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From the Cellar

I was bopping around the wine cellar the other day and noticed a few older wines slumbering away on the lower shelves in the dust.

These wines were purchased by me in the very early 1980s, and the dust on the bottle indicated that the wine had not moved in perhaps 25 years.

I reached down and picked up the bottle and looked at the label. It was a 1982 Barolo from Italy and the bottle looked in very good shape. "Very good shape" means that there was very little ulage (short fill in the neck where the liquid has recessed), not a hint of a leak and the label did not show any sun damage or fading due to exposure to the sun.

The cellar is a good one, with temperatures ranging from about 50 degrees in the winter to perhaps 60 degrees in the heat of the summer. The humidity sits at a very nice 70 degrees. It is important to buy a temperature and humidity gauge for your cellar, regardless where or what kind of cellar you have, in order to see what's cookin' as far as storing your wine with some certainty for the future. I bought mine at Radio Shack for just a few bucks and it does a nice job.

I took the bottle and held it briefly under a high-intensity light. There should have been a streak of sludge along the side of the glass that was touching the bottom of the rack. Gravity will allow all of the "throw" to reside on the lowest level of the glass, so the streak was quite evident the length of the bottle.

I had a decision to make as to if I wanted to drink the wine or not. This is the problem with holding a lovely old bottle in your hand about two hours before dinner. I knew we were making a meal which would have been perfect for this wine, so I stood there and stared at the bottle for a few moments to see what might be the answer. Okay!

I took the wine upstairs and let it warm up a bit. An older red wine is best served just under "cellar" temp or lightly cool to the touch. I think we tend to drink red wine too warm overall, and the wine can be a bit jammy on the palate as a result. I stood the wine up right away so that the throw would begin to drop to the bottom of the bottle. Older wines should, if given the foresight, be stood up a few days before opening to allow for the "sludge drop" but this takes, obviously, some planning and since I was shooting from the hip on this one, the "stand up" method on such a short notice was all I had. Then I went searching for my glass funnel!

Decanting a wine can be a trick. Decanting is used for two reasons, the airing out of the wine and/or the removal of sediment (throw, sludge) in the vino. It is important to understand that older red wines really are affected by air. Airing a wine is artificially aging the wine and the results can be tragic. More than a few great wines have been destroyed by too much air causing the wine to "turn" quickly. Decant and serve! Remember that the wine is still airing during the meal, which can be for some time. There are a few methods to decant wine, but the simple issue is to pour the wine into an off-center funnel (slanted) so we can see when the sediment begins to arrive as the clear wine is gently poured into the decanter, as it shows in the clear glass of the funnel. Some folks use a candle under but away from the neck of the bottle to see when the sludge begins to appear, but I've never been convinced that this is the best thing to do. Other folks say that the heat of the candle makes the sediment rise away from the opening of the bottle, which helps to clarify the wine. In any event, you will have about 10 percent of the wine left in the bottle that is too sludgy to drink. The wine in the decanter should be clear and ready to go. I did all of this with the Barolo. The wine was marvelous!

Here is a wine not to miss &

I just tasted a certified (ICEA) organically grown 2005 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo from Italy and the wine was gangbusters! This wine is from the old estate, Villa Carlotti, and sells for a whopping 10 bucks per. Deep fruit, long and supple finish redolent of plums and black cherries and a lovely hint of spice from the oak with a charming mouth feel that keeps on going and going on the palate. Those interested in an organically grown superstar, here it is!

I rarely write about organic wines but this will knock you out. See you next week!