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How to Store Wine if You Don't have Much Space

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We’ve all seen this scene: the sports star, business person, or celebrity walking down a spiral staircase into a 100,000 bottle wine cellar. While fascinating, and beautiful, it can be a bit disheartening. But don’t let scenes like this one deter you from finding wine you like - but think will age into something you love - and grabbing 2-3 bottles to lay down. Here are some tips and tricks for finding space to store wine in even the tightest apartments.

Get a wine fridge

Ok, this might not be in everyone’s budget. However, wine fridges offer the best way to ensure that your wine stays at the right temperature and humidity.

But if that doesn’t work for you…

Rearrange your cabinets and put a wine rack in one

Wine racks, unlike wine fridges, cost next to nothing. Usually they hold 12 bottles, but with some types you can fit a few extra on the top. If you clear enough cabinet space, you may even find space for two! This is ideal, because then you can use one rack to store everyday wine, and the other for savers. If you only have one, designate one side for savers, the other for daily sippers.

To find one, check out Amazon or an estate sale. Ideally, you want one that folds up so you can more easily squeeze it into a tight space.

The key here is that the wine is stored on its side. Any wine you expect to be in the same spot for more than a few months should be on its side. This keeps the wine inside in contact with the cork, preventing it from drying out and allowing extra oxygen into the bottle.

Added bonus: you’ll get rid of that bag of mung beans you bought 3 years ago you promised yourself you’d use all the time!

Got a basement? Use it!

Wine likes to live in cool, dark places that are slightly damp and don’t change temperature. Sounds pretty similar to a basement, huh? If the basement is dusty or a little dirty, have no fear. If it floods, stay away. If you do choose a basement, you can get a larger wine rack and store a few cases at a time.

 One of our Catadores' home rig. Forgive the Bailey's!

One of our Catadores' home rig. Forgive the Bailey's!

In a closet

You know you have too many clothes and not enough wine. Donate a few bags and clear space for two or three cases of wine. Just remember to always store wine on it’s side!

Under the bed

We can’t assure you of how your friends will judge you for this, but under the bed is actually a perfect place. Just make sure the wine isn’t near an open air vent. Plus, since it’ll be a bit of a pain to get out, it’ll help keep you disciplined so you’ll actually age the wine as long as you should.

Places you should NEVER store your wine

Unfortunately, it’s probably exactly where you do store your wine. Luckily, if your drinking the wine pretty quickly, you can store it just about anywhere. We’re talking about medium to long term here, or more than two months.

The refrigerator

There are worse places, but the problem with a refrigerator is that its very dry inside, and it’s difficult to keep wine on its side. If the wine has a screw cap or artificial cork, have no fear.

The counter next to the stove

We know, having wine at arms length while cooking is tempting, maybe even necessary. But don’t let it live there. The constant change in temperature, plus the wine standing up, will not bode well for its long-term health.

Near anything that will change its temperature

Steer clear of vents, radiators, and appliances that might raise and lower the temperature constantly. While about 50 degree is ideal for wine storage, a constant temperature is the most important factor.

We hope this inspires you to think about ageing wine yourself, or at least feeling comfortable getting extra bottles of something you love so you know you’ll have it for multiple special occasions. ¡Chao!

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The Difference Between American and French Oak

 Picture courtesy of Grand Cata Co-Founder Julio Robledo on a recent trip to Chile

Picture courtesy of Grand Cata Co-Founder Julio Robledo on a recent trip to Chile

After last week’s mammoth recap of the incredible class on Bolivian wine led by Francisco Roig, we thought we’d give you a break from the long reads. So this week, here’s a quick run through the differences between American and French oak, and how they affect wines aged in them.

Place

You should know a little about where in each country the wood comes from. In the U.S., the best comes from California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the East Coast from Georgia up. Trees growing in colder climates will have a tighter grain (see the section on grain below).

Much like they have with grape growing regions, the French have established which forests produce the best wood, and take care to maintain them. They have 5 major forests, all near the center of the country: Nevers and Tronçais smack in the middle, Vosges to the northeast, Limousin to the southwest, and Forêts Centrales to the west. All grow mostly Quercus Petraea except Limousin, which producers more Quercus Robur (see “Species” section below).

Flavors

American oak tends toward more intense flavors that can best be described as “dark:” Dark chocolate, dill, eucalyptus, mint, charcoal, tobacco, wood. The one exception here is it’s often also quite sweet, with a punchy vanilla note often accompanied by coconut. French oak, on the other hand, has flavors that tend towards “decadent:” vanilla, caramel, cream, baking spices, albeit with a little less sweetness and more subtlety.

Intensity

American oak flavors are across the board more intense. They also absorb into the wine much more quickly. Therefore, wines with intense flavors and textures of their own do better with American oak. Meanwhile, French oak is more subtle and absorbs more slowly into the wine.

Species

All oak used in winemaking is White Oak. However, in the U.S., Quercus Alba is the dominant type. In France, Quercus Petraea (also known as Sissile Oak) and Quercus Robur are the most common, with Quercus Petraea being considered the finest and therefore the most cultivated.

Grain

American oak is more porous than French oak, as a rule. This means that wine inside will oxidize faster, which brings with it a whole other set of flavors such as dates, nuts and herbs. It also means that more of the water will evaporate out more quickly, so winemakers have to be extra vigilant in making sure they keep barrels topped off.

French oak is much less porous. It’s therefore better for longer aging, and doesn’t require quite the same attention. (Note: a very glaring exception to the “better for long aging” rule is Rioja and Ribera del Duero, where they use American oak as much as French, and age red wines in barrels longer than just about anyone.)

Tannins

French oak imparts firmer, but silkier tannins, whereas American oak gives more obvious, rougher tannins that will need time in the bottle to mellow out.

One final note...

Don’t be afraid of oak! When integrated correctly, it makes good wine special. There’s a very good chance that the wine you’ve liked the most in your life benefited from time spent in barrels. Below are two examples of wines with perfectly integrated oak profiles, one using American oak, the other, French.

 Alto de la Ballena Tannat-Merlot-Cabernet Franc 2013 - $23 - Only a portion is aged in American oak barrels, then reblended before bottling. This is a very common approach, as it pushes the flavors of the wood lower in the wine’s profile so they only accent the wine instead of overpower it. The wine aged in the barrel will also be smoother, sweeter and softer than the rest of the wine, which adds overall balance.

Alto de la Ballena Tannat-Merlot-Cabernet Franc 2013 - $23 - Only a portion is aged in American oak barrels, then reblended before bottling. This is a very common approach, as it pushes the flavors of the wood lower in the wine’s profile so they only accent the wine instead of overpower it. The wine aged in the barrel will also be smoother, sweeter and softer than the rest of the wine, which adds overall balance.

 San Pedro de Yacochuya Red Blend 2013 - $32- 60% of the wine spends 12 months in new French oak.

San Pedro de Yacochuya Red Blend 2013 - $32- 60% of the wine spends 12 months in new French oak.

 

 

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Recap: Bolivian Wines Visit Grand Cata

 Cordial, knowledgeable and talented, Francisco led us on quite the journey through Bolivia

Cordial, knowledgeable and talented, Francisco led us on quite the journey through Bolivia

Last Saturday, we hosted Francisco Roig from 1750 Vineyards, a cutting edge winery in Bolivia. We packed our communal table to the max, and Francisco led us on an eye-opening journey through the wines of two Bolivian producers.

Francisco was kind enough to not only present his wines, but also three from another producer, Aranjuez. In total, we sampled six Bolivian masterpieces. We literally sold every bottle from each we had in the store afterwards!

Before we dig into the wines, let’s run through some of the things that make Bolivia unique, and special, in the wine world.

First, you cannot understand Bolivia without understanding the interplay between altitude and latitude in grape growing. Bolivia starts growing grapes where the rest of the world stops, because it lies so close to the equator. The lowest vineyards in Bolivia sit at 1,600 meters (5,250 feet).

What does this mean? Well, grape vines need a temperate climate, with seasons, to produce fruit worthy of wine production. Specific to Bolivia, high altitude leads to lower temperature, which, in the winter months, creates low enough pressure to pull even more cold air from the plains of Patagonia. This combination creates a winter cold enough to force the vines to go dormant, an absolute necessity to growing fine wine grapes.

This high altitude has other advantages. For one, the intensity of the sunlight, much like Mendoza in Argentina, allows grapes to ripen more quickly during the day than they would at the same temperature at a lower altitude. On top of that, the temperature drops so quickly, and so low, at night, that the grapes essentially shut down. This combination preserves acidity, without sacrificing the complexity that comes from good ripeness.

 Francisco enjoying the (fermented) fruits of his labor!

Francisco enjoying the (fermented) fruits of his labor!

All this boils down to an interesting paradox: despite being located in a relatively small country with some of the hottest weather in the world, Bolivia is also an exceptional (though undiscovered) cold-weather winegrowing region, akin to places like the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the Itata region of Chile, Burgundy in France, or Piedmont in Italy. Pretty good company to keep, if you ask us!

In addition to its low-latitude, high-altitude, cold-weather phenomenon, Bolivia is also special for other reasons. For instance, we learned from Francisco that Bolivia has grown grapes for a very, very long time. Few regions in South America have been at it longer, in fact. Also, Bolivia’s total area under vine pales in comparison to even the Napa Valley, a tiny region in its own right. While Napa boasts 18,200 hectares (45,000 acres) - which on accounts for .4% of California’s total vineyards, by the way - Bolivia has only 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres). Its production, as you’d expect, is therefore tiny.

Ok, the big question: does all this add up to great wine? Though we only got a small sample, if the wines Francisco brought out are any indication, the answer is a resounding “YES!” All of them exhibited a striking brightness and ripeness on the nose, followed by bone dry palates full of minerals and exotic fruits. The reds in particular spoke to their cool climates, with herbs, peppercorn, tart fruit and perfect acidity. The tannat and syrah from 1750 in particular stole the show. Below, you’ll find brief tasting notes for all six of the wines sampled. We urge those of you that were unable to make it last week to get your hands on some of these. You will not be disappointed!

Aranjuez Torrontés & Muscatel Blend 2016

A beautiful straw yellow wine reminiscent of lightly brewed tea, this blend is intensely aromatic. You’ll find lychee, white flowers, coconut and tropical fruit on the nose. The palate is fully dry and rich, with a balancing tartness and refreshing minerals, with a heavy focus on tropical fruit.

Aranjuez “DUO” Tannat & Merlot Blend 2016

Tannat and merlot play beautifully together as a rule, and this wine is no exception. The first thing you’ll notice - and this speaks to the cooler climate - is how elegant, fresh and delicate the wine is compared to similar blends from Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile. Inky dark, the wine smells like cooked dark fruit, specifically blackberry, blueberry and raisin. Intermingled are aromas of dark chocolate, pie crust, fresh bread, and cinnamon. The palate offers the same notes, with the addition of touch of rosemary, dried rose petal, and flint. The best part of the wine, however, may be its lingering, fruity, minty, slightly sweet finish.

Aranjuez Tannat 100% 2016

Tannat is fast becoming a star throughout South America, and for Aranjuez, it shines. On the nose, look for black fruit - a tell-tale characteristic of tannat - alongside dulche de leche, warm milk, cream of coconut, tropical fruit (rare for a red, and quite a nice touch), fresh tarragon, charred herbs, licorice, and charcoal. Rich to the point of decadent on the palate, with perfectly silky tannins and exceptional acid, this wine is truly on point.

The flavors of the wine are decidedly less fruit driven than the nose would suggest, instead focusing on herbs, charcoal, and blood orange. That last note, blood orange, is rare. You generally find it in Portuguese reds that include touriga nacional.

To finish, the wine gifts you flavors of citrus peel and herbs wrapped in tingly tannins. Simply an excellent wine.

1750 Torrontés 2017

85% torrontés, with the other 15% comprised of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and Pedro Ximenez, this wine’s a treat. Light honey colored, aromas of bubbling mountain spring water, pineapple, fresh green herbs, coconut and canned corn jump out of the glass. The extremely dry palate offers flavors of herbs, banana, and pineapple. The finish is medium length, very herbal, and quite dry. Find yourself some grilled red snapper served with plantains and a fresh corn, cherry tomato and onion salad and dig in!

1750 Syrah 2016

It’s a toss up between this and the next wine as to which is the best of the bunch, but one thing is clear with both: the terroir in Bolivia, and specifically Sampaita where these vineyards lie, is special. On it’s label the wine says clearly, “this is a true cold weather syrah,” and it does not lie. To fully appreciate this wine, you have to remember this fact as you sip.

It shows its cool-climate roots off the bat with an exceptionally floral nose. Hidden beneath those flowers, however, are peppercorn, chocolate, eastern spices like cumin, grilled meat, marjoram (if you don’t know what this smells like you can find it fresh in most grocery stores, or dried and powdered in the spices section), raisin, and cooked cherries. On the palate, the degree to which this is NOT an Australian shiraz becomes completely clear. This wine has a tension, freshness and texture that makes you think of a taught bow effortlessly run across a finely tuned violin.

Flavorwise, this wine has droves of that black pepper flavor that makes cool-climate syrah famous. Sprinkled in are little hints of tart cherry, herbs, and iron. It finishes off slightly bitter, the way nice coffee does, with herbal tones and a touch of tartness. This wine is exceptional, and a steal for the price.

1750 Tannat 2016

Having to show itself after the last wine would seem unfair to this tannat, were it not so self-confident. On the nose, you can smell that the wine has some tartness, sort of the same way you can tell cranberry juice is tart (strangely, the wine neither taste or smells like cranberries themselves). Aromas of blackberry, dark cherry, dark chocolate, charred herbs, lime rind sour cherry and yogurt and dance around to give the wine’s nose an uncanny similarity to a saute pan right after use.

The wine is superbly structured, to the point that it’s hard to believe it has not spent time in oak. When asked about this, Francisco let us in an amazing winemaking technique he uses. Since the end of the growing season is mild in Sampaita, he can get away with leaving the grapes on the vine for longer than most cool-climate regions. This leads to thicker, woodier stems. After harvest, he de-stemms the grapes, but saves the stems. He then goes through, by hand, and chooses the thickest, woodiest stems, then adds them to must. This gives the wine a texture akin to strongly brewed black tea.

For flavors, the wine relies on a healthy does of earthy spices, such as peppercorn, charcoal, black fruit, and tea. It then finishes tart, with strong herbal notes, seared meat, and mushroom. Lay this wine down for a few years if you want to tame it. It will go from exceptional to other-wordly

Rujero Singani

As a special treat, Francisco poured some Singani, a Bolivian brandy named after an exceptional vineyard that produced a spirit of serious note. Fruity and rich, Singani must be made with wine of a certain quality. For any Pisco lovers out there, give this stuff a shot!

Phew! We know that’s a lot of info to take in. Believe it or not, we actually left out some details. Francisco is a fountain of knowledge and passion, and you can taste it in his wines. We’ve restocked after the class, so we have all of these wines available on our shelves. Come discover what Bolivia has to offer!

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