Creating a perfect dining ambience in your own home

This week, I'll give you three important tips on drinking wine in the comfort of your home and introduce a perfect wine for springtime drinking.
Creating a perfect dining ambience in your own home

Mencia vineyards in Bierzo

Not everyone is so lucky. Our fair city is a paradise for those of us who love to dine out. The quality and diversity of Shanghai restaurants is right up there with the international eating meccas of New York and London. However, there are times when nothing is more pleasing than kicking back and enjoying a nice dinner at home. But what if you don’t want to cook? As presented in today’s iDEAL feature story, the world of gourmet can be delivered to your door.

This week, I’ll give you three important tips on drinking wine in the comfort of your home and introduce a perfect wine for springtime drinking.

Enjoyable wine drinking at home starts with proper glassware. One need not get caught up with the superfluous number of varietal glasses that have more to do with marketing than the science of drinking. Yes, a Bordeaux red is nice in an aristocratic tall slightly tapered glass and a Burgundy performs well in a wide-bowled round glass; but in truth any crystal glass with ample bowl and tapered top will do nicely. It’s also a good idea to rinse you glass each time before using it. Depending on where you store the glass, in the cupboard, in a box or near food, the glasses are prone to develop ambient aromas and compromise your drinking experience.

Serving temperature is also key to successful wine drinking at home. As spring moves to summer the temperature in your dining and living rooms rises well above 20 degrees Celsius. This is fine for humans but not for wines. No wine should be served above 20 degrees Celsius because at higher temperatures the components of the wine lose their harmony and the sensations of alcohol become more aggressive. In general, you’re safe when you serve whites between 8-10 Celsius and reds between 14-18 Celsius. Depending on the environment at your home, this means that you should chill your reds for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Most red wines and some of the top white and sparkling wines benefit from breathing. Because the surface area where the wine and oxygen interact in an opened bottle of wine is quite small, wine takes longer to breathe in a bottle. If you don’t have a decanter at home, another way to accelerate the breathing is to pour the wines into the glasses and wait about 10 minutes for whites and lesser reds and 30 plus minutes for more serious reds. Of course, glassware, serving temperature and breathing are all important for pleasurable home drinking but you still have to pick the right wine. My choice for spring and summer time drinking at home is a wine that may be a mystery to many readers.

Springtime variety

In the Bierzo region of northern Spain the Mencia variety is used to make fresh, vivacious and intense red wines. Bierzo is one of 10 designated DO wine regions in the large and mountainous Castilla y Leon region. Until recently the proclivity of the Mencia grape to be high-yield was exploited by winemakers, who valued quantity over quality. The result was insipid wines suitable only for local consumption. But times have changed.

Discovery of some of Spain’s oldest vines and a commitment to lower yields and better winemaking has resulted in some of Spain’s most exciting red wines. Also contributing to quality are the 500-650-meter-high hillside vineyards that feature excellent diurnal temperature differences. In layman’s terms, the days are hot and the nights cool. These conditions lead to a longer more gradual ripening season that results in grapes with optimal ripeness that still retain good freshness.

The best examples of Mencia wines often feature abundant red fruit, plum, black cherry wildflower, herbs, licorice and intriguing earthy aromas and flavors. These qualities along with their good acidity also make them remarkably food-friendly. This includes an ability to pair nicely with many popular Chinese dishes, including seafood, as well as practically any other type of cuisine you can have delivered to your home.

Wine drinkers in China are only just discovering the beauty of Mencia wines from Bierzo and this means a limited selection. Fortunately, wines from a few of the best producers can be found including the stylish wines from Descendientes de J. Palacios — Alvaro Palacios. The Villa de Corullon exhibits intense red fruit and black cherry aromas and flavors with hints of lavender, while the Moncerbal features plum, red cherry and oaky aromas and concentrated red berry flavors with mouth-puckering tannins. Another winner from Alvaro Palacios is the Las Lamas, a powerful and aromatic wine with intriguing sensations of citrus, quince and roses.

Two additional Mencia reds that you can easily find in Shanghai are Cuatro Pasos Mencia, a light to medium body wine with strawberry and other red fruit scents and fresh red fruit flavors with herbal hints and a clean finish. The Martin Codaz El Cayado Mencia has a typical Mencia red fruit nose with licorice hints and lively fresh red cherry and red berry flavors and an elegant, long finish.

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