Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Frankenwine: Turn Two Buck Chuck Into 50 Buck Frank?

Can 600 volts and a little titanium take the place of reclining in a musty cellar for years (or a tidy temperature/humidity controlled storage locker)? Keep your eyes and palate peeled for further developments in this story:

Researchers - and some vineyards - are developing electrical equipment that accelerates the aging process, turning young wine from an undrinkable bitter grape juice into a quaffable beverage fit for any table.

The system being developed in China - which has a burgeoning wine industry - works by speeding up the normal chemical reactions in wines that can take up to 20 years.
According to the researchers, the results have been "striking" and have fooled some wine experts in taste testings. Even the cheapest of wines are usually only drunk after six months. Most, especially reds, take longer to achieve the required balance and complexity.

The finest can take 20 years or more to reach their peak.
During aging, wine becomes less acidic as the alcohol reacts with organic acids to produce a plethora of the fragrant compounds known as esters. Unpleasant components precipitate out and the wine becomes clearer and more stable. Red wines mellow and become less bitter.

A team led by Xin An Zeng, a chemist at the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, came up with the idea of pumping the rough wine through a pipe that ran between two titanium electrodes, connected to the mains.
For the test wine, the team selected a three-month-old cabernet sauvignon from the Suntime Winery, China's largest producer. Batches of wine spent one, three or eight minutes in the electric fields. The team then analysed the treated wine for chemical changes that might alter its "mouth feel" and quality, and passed it to a panel of 12 experienced wine tasters who assessed it in a blind tasting With the gentlest treatment, the harsh, astringent wine grew softer. Longer exposure saw some of the hallmarks of aging emerge – a more mature "nose", better balance and greater complexity.

The improvements reached their peak after 3 minutes at 600 volts per centimeter: this left the wine well balanced and harmonious, with a nose of an aged wine and, importantly, still recognisably a cabernet sauvignon.

Although Zeng cannot yet explain how exposure to an electric field alters the wine's chemistry, his results show that under the right conditions the technique can accelerate some aspects of the aging process.
"Not only can it shorten a wine's normal storage time, it can also improve some lower-quality wine," he said.
Five Chinese wineries have begun trials.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Show airing Saturday, September 6, 2008

Calcareous, it's what we call limestone around here. Find out more in our interview with Dana Brown, owner of Calcareous Winery in Paso Robles and her winemaker from Australia, Damian Grindley.

Then it's time for the dinner of your dreams with Liz Zimmerman, co-owner of Dream Dinners in San Luis Obispo. We also have a chat with Tina Porter, who makes dreams come true for parents with her company, SLO County Sitters.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Master Sommilier Tips Restaurants

I promised on our last show to post these tips for our restaurant owner listeners by Laura DePasquale, MS, VP of Fine Wine Development, Palm Bay International.

So, at long last, here they are. Details on the Sommelier Spiral Decanter are found at the bottom of this post. ---------------------------------------
Source: iSante Magazine
Gone are the heady days of wine and roses pricing as the competitive landscape dramatically intensifies. Customer loyalty, repeat diners and guest satisfaction have taken on monumental new meaning critical to the success or failure of many restaurants. Here are six simple, savvy techniques that I've observed in my business travels that will keep your guests coming back for more.

1. Focus, Focus, Focus. Wine and beverage programs that meander all over the place cost more money and result in confused customers. Have a point of view and choose wines and cocktails that reflect that point of view.

2. Did I mention value? It’s top of mind for every guest today. The days of high mark-ups (3-4 times) on wine are over. Successful wine programs have scaled back on percentages and offer “discounted nights” or “end of bin” values.

3. Tap into off-beat varieties. There’s great value to be found in premium quality wines made from lesser-known varieties or hailing from non-traditional regions. Look to Carmenère, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc from South America and Albariño from Spain for interesting, delicious and budget-friendly by-the-glass pours.

4. Champion indigenous varieties. I’ve seen a major trend in successful establishments towards the classics – wines that are familiar, reflect a point of origin and actually taste like what they are. Great examples include Nebbiolo from Piedmont, Chianti and Sangiovese from Tuscany, Syrah from the Rhone, Riesling from Germany, and so on.

5. Create food & wine pairing gurus. Your entire team of servers should be well-versed in specific wines across price points and styles that pair well with each menu item. The "sell" becomes much more authentic and accurate. An excellent first step is increased collaboration between the sommelier and/or wine buyer and the chef in selecting wines that reflect the cuisine. Next step? Staff education and tasting sessions!

6. Have an open mind, and know your customer. Quite simply, successful sommeliers are listening to their customers much more in choosing wines and not just asserting their own preferences into the list.

If you have a question for the Master Sommelier, email info@palmbay.com.

The Ravenscroft Sommelier Decanter in the photo is from 125West.com and is handcrafted by European craftsmen. They are available in shapes and sizes to meet the needs of the world of fine wine. These breathing decanters combine a long neck for oxidation during the decanting process with a broad, shallow reservoir for further aeration while the wine rests before serving.