Young Wine, Old Wine, and the Cork

June 27, 2009

When pouring any wine it is important to know what the category is.  Is it a young wine?  If it is, it does not need any special attention, but if it is older, then care should be used when pouring.  Sediment, the natural throwing of grape particles, gets trapped in the part of the bottle called the punt.  The punt is the indent at the bottom of the vessel.

Take a close look, hold the bottle up to a light bulb, all the while not jostling the wine.  Can you see any sediment?  If you do, then this is when the lesson is learned.  The punt creates a natural “corner” for the sediment to get trapped in.  Pour the wine slowly then upright the bottle just as gently.  This way the sediment will not be re-suspended into the wine.  (It is not harmful but will not add to the clarity of the wine or to the distinct flavors.)

I mentioned earlier about the condition of the cork.  A perfect cork will add not a bit of taste to the wine, but a stained cork or a cork in some level of deterioration could be detrimental to the taste.  From my discussions with winemakers, vineyard owners and also marketing people, they know that about 3% of today’s corks are inferior in some way but they can not tell before use.  This has led many wineries back to “screw” tops.  “HOW COULD THEY” you ask?

Well, It is a proven fact the seal is better, that simple. If a new customer to a winery happened to get a wine with a tainted cork, they would probably, unknowingly, think the winery makes crap wine all the time and never buy another bottle from that winery.  Even worse, what if that person tells all their friends about this encounter.  Products can’t accept this negative yet manageable occurrence..

The past two decades have seen development by the braver Vineyards in new packaging, not just screw tops but also alternate packaging like different size “bag in the box” or green types of containers.

More later.

Bruce Wm Gibson, Proprietor
The Harwich Spirits Shoppe

Steamed Littlenecks via Beer or Wine

June 18, 2009



Wanna try an unusual yet simple recipe for superb seafood? How about steamed littleneck quahogs (not the traditional soft-shell steamers). Here’s what ya do…

  1. Buy or make some fresh French or Italian bread.
  2. Get yourself a mess of fresh littlenecks.  That’s pretty easy here on Cape Cod. Just go on down to the local mud flat (your harbor master can tell you where folks dig for the bivalves) and wait for someone laden with the buggers to rise from the muck. Then offer that person $ for ‘necks. I find that about a dozen/person makes for a decent meal.
  3. Take your booty home and de-gunk their outer shells under fresh cold water using a clean kitchen scrub brush. (As with any shellfish, there will always be some grit, but at least you can minimize the hassle.)
  4. Next, pour a can or two of your favorite light-colored beer or some quality white wine into a pot. The idea being that there should be enough booze to half submerge the creatures, but not drown them. If you need a steaming tray, so be it. (After all… They’re about to be swimming the “Flats of Glory” .)
  5. Situate the littlenecks evenly in the pot, and turn the heat to med/low. Cover.
  6. Immediately add garlic, butter, onion, and a dash of lemon juice. (I’d like to give you quantities here, but it really varies due to taste. The wife and I usually end up with a couple dozen ‘necks, a half teaspoon of garlic paste, a tablespoon of butter, a quarter teaspoon of dried onion, and a dash of lemon juice. Your mileage may vary.)
  7. Wait and watch.  The trick is to remove the clams when they steam open. Not too early and not too late. (Remember, raw shellfish is a big no-no.)
  8. And while you’re waiting, melt some more butter for dipping.
  9. Set table and serve. (Try dipping the bread in the steaming liquor – heaven on earth.)

If you have questions concerning the appropriate beer or wine for this recipe, just use the comment button below, give us a call, or stop by.

Wearing a bib,


After the Wine Tasting…

June 13, 2009

Now that I’ve told you my prime reason for tasting wines, let’s move on to the process. After you’ve selected the wine to sample, how do we approach it.

  1. Serving temperature:

    You will hear varying discussions on this, but the best rule of thumb is mean gradient temperature – earth’s temp.  Most food is preserved best at this level of degrees…  Root cellars, Cape Cod cellars, wine cellars are traditionally underground for this reason.  Since wine is a food, this works quite nicely – whites could be a little cooler and reds a little less cool for reasons to be explained later.

  2. Bottle prep:

    Preparing the bottle for disgorging is more important for older wines than newer ones but it is always good practice on all the bottles that you open and might as well be done properly every time.  First, with the bottle held firmly on a flat stable surface, insert the pigtail of the screw with a light hammer like pounding motion, then, turn the bottle thus inviting deep penetration.

  3. Opening:

    Once the screw grasps at least 90% of the cork, begin the removal process, starting with a firm even leverage and increasing until the cork slips out with ease.  Many will look at the cork. Why, you might ask? Well, the cork will tell it’s own story. How was the bottle stored? Is there a stain along the outside edge and what does it mean? Also (come to think about it), why did the gentleman sitting next to us at the restaurant last week tell the waiter to “Dice it and put it in my salad”?

The wine is now ready to be presented.  The pouring process and the tasting regime will be explained in the next post.

Thanks for stopping by, see you again soon,

Bruce Gibson

Our thoughts about Wine Tasting – Keep It Simple

June 6, 2009

The prime aim of tasting wine, exploring the myriad of grapes and the many regions of the world wine is produced, is to find a wine that is enjoyable for YOU.  It is really a refinement of the process of drinking.  The language that describes the tasting experience is both learned by and created by you, the taster.  A good sense of smell is an asset, nearly as useful as a good memory.  Honesty to oneself is essential, as an insincere taster can be tricked by a fancy label, great reputation, high price, or the assumption that a good or a great wine is being presented.  One must also learn by their mistakes, even the most admired tasters will admit that they have selected a Burgundy as a Bordeaux, or stated that a Merlot was a Cabernet.

If you would like to take a ride with us on the Train that journeys through each and every grape growing region on this planet of ours and learn the basics of wine production, come along and get your ticket punched at The Harwich Spirits Shoppe.  The cost is only your attention and a desire to become learned on wine speak.

Bruce Wm Gibson
Proprietor,  Harwich Spirits Shoppe