Some, ignorant people, believe that it is unnecessary to aerate white wine. The old school says that Bordeaux wines need air while a Burgundy does not.
I have talked to very many producers in Alsace, and now we are talking about at least 50. While they give all kinds of diverging opinions on almost all topics, they all agree on two things; white wines are way to often drunk to cold and they need air to develop their potential.
In fact, most growers look sad when they open a fresh bottle, because regardless of how well-tempered it is, they tend to say "you should come back tomorrow to get the real taste of this wine”.
The most importanty reason to aerate a wine is to get rid of the carbon dioxide. While a producer is enough used to the carbon dioxide to neglect it, it blocks the palates of amateurs. Most carbon dioxide leaves the wine at the final filtering but a considerable amount may still be left.
I suggest three methods to prepare an Alsace wine for drinking:
You must accept that some 3% of the wines with a natural cork is buchée.
In Alsace, many growers are gradually turning to other materials. These are synthetic corks, screw caps and even beer bottle caps! Prestige growers such as Albert Mann advocate the use of screw caps, while beer bottle caps are used by Pierre Frick and possibly a few others.
Be aware of the fact that a screw cap is an attempt of the producer to save money, but to guarantee a first class product.
It is now recognized as a fact that the shape of the glass is important for both the aroma and the taste of the wine. The success of Riedel and other progressive glassware producers is not only a hype, but based on evidence close to science.
The taste of the wine is affected by how the wine flow into the mouth. A narrow glass for acidic wines, such as Riesling, tastes best of the glass is narrow. Otherwise, the "sensors” for acid on the sides of the tongue come into play to much. On the other hand, a buttery Chardonnay benefits from a glass with a wide opening.
The traditional Alsacian glass for Riesling is shown on the photograph. It sjould be filled to the "hip" to expose a large surface and it has a fairly narrow opening to give a focused stream of wine onto the palate.
It is quite traditional and is used on restaurants such as Au Crocodile in Strasbourg. The impression of a alcohol is very moderate in this glass, but it releases the aromas generously.
The volume is only 28 cl, and it should be filled with a mere 8 cl. Many producers sell the glass at €7, and it can be found at the hypermarché Cora in Colmar at € 4.
There wonderful things that will happen when you cellar your white Alsace wines:
Rieslings need cellaring to develop the hallmark aromas of petrol and citrus. The petrol character appears on the wines 5th birthday. Before the age of 5 years, the wine is fresch, fruity and charming. Beyond, it is racy, full of unique character and carrier of some dignity. Just like a pedigree dog.
Gewurztraminer needs aging to get a more integrated character, but 5 years is more close to the zenith of the wine.
Cellaring of Pinot Gris is exceptionally rewarding. A Pinot Gris will tend to dry out with cellaring, revealing all the nuances of the variety that were initially hidden under richness and/or sugar. Although the sugar does not actually disappear with ageing, the sugar is "hidden” by polysackarides after some years. A Pinot Gris will go through many stages during its first 10 years. A good idea is to buy many Pinot Gris of superior quality and follow them during their lifespan.
While a cannot see any reason to cellar a Muscat, a good Pinot Blanc will develop and get rid of some rough edges for 3-4 years after the harvest.