The Answer is Wine. What was the Question? April 2016

by Janet Dorozynski

Janet Dorozynski

Janet Dorozynski

If I had a dollar for every question that friends, family and colleagues have asked me about wine, I would certainly have a much more impressive cellar than I do now. With the popularity of wine and easy access to information and education on all things enological, there still seem to be queries and questions that many wine drinkers have but are afraid to ask. This is your chance to ask about all things vinous that weigh heavy on your mind and see if the answer shows up in our monthly column. Remember, unlike some gimmicky wine labels, there are no stupid questions.

So welcome to the first installment of The Answer is Wine. What was the Question? Each month I will answer a few of the most interesting questions submitted by readers. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions and please keep them coming. Email your queries to [email protected] or tweet them with the hashtag #AskDrJDo.

Q: NB asks: While my question may not be interesting per se, I believe it has practical value. Once a white wine or sparkling wine has been chilled, can it be removed from the fridge and stored for later consumption?  (unopened, of course) Or would the change in temperature and then re-chilling it affect the quality of the wine?  I’ve asked a few LCBO employees over the years, and nobody has been able to give me a confident response.

A: I am sure there are many wine drinkers who have wondered about this as they remove the stash of left over bottles from their fridge after a party.

In terms of temperature fluctuations, while you don’t want to subject your wines to repeated and rapid changes in temperature by chilling and re-chilling, particularly with older, more delicate whites, white wines will not be affected after refrigeration and can easily cope with the change from room temperature (around 20 to 22 Celsius in most homes) to the fridge (4 to 6 Celsius on average) and back again, at least once and even multiple times.

What you do want to avoid is drastic and frequent variations in temperature such as putting bottles in the freezer and then taking them to sit on your deck when its 35C and then back to the freezer or storage if unopened. It is important when storing wine for later consumption that you avoid heat and direct sunlight, as extremes can permanently damage wine, even with short exposure. On the opposite end of the thermometer, extreme cold doesn’t usually damage wine. Occasionally wines that have been frozen can develop crystals, which are harmless tartrates and have no effect on the flavour of the wine.

The same applies to sparkling wine that has been removed from the fridge for storage and chilled at a later time. It will not be ruined, nor have fewer bubbles, though it is a good idea to chill down bubbly and whites by submerging the bottle into a bucket of ice water (adding a few handfuls of salt will chill it even faster), rather than sticking it into ice alone or in the freezer. Sparkling wine that is chilled down in a freezer can sometimes result in a frothy explosion when you open the bottle, which is something you likely want to avoid unless you are celebrating winning a stage at the Tour de France.

Q: JH asks: We buy a couple bottles or a case of a wine we like: one bottle tastes great, the other is somewhat “off” (funky?). How can this happen? Same vintage, screwcap, sometimes all in the same case, sometimes different bottling date, nothing old (often whites from the current year).

A: Funky bottles can often be the result of cork taint caused by the microbial compound 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole, or TCA, which typically smells of wet cardboard, wet dog or a moldy basement. Cork closures are also frequently the reason why one bottle can taste different from the other, due to the inherent variability of a natural product (cork comes from the Cork oak tree, Quercus suber) and variance in the amount of oxygen that enters the bottle, affecting how each bottle ages. However, the funky wines that you purchased were under screwcap so the much maligned cork cannot be the culprit here.

One of the major reasons for bottle variation in screw cap wines may be attributed to what wine geeks call reduction. Reduction refers to the absence of oxygen in the winemaking process, a practice used to preserve the fresh, primary fruit characters of the grape. Excess reduction in winemaking can also produce volatile sulfur compounds, which can make a wine smell like rotten eggs, garlic, cabbage or burnt rubber. It is not the actual screw cap that causes this reduction, but if a wine is already reduced, a screw cap will hold all the aromas within the bottle, which would not be the case with cork as more oxygen is transmitted. Although unpleasant at first, try decanting the wine or giving it a good swirl and shake in your glasses because in most cases the reduced or funky smells blow off. If that still doesn’t get rid of the funkiness, return the bottle to store for a refund.

Q: GS asks: Greetings Dr. JDo:  I am subscribed to WINEALIGN and find their content to be most interesting, informative and helpful. I am writing now as a member of an organizing committee for an anniversary and fundraising dinner. It will be a formal Polish dinner for 150 to 180 guests and consist of food items such as Cabbage Rolls (Golabski), Pirogi, Pork Cutlet (Kotlet) and Borscht (Barszca). The committee has chosen to serve only wine even though beer and vodka may be more popular for a Polish feast. Since I am responsible to select the wines, I researched the Web extensively but found it very challenging to come up with some consistency as to which wines to serve. I am finding it challenging to find appropriate wines for this type of event and menu and wanted to know if you have any guidelines for food and wine matching for this type of menu? CAN YOU HELP? 

A: Sounds like a great line up of food and reminiscent of my childhood. I too would agree that beer and vodka might be more popular and I know that was certainly the case at my family gatherings. That being said, we needn’t get too hung up on food and wine matching, as the menu contains a range of flavours and textures and there is never only one wine to match perfectly with everything.

The best thing to do in situations like this is to identify the primary flavours and textures. In this case, we should pay attention to butter and onions in the pirogis, salty and vinegary flavours in the borstch and a fair deal of starch, fat and weight in dishes like cabbage rolls and pork cutlets. You also need to keep in mind that for a large crowd it is always good to have a range of wines, say 2 to 3 whites and 2 to 3 reds,  to accommodate the different tastes and preferences of your guests.

With this in mind, for whites you could easily go with a moderately oaked Chardonnay, and a dry and fruity white, like Chenin Blanc, both of which could complement and balance the buttery pirogis and pork. In terms of reds, you should lean towards medium bodied wines with a lighter oak touch, some savoury notes and acidity to balance the richness of some of the dishes. A few that come to mind include Gamay (which I think works with many dishes and I often take to my family’s Ukrainian Christmas feasts) or Grenache, also known as Cannonau in Sardinia. Rosé would also work well with this kaleidoscope of flavours and I would go for a fruity but drier style. Here are a few options that are sure to please the crowd. Na zdrowie!

Marisco The King’s Legacy Chardonnay
Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay
Secateurs Badenhorst Chenin Blanc
Malivoire Gamay
Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages Combes aux Jacques
Sella & Mosca Riserva Cannonau di Sardegna

Marisco The King's Legacy Chardonnay 2013Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2014 Secateurs Badenhorst Chenin Blanc 2014 Malivoire Gamay 2014 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages Combes Aux Jacques 2014 Sella & Mosca Riserva Cannonau di Sardegna 2011

If you need more suggestions, check out WineAlign’s Food Match tool. It doesn’t cover every possibility, but it’s a useful feature to help you get started.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions and please keep them coming. Email your queries to Janet Dorozynski at [email protected] or tweet them with the hashtag #AskDrJDo.