Sips: the joys of leftover wine

It’s a fact of wine life that most wines are released too soon, especially reds but also some whites, such as white Burgundies, which will continue to evolve for years in the bottle. This is understandable as the producers need to keep their income coming in. But I’ve sometimes wondered, what if all the wineries got together and put a temporary hold on releases for a year or two, letting the wines develop further in the bottle? It’s an appealing idea but completely impractical; wine producers, like the rest of us, need to earn a living.

Of course there are other ways of enjoying aged wines: purchase  them on release and hold them for a few years; buy older vintages if you can find them; or, partake in the pleasures of wlabel_2006_sonomacoasthat I like to call day-old wine. The latter is a subject I’ve written about over the years in my column, and I was reminded of it again the other night with the remains of a bottle of California red -- Merry Edwards’ 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir -- that was sitting on my kitchen counter. The reason for the leftover wine was simple: on opening it I felt it was just too young and enclosed; yes, we drank a glass or two with a dinner, but because of its youth we didn’t feel pulled into it in a way that makes it all but irresistible and effortless to enjoy another glass.

It was a far different experience when I tasted it again. The wine, with half an inch of the cork pressed gently into the bottle, had a couple of days’ exposure to air, which probably amounted to a year or two of bottle age. There was no sign that it had turned, which one is always on the lookout for when pouring leftover wine; sometimes you get lucky, sometimes not.

In fact, the wine had come alive and was now showing beautifully. With its transparent, light ruby color and alcohol at a modest 14.2 percent, it was more Burgundian than big-fruit California in character.  The tastes reminded me of slightly overripe raspberries and strawberries combined with notes of tea, mushroom and forest floor. It was at once earthy and elegant.

I don’t suppose there’s much of it around, since Merry Edwards wines are produced in limited quantities and I received this one a year ago (the ‘07s have since been released). But if you can get hold of a bottle, try decanting it a couple of hours beforehand, which will help it open up. Then enjoy it with some  chicken roasted with herbs or grilled pork chops, saving a little for a comparison tasting a day or two later. Let me know if you agree that sometimes, nothing beats a glass or two of day-old wine. (Wine received as a press sample.)

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