Cabernet escapes its prison

It was great to see lots of happy tasters at yesterday’s ’12 reds tasting’ at Andover Wine Friends.  Thanks for being so game with the blind tasting and for all the food that people brought, making for a good evening.  

If you were at the tasting, you will remember that there were a number of wines that we thought were not that typical last night: the overly tannic Gigondas, the extremely subtly made Chianti Classico and the rather dumb Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River.  We had two of those bottles to taste again this evening and, not surprisingly, the Gigondas had not improved – grippy tannins don’t disappear overnight.  The Chianti Classico was consumed last night so we will never know how that would have developed. But the real surprise was the Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon.  I got out another, more typical, new world Cabernet tCabernet of course! o compare with it but the minute I put my nose into the glass with yesterday’s wine I quickly put the second bottle away as completely unnecessary.   Hey presto, tonight, pour wine into glass and out of it streams classic cassis and fragrant violet fruit, shouting CABERNET SAUVIGNON at me!  Similarly the fruit on the palate today was typical new world Cabernet, with a bit of classy Margaret River restraint about it.  

So the answer has got to be to do with interaction with oxygen.  The wine was under screw cap and was probably bottled in a high tech way, with an inert gas being used to fill the head space before bottling.  This is to ensure maximum freshness and to avoid any contact with oxygen. But sometimes wine makers can over do this resulting in wines which smell (briefly) of onion or garlic right up to a mild whiff of rotten eggs.  This state is called ‘reduction‘, the opposite of oxidation.  So while our wine was not obviously reductive (much easier to spot on whites than reds), it just was rather dumb.  24 hours of air did the trick – and the Cabernet escaped from the prison cell of impermeable glass and near impermeable screw cap. Incidentally that is why some of us think it is helpful to decant young wines, which in most cases will clear up this issue. 

Nobody claimed that blind tasting was straightforward! 

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