  Pop open some freshly released Petite Sirah and have your way with it.  Go Barrel Tasting for that matter.  And if you wax poetic about every nuance of tertiary development that whispers in your nostril – oh the cheese rind, the horse dung, the damp fungal floor of the forest – then lay that bottle down and play some Debussy while you wait for the perfect moment to arrive.

Love, with very young people, is a heartless business.  We drink at that age from thirst, or to get drunk; it is only later in life that we occupy ourselves with the individuality of our wine.  -Isak Dinesen

And how do you know when the wine will be drinking just the way you like it?  I knew there would be more harrumphing here… If you’re in the S&M camp your question is already answered – you’re probably drinking it right now while you read this.  If you are typing in a search for Debussy on your tune-turner of choice then you might need to seek professional wine assistance or reference a vintage chart because really, we want you to start by knowing your wine collection in the first place.  If you digitally organize with a wine cellar software such as eSommelier or WineBanq, advice on drinking windows might be an integrated feature for you.


If you are a hands on cellar tracker that likes to keep technology in the office but not necessarily in the cellar then it might help to employ a few simple organization techniques.  Consider the following when taking stock in your wine collection:

  • drink now – drink soon – reassess in 2-5 years
  • just myself (and someone special) – friends & family – party time!
  • category:  sparkling – whites – reds – sweets & fortified

With the Holiday season glistening in the near future, giving your cellar some attention now will pay yourself forward into the coming months.  The time is right to decide what wines to offer while you’re entertaining and which ones will make nice fireside sippers.  It’s also a good opportunity to plan ahead if there are areas of your cellar that are lacking and get stocked up.  Don’t clear out all those cobwebs just yet – they add authenticity to your Halloween festivities – but DO get started on a Fall wine audit and pop a few corks from your “Drink Now” section while you’re at it.


More Tricks and Treats for your Fall Cellar Audit:

Five Signs You Should Invest in a Wine Management System – eSommelier

What form does your “cellar” take? -Join in on the Conversation at the CellarTracker Forum

Aging Wine Revisited – “Only about 1% of the world’s wines are meant to be aged…”and WHY would anyone ever keep over 2,500 bottle of wine in their cellar? -Wine For Normal People with Elizabeth Schneider, Certified Sommelier & Certified Specialist of Wine

Liv-ex – an answer to Elizabeth’s question about holding on to wine.  Invest – Collect – Drink – All of the Above.  You decide.

Wines to Stock Your Cellar – Visit The Gallery at Falling Bright

Cultivated: Growing Our Gratitude for the Farmer

Kalon at Laguna Beach on the evening of September 28, 2015 - Total Lunar Ecclipse Blood Moon

The Blood Moon rose over Laguna Canyon as we wound our way back towards the city lights after a late September evening on the beach.  It was nearly in total eclipse with a sliver of red peeking out.  The universe gifts us with moments like these.  We take notice and as the moment passes it may fade from the memory until the next time nature jostles our mind a bit.

To be closer to the Earth or closer to the glories of nature is an aspiration for many, myself included.  But reality for most of us is that we dabble here and there in the natural world.  We rake up the leaves.  Refresh the tired herb garden.  Cultivate a small patch of veggies in our backyard gardens.  These small connections with the dirt serve to keep us grounded, both literally and figuratively speaking.  It is my trials and errors at making a better connection with the earth that serve as natures little reminder to me that I should have a greater appreciation for those who achieve this connection on a grander scale – farmers.

Lee Martinelli Sr. Farming Jackass Hill Vineyard

It’s so gratifying that our four children really like being part of a family farming operation and are dedicated to seeing it continue for generations to come.  I am so proud that our family works together in this agricultural business and plays together as a family.  -Lee Martinelli Sr.

There is no better time to celebrate the life and work of those who cultivate the earth than at the close of Harvest.  Most California vineyards are through the pick, Oregon finishing up as well.  For winemakers the fun is well under way.  For the growers, most express a sense of calm or feeling of relief that their fruit is in and the season is drawing to a close.  The calm will be but a small pause before looking forward to the next task, the next chore, and natures constant string of small nudges to jostle the mind.

For those who make their life of the land – the farmers – these nudges are taken in such stride it’s almost as if nature was but a cadence keeping the time.  They can show calm in the face of adversity.  They find peace and tranquility when the task at hand is insurmountable.  Their existence is at the mercy of nature – we all are but some of us refuse to live by that mercy – and they accept this arrangement with humility and grace.

Donnie Schatzberg of Precious Mountain Vineyard

I think what needs to be changed is the sustainability and farming practices have to be more widely accepted.  Humans are not the only creatures on this planet you know, we have to share it.  -Donnie Schatzberg

We’re not waiting until Thanksgiving to be Thankful.  We’re thankful now for the people who still find value and purpose in cultivating the land and we’re Thankful to the God who has made it so.  We will continue our trials and errors in our own gardens as well.  Perhaps these small rituals really can be big victories for the soul if we capture them and transpose them onto other areas that might feel barren.

Related Reads:

The Martinelli Family on the History of Their Land

The Legacy of Jackass Hill – 2015 Wine Spectator Video Contest Winner

Precious Mountain Vineyard

Williams Selyem Video Interview with Donnie Schatzberg

Kalon at Laguna Beach on the evening of September 28, 2015 - Total Lunar Ecclipse Blood Moon

Closure: Let it Be

Hundreds of thousands.  No, millions and billions of words have come out of my mouth since the day I uttered my first (which was probably “No”, I will call my mom after I finish writing and find out).  Millions and Billions of them I would take back if I could; and the other ten thousand or so I would leave out there for the universe full of humanity to receive in their ears.  Does this small sentiment frame me as a person filled with regret?  Not at all.  In spite of words gone by, powerful though they may be, I am resolved to live for the value of the experience, the opportunities of the future, and the relevance of the present moment.Vintage Screwpull

I’m not a big fan of screwcaps.

And I don’t fancy the Coravin.

There.  The words are said and I don’t regret them and if I do regret them at some future time, I will admit to it and those dozen words above will just join the ocean filled with Millions and Billions of others.  No big deal.

If the air is heavy now with notions of my pompous wine snooty attitude and my impossible-to-please nature, please allow me to freshen things up a bit.  Snap..Crraaackle…plunk.  There, twisting open a crisp, cold, dewy fresh bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc ought to do the trick.  May we continue.New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Line-up

Let us preface the conversation to come by stating that there is no judgement involved here.  These are opinions, each of us is entitled to our own, and the intent is to part as friends and reconvene at a later time as pleasant company would allow.  Shall we begin?

My distaste for the Stelvin closure method on bottles of wine is not a complete rejection of it, but rather a conditional and reluctant acceptance.  I am fully aware of the soul crushing disappointment associated with a “corky” TCA ruined wine.  Allow me to present a few of the corked bottles I have wanted to shed a tear for:  a 3 liter of 1997 Reichstrat von Buhl “Armand” Riesling Kabinett (first 3L was GORGEOUS, second was CORKED), a 2007 Marcassin Estate Pinot Noir…down the drain, the Orin Swift Mercury Head that we looked forward to for quite a few years…totally corked when we got around to opening it.

These memories are painful to say the least, but clearly I have illustrated that I understand the evils of TCA.  Yet still I do not embrace the clean and sure convenience of the screwcap.  Is it because I think the wine it holds in the bottle may be sub-par?  Is it because it lacks romance (and I’m a real big fan of romance)?  Could it be that that I have no good reason and I’m just fulfilling the prophecy of wine snobbery mentioned above?  Yes, it could be any of these.  But the two very simple and boring reasons I have for disliking the Stelvin are:Screwtop Wine

  • long term storage reliability
  • a lack of air transmission into aging wine
Both of these reasons are storage/cellaring related.  As a wine ages, a natural cork allows a minute amount of oxygen (air) to contact the wine causing it to slowly oxidize over time.  For some, oxidation is to be abhorred.  For others, it’s just another layer of complexity to be appreciated in the oldie but goodies.  Again, I emphasize that all judgement is being reserved for better, more heated debates at a later time.  If you find yourself to be disgusted at the thought of oxidation or put off by the idea of consuming wine over ten years old then, let it be.  Drink fresh; drink what you enjoy.  Unscrew and Unwind.
The other situation that concerns me when it comes to the screwcap is the longevity of the closure.  On more than one occasion I have had a screwcap spring a leak.  Grasping a bottle by the neck to remove it from storage, I heard the snap.  Upon inspection, indeed the seal had been compromised.  Wine is open now, may as well drink up.  Other times a cap has not been applied correctly and this leaves for leakage – possibly ruining more than just one bottle if you’re concerned with the labels of other bottles getting leaked on.  Natural corks have seepage problems as well (especially as they age or if stored improperly) yet the remedy of re-corking your older bottles is available – some wine producers even offer it as a special perk; check in with Penfolds for all of you Grange collectors out there.
Having stated my defense for natural corks I move on to say once more, there is nothing wrong with Screwcap Wines.  To qualify that statement, there is nothing wrong with screwcap wines from reputable producers making decent, fresh, ready to drink styles that you will consume within the first 2 to 5 years.  So I urge you as wine consumers to read between the lines when purchasing these wines.  Penner Ash Viognier at dinner with Barack Obama in the Whitehouse?  Sure, why not.  But I don’t want to see this producer drawing connections between their stunning Viognier that drinks well now but will age like a fine Condrieu.  The fabled Pinots of Pyramid Valley Vineyards in New Zealand – I’m growing very close to the day I taste them, but I don’t want to hear about how elegant and expressive they are now and how they are going to age like an austere Burgundy under their screwcaps.  Let’s not even start on the handful of German Rieslings setting themselves up to be consumed young.
There you have it.  The air here feels fresh and fine now that I have closure on the issue of closures.  And why don’t I fancy the fancy Coravin?
Let’s just say that to be stingy with wine would not be an authentic representation of my character.  -tiffandsauce
More on that next time.

Related Articles & Blogs:
Obama Serves Screw Top Wine at China State Dinner -Paul Bedard for The Washington Examiner
 The Drinks Business on Italy Approving Screwcaps – With Compromise -check out those scathing comments!  A person sharing my opinion on the cork gets ripped on.