The sad situation:
All the wineries had finally left town, the events had gone off without a hitch and I took a day off work in hopes of reckoning with a severe case of festival bloat and palate fatigue. I know I shouldn’t bitch—oh poor me, oh the sufferings of excess…
The heart of the problem:
Let it suffice to say I was, as my dearly departed father used to say, “dragging ass”. Perhaps it’s just a function of my liver not bouncing back like it used to in my less discriminate years. The palate was in desperate need of viticultural EKG paddles. Anything more is just idle speculation. How does one restore that joie de vivre, that spring in the step, that proverbial lead in the pencil?
The eureka moment:
The answer is: stainless steel!
The cork dork explication:
White wines fermented in stainless steel—or cement for that matter—keep a cleaner fermentation (fewer opportunistic fungi and and assorted microbes to steer the fermentation down the wrong roads) As a result the likelihood of a second bacterial fermentation (malolactic) occurring are minimized.
Grapes have three primary acids; citric, tartaric and malic. Keep in mind that fermentation is a messy business, bacteria are everywhere and on occasion opportunistic little buggers like lactobacillum or oenococcus (to name two of the usual suspects) like to eat malic acid (same stuff as in granny apples) and expel lactic acid (yes, the same stuff as in most dairy products—thats why that bad glass of chardonnay at the wedding reception smells like popcorn butter).
Clean fermentations maintain the bright freshness of those primary acids,” and we should like acid in our food and wine—it’s what keeps the flavors popping bright and happy. Acid also stimulates production of saliva, which happens to have an enzyme that stimulates digestion, and with my current state of logey stoppage I desperately needed the kickstart to my system.
The oenologic solution, naming names:
So there I was, deep in the metaphorical Congo of my palate on a warm summer Salt Lake night. I ventured out in search of sustenance.
Caffe Molise does have one of the greatest patios in creation, a magnficent place with gurgling fountains, friendly service and a smartly chosen wine list (It’s a terrific assemblage of great food-friendly values); in short, all the ingredients for a system kickstart.
The wine list has its treasures; I indulged in the Vietti Roero Arneis ($45 on the list.) Roero is the area of Piedmont; Arneis is its great indigenous white, and my palate soon started to sing again. It’s a simple wine, low alcohol, no second ferment, no oak but with a beguiling layered freshness of ripe citrus and sweet herbs that just sang with my greens.
A second course of protein begged for something a little more zaftig: Silver Chardonnay by Mer Soleil ($22 retail.)
It’s a juicier wine—chardonnay is a juicier grape—but framed with that same magnificent primary freshness. My palate was left in gleeful lively bliss.
The happy conclusion:
Occam did have a point about keeping it simple, it’s the shortest distance between two points. The blood began to pump again and the evening was complete. You can keep your oak and bacteria to yourself.