Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mini March Madness

Hey, it's college basketball tournament season. What, you didn't know? Have you been living under a rock?

If you haven't been living under a rock, you may have been invited to one, two, three, four or more parties to watch games. This always leaves me with lots of half-drunk bottles of wine sitting around that I open up on Thursday and then can't finish for days and days while we go scream at television sets with friends. Sure, there are lots of preservation strategies out there, but some of the best involve pouring your undrunk wine into smaller, 375ml bottles and then blanketing them with inert gas or pumping out the oxygen. The smaller bottles enhance the preservation action of these other strategies, since smaller bottles leave less opportunity for air to creep in there and begin to turn the flavors.

So March is as good a time as any to find out if your local wine merchants stock these mini, 375ml bottles. And while you're at it, you may as well look for wines that you actually want to drink. Typically, the 375s are tucked into some out of the way place and often the selection is not very extensive. But it's worth asking your shop owner if they have any in the back, since sometimes the wines aren't even displayed. I've found some very nice options here in LA at Whole Foods, at Mission Wines in South Pasadena, and at Chronicle Wine Cellar in Pasadena. They've included older French cabernets, Dry Creek wines, young California grenache blends, a cabernet franc from the Loire, and a nice tempranillo from Bodegas Arzuaga. (photographed here to enhance their height, in case basketball scouts are reading this...)

375s are also perfect if you are facing a week of white wine dinners and are gasping for a glass of red, or have a sudden burger hunger that must be slaked with a cabernet for accompaniment. I should also say that this size bottle is great for trying out a producer or varietal that you aren't familiar with. It allows you to be adventurous with less risk of being stuck with 3/4 of a bottle you don't particularly like.

Finding good 1/2 bottles is always an opportunistic business--buy them when you see them, because you may not see them again. Having a few nice minis on hand is always a good thing, even when it's not tournament time.

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