Wine Pages

Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist


Giving it Time

You know what they say about first impressions - they are often misleading. Yet, most of us (including some "professional" wine critics) visit with a wine for such a short amount of time, that their first impression is often their only impression. Recently, my wife and I enjoyed some 2004 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir from Lane Tanner. I say we enjoyed "some," because the wine took a while to develop in the glass after we opened it. Tanner makes very non-California wines - somewhat austere to those who are used to rich, syrupy, bombastic Pinots. This wine rings in at 12.5% alc., making it much lighter than other producers' wines from the same vintage and the same vineyard. When we first opened the bottle, the wine was a combination of tartness and acidity, with very little fruit showing at all. Two hours later (yes, we slowly revisited it throughout the evening) it had turned into a pretty, well rounded wine, with much more backbone than it had started with.

I recently noticed Rusty Gafney's comments on how he tastes wine for his newsletter, PinotFile. "I taste Pinot Noir daily in a quiet home setting," he wrote. "The wines are sampled at cellar temperature and are usually tasted over a few hours both always without food and often with food in a relaxed atmosphere so as to replicate the consumer’s drinking experience." Now this is what I like to hear from someone who assesses wines - a careful, thoughtful look at a wine throughout various stages of its life after being opened. While other writers take this approach, it's clearly not as common as one would hope.

And when I'm pouring wine for consumers or professional wine buyers, I rarely see people take much time with the wine deserves before making their buying decisions. Granted, in those situations, the notion of "so much wine... so little time" is often quite true. All I am saying is that it's a shame so many of us leap to judgement when tasting - and miss out on the potential of a magical metamorphosis that some wine will display.