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30 Second Wine Tasting Tip:
Short-term cellaring

Think of a wine cellar, and chances are you'll visualize an ancient bottle, covered with dust and festooned with cobwebs. The purpose of "cellaring," after all, is to allow a young wine many years or even decades to reach the full glory of its maturity ... isn't it?

Well, not always.

As I've often pointed out before, only a fraction of all the world's wines will improve with aging. Many wines are never better than the day they're bottled, and have noplace to go but downhill as their fresh fruit and flavor fades.

And then there's the category we'll consider today: Some wines - and this group includes some very good values - stand to gain flavor interest with a relatively short time in the bottle, and may be worth putting aside in a safe place for six months to a year or two to see what happens as they develop.

Wines in this class may seem harsh, tannic or one-dimensional when they're first released, but their rough edges begin to smooth and mellow in months, not years, so they're worth holding for a relatively short time. And, while it's always good to keep your wines under the best cellar conditions available, an ideal 55F (13C) environment is not as critical for short-term storage as it is for wines to be held for a decade or more.

One of my favorite "alternative" red-wine grapes, Mourvedre (also known as Monastrell in Spain and, occasionally, Mataro in Australia and California), often makes wine that is a prime candidate for this kind of short-term cellaring.

To test this theory, I recently re-visited an $8 Spanish Monastrell that I had rated as one of last year's best values after tasting it in June. At the time of that first tasting, I used it as an illustration of a young wine that would benefit from "breathing" in the glass to open up its tight and tannic aromas and flavors.

Just over six months later, I find that relatively brief aging in the bottle has accomplished a similar purpose. Although my notes from yesterday's tasting are quite similar to my observations of this same wine last June 29, it's clear that evolution is occurring. The wine remains dark, almost black in color and still shows a good mix of berry fruit and earthy nuances on the nose and palate. But the wine's tannins seem softer and less harsh this winter, and the simple herbal aromas of June have evolved into more mature scents of toast and coffee. It's still a remarkable wine and one of the best values on the shelf, and well-worth seeking out either in this 1999 vintage or more recent releases.

My tasting notes are below. For my full list of best wine values of 2001 (featured in last Wednesday's Wine Advisor Express), see http://www.wineloverspage.com/qpr/index.shtml.

What do you think? Join in a discussion on this and other topics in our interactive Wine Lovers' Discussion Group at http://www.wineloverspage.com/cgi-bin/sb/index.cgi?fn=1. Or send E-mail to wine@wineloverspage.com. I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note. But I'll respond to as many as I can and do my best to address specific questions. Please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.

Please tell your wine-loving friends about The 30 Second Wine Advisor, and invite them to register for their own free subscription at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor.

30 Second Tasting Notes:
Bargain from Spain
Casa Castillo Casa Castillo 1999 Jumilla Monastrell ($7.99)
Inky dark garnet, almost black; earthy black fruit with pleasant nuances of toast and coffee. Ripe and full berry fruit flavor, tart and softly tannic. Good fruit, good structure, seems ageworthy - remarkable value. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections, Cincinnati. (Jan. 6, 2002)

FOOD MATCH: Lamb shanks braised with tomatoes over short pasta.

Wine Tasting 101
Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon

Learn to taste wine analytically in a friendly, supportive environment where there are no "wrong" answers. This month we turn to one of the world's greatest red-wine grapes as we feature Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile as the wine of the month. Click to Wine Tasting 101, http://www.wineloverspage.com/forum/wt101.shtml, for details about participating in this free, interactive wine-education project.

Join me on a trip to
the Rhone and Provence

I invite you to join me next June in a seven-day journey through the southern Rhone Valley and Provence, sponsored by French Wine Explorers, a high-quality American tour company that specializes in wine tours of France.

Lauriann Greene and Jean-Pierre Sollin, sommeliers-conseil who live in France, will join me to present this tour, which will feature a week of in-depth exploration of the wines of these two beautiful regions.

The tour is limited to 16 participants, so reservations will remain open only until these places are filled. For more information, click to the details at http://www.wineloverspage.com/tour.

Wine Toon Calendar 2002:
A year of wine and laughter

2002 is here, and we have just about exhausted our supply of Wine Toon Calendars!

If you hurry, though, you can still get one of the last remaining monthly wall calendars, exclusively from WineLoversPage.com. Calendars include a chuckle-worthy collection of cartoonist Chuck Stoudt's zany wine 'toons ... plus dozens of favorite wine quotes for every season, and more than 100 highlighted Wine Web Links, two every week! Buy one for your wine cellar and another for your office ... and they make great gifts.

Calendars are only $11.99 (plus $2 shipping and handling for U.S. shipments, $4 for all other countries). Order yours now, while they last! See http://www.wineloverspage.com/calendar/2002toon.shtml.

And don't forget: Your purchase helps support WineLoversPage.com and The 30 Second Wine Advisor!

30 Second Administrivia
This free E-mail publication is distributed to subscribers every Monday, and our daily Wine Advisor Express is E-mailed Tuesday through Friday. Previous editions are archived at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor/thelist.shtml.

You are on the subscription list because you registered during a visit to Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page. To change your E-mail address, switch from the weekly (Mondays only) to daily distribution, or for any other administrative matters, E-mail wine@wineloverspage.com. In the unhappy event that you must leave us, please take a moment to let us know how we could have served you better. In all administrative communications, please be sure to include the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so we can find your record.

We welcome feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future columns. We do not use this list for any other purpose and will never give or sell your name or E-mail to anyone.

All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

More time for wine?
You don't need to wait for Mondays to read about wine! Drop in any time at the Wine Lovers' Page, http://www.wineloverspage.com, where we add new tasting notes several times each week and frequently expand our selection of wine-appreciation articles, tips and tutorials. If you'd like to talk about wine online with fellow wine enthusiasts around the world, click to our interactive, international Wine Lovers' Discussion Group forums, http://www.wineloverspage.com/forum.

Vol. 3, No. 51, Monday, Jan. 7, 2002

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