This week I'm addressing questions that have been piling up on my desk for far too long. They come from clients and from my wine class at Southern Oregon University.
What is a claret wine?
Clarets originate from Bordeaux, France. In the United States, we traditionally called them Bordeaux wine, while in Europe, especially in Great Britain, they were known as clarets.
The red claret from Bordeaux can be made from a variety of grapes, notably cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petite verdot. In the U.S., enterprising wineries have adopted the claret name to let the consumer know that the traditional grapes which make up the wine in France are also being produced here. So if you see "claret" on an American wine, understand that it will be produced generally from cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petite verdot in various percentages of each.
Claret continues to be a fascinating animal. Blending Bordeaux-originated varietals gives the winemaker incredible latitude in complexity, depth, power and balance. For example, we have known for many years that adding merlot to cabernet sauvignon softens the wine considerably and makes the wine more "approachable" at an earlier date.
The addition of petite verdot, in my opinion, brings out the floral components of the wine and, therefore, in theory as well as in practice for a majority of wineries, the end product is enhanced by blending these lovely like varietals. In our own backyard we have seen how well so many wineries in the Rogue Valley have done by creating their own variations on the theme.
Q: I want to start a personal wine cellar. Which wines should I put in the cellar?
The first thing to ask yourself is how "serious" you wish the cellar to be. The questions you should ask yourself are the following; where you wish to put the cellar, how many bottles should you wish to put in there, how much money are you willing to spend, what are the wines you, personally, like to drink and finally, how long do you intend to age these wines?
A cellar can be anything from a case of wine to whatever fills your personal need. I have seen cellars ranging from a few cases to hundreds of cases of wines. Stocking a vast and high-end cellar is an expensive proposition, which many of us have no desire to do. My suggestion is to stick with wines you enjoy drinking. Visit wine shops, wineries and tastings and get a "feel" for what you think you'd like to cellar. Ask the people who vend the wine what their take is on age ability of what you are intending to purchase. Most importantly, find a suitable place to store your treasures. Your "cellar" doesn't have to be some remote, esoteric cave; it can be a closet, a basement or anywhere where the wines can remain under sixty degrees and dark. If the wines have "real" cork, lay them down on their sides. That's all there is to it. My suggestion is to look at a 10-year maximum on your purchases. Most wines intended to age will benefit from this time period.
Lorn Razzano is former owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland and still works there part time. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.