In the summer of 1984 I was a guest at dinner of a lady in Bavaria who had been part of a group I had led through the Champagne country in 1969. During that visit, several of us bought Vintage 1964 Champagne at Domaine Couvreur because Madam Couvreur explained it was a fine vintage with much promise.
In 1969 I was still under the influence of those wine reviewers who insisted that white wines should be consumed young, that the best one should hope for would be three to five years in bottle. For the next couple of years, my wife and I went happily through those delicious 1964 Couvreurs.
In the early 1970s my friendship with Leonard Humbrecht blossomed, and often he would bring out a ten-year-old Riesling or Pinot Gris, explaining that he preferred white wines with a “little age.” Little by little, I observed that white wine producers in the Rhine Valley and in Burgundy generally touted the quality of older wines from specific vintages.
That 1964 Couvreur served in 1984 showed no evidence of a two-decade incarceration. It bubbled with verve and tasted of a very pleasant yeasty fruit. Of course, the Bavarian lady had kept it properly in a cool cellar. She had also kept it lying on its side, something my early mentors had advised against, claiming that Champagne should be stored upright.
Remember though, we were talking in Bavaria about an especially fine vintage year. As with all other wines, some vintages will age better than others. Most Champagnes are not of a single vintage so there is some risk in keeping them a very long time. A good vintage, however, kept in a constantly cool dark cellar has longevity. How long? As with even the great clarets, there is no definitive answer.
But if you take care of it properly, you need not rush to use it and can comfortably hold it for that very special occasion some years hence.
Sulfites and wine are like peanut butter and jelly. You seldom see one without the other. Sulfites are a natural by-product of fermentation which is what happens in the bottle and winemakers often add more sulfites to act as a preservative, allowing a longer shelf life.
Meet Dr. James Kornacki, a graduate of Northwestern University with a PhD in chemistry. Dr. Kornacki has invented a product that claims to remove sulfites from wine. Ullo (pronounced Oo-lo) is a filtering device that “holds a porous polymer material that forms covalent bonds with sulfites,” Kornacki said for a recent Chicago Tribune article.
Much has been written about headaches and wine and many individuals blame sulfites. A small percentage of the population is allergic to sulfites but that manifests itself in more of a respiratory response such as asthma. But can you get a headache from drinking wine? Of course! Over-consuming alcoholic beverages will give you a headache due to the dehydrating effect of the alcohol and sugar. Drink water to counteract those symptoms. Aged foods and beverages can cause a release of histamines in some individuals, another headache trigger. Check with your physician to see if you can take an anti-histamine as a preventative. If you think sulfites in red wine are your headache culprit, you are mistaken. In fact, white wines often contain higher concentrations of sulfites than red. So it’s more likely tannins, a naturally occurring substance found in grape stems, seeds, and skins, and more abundant in red wine, that are the cause of your headache. In that circumstance, your only remedy at this time is to avoid consuming red wine.
Getting back to Dr. Kornack, the Ullo is a startup product from health tech company Matter and design shop Minimal out of Chicago. Kornack says the Ullo can also act as an aerator. The device is part of a crowd-funding campaign on a website called Kickstarter that allows creative projects to raise funds from ordinary citizen investors. In Ullo’s case, your funding is actually a pre-order for the project, not just a donation. Go to www.kickstarter.com and search for Ullo to learn more about this innovative product.
Over the years I have become accustomed to the failure of initiatives to make possible private shipping of wine from place to place. I actually served as a lobbyist for a time attempting to convince legislators that allowing producers to ship wine directly to consumers would not result in a falling of the sky.
That’s why I yawn and shrug my shoulders when I hear of yet one more effort. But the most recent effort is of a bit more intrigue. If successful, it would enable the U.S. Post Office to ship wine. It’a very big if. More than a hundred years ago, the Congress prohibited beer, wine, and spirits from being sent through the National Postal Service. A century of precedent is difficult to overcome.
California Democratic Representative Jackie Speier has introduced the “USPS Shipping Equity Act” to the House of Representatives in the hope to free licensed brewers, distillers, and wine producers to promote their business by using the Post Office to send samples to retailers and products to consumers. A similar bill failed two years ago, but somewhat changed circumstances may lead to a more positive outcome this time.
For one thing, the Post Office needs more business and is saddled with financial problems caused in large part by Congressional actions of the past, so Members are looking for ways to help save the system as well as their own face. The bill would also make the USPS more competitive with private sector shippers such as Fed-Ex and UPS.
For another, there are a few Members in the House of Representatives who recognize that the Congress needs somehow to show that it can actually enact legislation. This bill could just possibly fulfill that hope especially since it is not necessarily a partisan bill. It’s also true that more and more states have already eased direct shipping requirements during the last five or six years.
But, as in the past, the nation’s wholesalers, while screaming the holiness of states’ rights, warn us all of the increase in underage drinking such legislation would enable and how the law would promote the evasion of tax payments.
I have witnessed enough of these skirmishes to keep me less than optimistic about the potential passage of the “USPS Shipping Equity Act.” Still, it wouldn’t hurt our wine-consuming interests to let our Members know we would appreciate the results of this bill. Those who produce the good wines we crave but who can’t get them to retail shelves would be especially grateful.
OLDER POSTS »