Sometimes You Don’t Want to Go Off Piste Without an Expert

I’d interviewed Brent Braun, wine director at Castagna, and was supposed to meet up with him to sample a bottle as part of the article I was writing (this one here). Except that our days crossed and I made the visit without a wine expert-in-charge. Still, he’d told me about the Rieslings that he liked to collect on his list, so all I had to do (I thought) was pick one. And I’ll admit I was pleasantly dazzled by the choice…

I opted for a 1986 Becker Kabinett Trocken (cause it’s not every day you get the option to try a thirty-year-old Riesling on expenses).

The cork looked mummified, like something from an Egyptian tomb. The server seemed pleased that I was so pleased to be tasting this wine. I inhaled. It was a little stark and didn’t have any of the golden beauty I associate with a Riesling. Maybe it just needed time. First sip. Very citrus. Fervent lemon, in fact. Give it more time.

Some time later… still like stewed lemons. Not bad, but not what I’d wanted. It just needs to open up… Cut to: morning, next day. I’d taken it home and it was still the same. I emailed Brent, wondering whether there was something wrong with it. You obviously can’t detect laughter in an email (without an emoticon or similar), but the tone suggested mild amusement at the least. He said it was a very exact wine that he would only pair with food and then to a table of four or more.

While I would urge anyone to experiment with wines there are times when a professional is advised, especially in this case where Brent had put together a technical list for his purposes. Uncharted territory is exciting, but it’s more fun with a guide. (Coda: I returned with Brent present and he served a xxx. )

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