Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wine by the glass: unfortunately, not a sure bet yet

A trendy tapas restaurant in Old Pasadena, a tasty offering of small plates, a well designed wine list with a good selection of Spanish wines by the glass: this looked like the best recipe for a great evening. Unfortunately, two out of the four wines that we ordered by the glass were plainly undrinkable.

We started with a Viña Nora Albarino and a Faustino V Rioja Blanco. We liked the Albarino a lot. It was floral, fresh, zesty. But we were pretty disappointed by the Rioja, which tasted flat, tired, and had very little flavors. We told our waitress about the wine but decided to move on and try some red wines instead: a Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva and a Borsao Campo de Borja, which is a Garnacha/Tempranillo blend from the region of Aragón. The Rioja had bright fruity and spicy flavors, perfect with our Spanish meatballs in a mushroom sauce. The Borsao, on the other hand, had an unpleasant port-like pruny taste.

This was a real surprise to me to find so many oxidized wines that evening. How could such a fairly upscale restaurant not properly avoid wine spoilage in its uncorked bottles?

Complaining a second time, we finally got a free Priorat Garnacha. And this one was fine.

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Marcus g58 said...
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Marcus g58 said...

That's interesting. I know that Borsao and I can see it being a wine that oxidizes readily and unpleasantly.

When I did my own experiment, which tried to approximate how a restaurant might serve wines by the glass, I found that how one stores opened bottles is incredibly crucial. Tasting various three-day-old samples blind I detected obvious differences in the wine. (I tested Cabernet which I find tends to be more forgiving.)

Did the restaurant end up giving you an explanation -- that the bottle must've been opened a while ago and overlooked, or that it was stored in a hot corner of their bar? Do you recall the vintage? The Borsao is usually a fine example of an reliable everyday value. It seems a shame that its reputation should suffer when the problem very likely had nothing to do with the wine itself or its winemakers.

Catherine Granger said...

We didn't question the waitress. She seemed pretty clueless. I guess they must keep their open bottles next to the kitchen and who knows for how long they keep their bottles open...

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