Wine of the Week: A Red That Lasts for Days

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After what's your favorite wine?, the question that I get asked the most at wine tastings and seminars is how do you make wine last after you've opened the bottle?

My initial answer is drink good wine: Wine with high acidity will last longer once opened; acidity is one of the key elements that give wine its longevity.

Then I offer my technical advice: If you're only going to consume a few glasses from a bottle, pour the desired amount into a glass vessel (which doesn't have to be a decanter, by the way; any carafe -- glass, ceramic, crystal -- or even a measuring cup will do) and then immediately recork the wine -- red or white -- and put it in the fridge. Wine ages rapidly when it comes into contact with oxygen. By recorking and chilling the wine, you will slow this process.

Tracie P has been nursing our eight-week-old baby Georgia and she only drinks a glass of wine at dinner these days. On any given night, we might only consume a half of a bottle of wine.

And so I decided to conduct an experiment with one of our favorite bottlings of Chianti Rufina (100 percent Sangiovese) by Selvapiana (above), opening the bottle on a Monday and drinking one glass every evening through Friday (Tracie P had the sixth glass).

Of all the Chianti subzones, Chianti Rufina is my favorite. It takes its name from the village of Rufina (pronounced ROO-fee-nah, not to be confused with the family and estate name Ruffino, pronounced roo-FEEN-noh, a winery in Chianti Classico). Rufina lies at roughly 400 meters above sea level and your ears pop as you drive up to the town: The elevation -- the highest in the entire Chianti appellation -- is ideal for growing grapes with high acidity thanks to the cool summer evenings that prolong the ripening process, allowing the grapes to mature more slowly and to achieve greater acidity levels.

When I first opened the wine it stunk. I attributed this to what is called volatile acidity, or VA in winemaking parlance. It's considered a flaw and is often encountered in traditional wines like this one in which some oxidation during winemaking may result in acetic acid, giving the wine an initial vinegar aroma. The VA quickly blew off and the wine began to reveal its black cherry and red stone fruit aromas, but it remained very tannic, "closed" and "tight" as we say. I let my first glass sit for about an hour before I revisited it to discover that the fruit was gradually emerging, although still dominated by the tannic structure.

As I returned to the wine each night, the fruit flavors became more and more pronounced, and by the fourth night, Thursday, the wine had come into nearly perfect balance, the savoriness of the tannin complemented by the fruit like a wild turkey drum stick and cranberry chutney.

On the last night of my experiment, Friday, the wine started to lose some of its brightness but was still delicious and thoroughly satisfying. I enjoyed every last drop, thinking to myself, not bad for a wine that costs around $17 in our market.

You should be able to find it at Spec's, and I know there are number of Houston restaurants that feature it on their lists (Plonk and Trevisio). It's one of the best deals in town and one of our standbys at home.

You just need the patience to let it be the gift that keeps on giving...

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