Perusing through the retail wine shelves or a restaurant wine list, you may have come across “Vermentino” and wondered what it is. Yosemite Sam might guess it is an Italian wild rabbit but he’d be wrong. Though, he’d be right about the Italian part — Vermentino is a grape from Italy.
A WineWeekly reader asks:
I had a party and put two bottles of wine in a cooler with ice. One bottle was unopened (Chardonnay) and I say it now has to be put in the fridge and my husband says it can go on the counter at room temperature until we drink it and it will not be affected. Can you settle this for us pleeeeeease!
A fair question, and one I’m sure many have contemplated in the past.
If given the choice, then the wine absolutely should be transferred from the cooler to the refrigerator. I say “given the choice” because my fridge is often filled with leftovers (both food and wine) — offering little room for (yet another) bottle of wine.
One of the most damaging conditions for any bottle of wine is a drastic change in temperature. Assuming that the cooler was packed with ice, and the bottle was inside it for a significant amount of time, it’s likely the wine sunk to a level at least 25-30 degrees below “room temperature” (we’re talking Fahrenheit). That qualifies as significant. Does that mean the wine will be ruined if it’s left on the counter instead of the fridge? Not necessarily — in fact you may not notice any difference in the wine at all.
That’s because the length of time the wine has remained at different temperatures also factors in. If the wine was kept exceptionally cool for a week, and then left out in the sun for a week, chances are it’s going to be affected. But if the time on ice was only a few hours, and the temperature spike not too drastic, the wine likely will be fine.
This is an issue that is of more concern in the distributor warehouses and the retail stores, where inexpensive wines are rarely — if ever — kept at a constant temperature (storage and transportation included). Your wine may have been on ice, then moved to the counter, but the real damage could have been done long before that — for example, when the wine was sitting sweltering on a non-refrigerated truck on a hot summer day. Unfortunately, the consumer has no control over the bottle prior to purchase — you have to trust that it was properly stored and moved by the wine shop, the distributor, and the supplier.
OK, this answer went a little off tangent. Bottom line? Get the wine into the fridge if you have the room, and keep it at a constant temperature. And, cross your fingers that the bottle has received similar care before it came to you.
If you are living in a similar part of the world as me — where the summer weather has become hot and sticky — then you likely are reaching into the fridge for chilled white wines to cool you off.
No doubt Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are standbys, but if you haven’t given Albariño a try, now’s the time to do it.
The Albariño (al – bah – REE – nyo) grape is grown mainly in the Spain and Portugal (though I understand Qupe and a few others are planting it in California as well), to make dry white wines. It is a thick-skinned grape with strong aromatics that may remind you of ripe peaches — to me the smell is kind of like Viognier. Unlike Viognier, however, the wine tends to be very high in acidity and lighter in flavor — it’s more like a sharp Pinot Grigio in that respect. That zesty acidity cuts through fatty foods, stands up to salad dressings, and can be refreshing on a hot summer day — it’s not as tart as you might expect, and has a nice buttery texture. Flavors you may recognize include apple, peach, and apricot, as well as a distinct mineral component.
Geeks will tell you that the very best Albariño comes from Rias Baixas (ree-ahs buy-shuss) area of Galicia, in Spain, and they may be right. Personally, I have enjoyed Burgans Albarino, which is a consistently good value. However, there are also fine examples from Portugal, where it is often labeled as “Alvarinho” (that’s how they spell it there). And, as mentioned earlier, California’s Qupe makes one (called “Verdad“) but they don’t make much of it and I’ve never had it — if you have, please post your notes in the comments.
Regardless of where the Albariño comes from, make sure you pick the youngest you can find (as of this writing, 2008 is the vintage you want), as it’s not meant for aging. Albariño tends to lose a lot of its fresh, attractive aromas and flavors as it ages. Expect to pay between $8 and $15, though the best bottles can run as high as $25.
Does this term mean the wine is 100% organic? Does it mean it’s “plain and simple in style”, or “plain in taste” as Merriam-Webster defines? No, no, and no. While a wine that is organic CAN be earthy, an earthy wine is not necessarily organic, and an earthy wine is often the opposite of plain — though, a plain wine can have an earthy character. Sufficiently confused? Read on.
If you have been drinking wine for a long time, you might already know the term “earthy”, and likely have experienced this characteristic. Wines described as “earthy” will have aromas and flavors of soil, minerals, vegetation, and/or wet leaves. Yes, I said soil, and yes I mean as in dirt. Believe it or not, many people find dirt — er, earthiness — to be a positive element in a wine (myself included), as it adds to a wine’s complexity.
Typically “earthy” wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo — though just about any red wine can pick up an “earthy” element. As you might guess, it’s believed that the earthiness comes from the soil in which the vines are planted. Generally speaking, white wines are rarely described as “earthy”, although I’ve had some wines with a component in the flavor or aroma that could be described as “mushroom” — and mushrooms come from the earth, so go figure.