Wine Tips from Featured Sommelier
By Jim Clarke
At The Lodge we use a mix of Spiegelau and Riedel glasses.
We actually use an “all-purpose red” glass for
our whites; it’s got more height and drama than the
glasses designed for whites, which looks good in the restaurant
setting. Then we have the bowl-shaped Pinot Noir/Nebbiolo
glasses, and the Speigelau Bordeaux. We use the Riedel Extremes
for wines that are really massive and extracted; they open
up the wine a bit faster and are more dramatic.
Speigelaus have slightly less lead in them,
so the glass is a tiny bit thicker. Most guests don’t
notice the difference, and the thicker glass is more durable;
we have half as much breakage with them versus the Riedels.
In restaurants durability is important.
Most young reds and even whites benefit from vigorous decanting
for air. The wine needs a chance to air out, and in some
cases it lets the bad – sulfur or reductive notes
– make way for the good. There’s something to
be said for good service like this. It helps the wine express
itself, it highlights the efforts of the winemaker, and
it’s respectful of the work and thought that went
into the wine.
Decanting is mandatory for young reds at
Gaucho Grill. They thought I was crazy; the servers would
never do it, and it’s not appropriate for a café.
But good service is always appropriate, and the reaction
from guests has been over-the-top.
We had a guest bring in a massive wine – massive alcohol,
body, tannins, extraction. We decanted it and he tasted
it. Even though it wasn’t one of ours, he asked me
to taste the wine and see if it was off; it had a cooked,
stewy taste. The wine was room temperature, which here in
L.A. means about 72 degrees. I stuck his decanter in the
ice bucket and said, “Give it five minutes.”
They thought I was crazy.
I came back with fresh glasses so they
could taste the cooler and warmer wine next to each other,
and they were amazed at the difference it made. Warm, the
wine’s alcohol was evaporating too quickly; now, its
flavor came into focus, the alcohol and body became more
a matter of mouthfeel, making room for the esters and polyphenols
that the wine was really about. It put the wine into the
context where it could be enjoyed.
At home, I recommend taking your whites
out of the fridge fifteen minutes before you plan to serve
them; Contrariwise, put your reds in the fridge for the
same quarter hour before serving.