Every year I am sent wines and wine related products to sample and test. Instead of my sampling all these products, I have chosen to let the students in my wine class at the International School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack, New Jersey try them and report back. After all, these are the perfect people to do the testing. Young hospitality students interested in the wine business. I thought I would share a few examples of the very good, the good and the not so good products I have recently been sent.
I am always asked what do I do with wines that are left over in a bottle after I have sampled one or two glasses. I usually answer that I use one of several systems that either removes the air from the remaining bottle or adds nitrogen, an inert gas that fills the space between the wine left over and the bottom of the cork. Air is the enemy of wine, forcing one to drink what's left after opening the bottle within a few days to prevent oxidation. Oxygen is wine's enemy, and when a wine gets exposed to air, it becomes "oxidized." The result is flat, lifeless wine that loses its pretty, vibrant fruit scents and tastes insipid -- it will likely remind you of vinegar. Then there is the problem of corked wine. Wine is corked when it has come in contact with a contaminated cork during the aging process. The wine will smell like a wet basement after a flood or dirty socks left in the hamper a little too long: moldy, nasty and not at all enticing to the taster.
One can “think inside the box” as Eric Asimov, wine critic for the NY Times, recently did when he and his panel tested boxed wines. The “bag-in-a-box" wines eliminate the problem of oxidation because there is no space for air to occupy. The wines can stay fresh for many weeks once they have been opened. No serious wine drinker would have used boxed wines except for picnics, beach parties or for use with people who did not love wine, but just wanted to consume something alcoholic. Eric Dubourg, the owner of Wineberry America, brought his wood-boxed wine, Chateau Moulin de la Roquille Cotes de Bordeaux 2009 for my students to sample. It is one of six wood-boxed wines in his portfolio, all from small French wineries, all grower-produced. This is a new frontier in freshness and convenience as well as a reduction in carbon footprints because of the smaller shipping size. This wine is crafted with wood from sustainable forests and shields the wine from air and light. The three-liter size is the equivalent of four 750ml wine bottle and sells for around $45, or $11 a bottle. And my students certainly did love the wine. Bravo Eric, your wine is my Very Good choice.
I asked one of my students to take the S’Well bottles I was sent home with her to try out their claim that the insulated stainless steel water bottle will keep cold drinks cold for 24 hours, hot ones hot for 12. It claims to be non-toxic, non-leaching and BPA free. S’Well is ergonomically designed to fit in one's hand with the mouth large enough for an ice cube and small enough for drip-free sipping. The 17oz bottle retails for $35 and the 25oz size fits a 750ml bottle of wine and retails for $45. I was sent the Ocean Blue and Silver lining 25oz bottles. 10% of all sales go to build safe and hygienic water sources in Africa and India through a partnership with WaterAid.
My student’s report: “I had the opportunity to test the S’Well bottle with a freshly brewed latte. For the first 5 hours the latte stayed at the same temperature. When I retested the coffee 5 hours latter it was no longer hot. Therefore the S’Well bottle keeps drinks hot for approximately 7-8 hours, not the 12 hours claimed, but still a lot longer than other methods. I then tested it with a cold beverage and I must say it kept my beverage cold for about 16 hours. For the remaining hours the beverage went from cold to chilled to slightly above room temperature. Overall, compared to other insulated bottles I have used S’Well does work. I give it a thumbs up.”
At the opposite end of the scale is the Corkcicle, a plastic “icicle” filled with clear gel coolant that, when frozen solid, is supposed to be placed in a bottle of wine to keep the chilled wine at serving temperature. The first thing my students noticed was that we had to pour a couple of ounces of wine out to get the Corkcicle into the bottle. I suppose we could have consumed the extra wine. We had to remove the Corkcicle every time we poured the wine out to test the temperature. It is a foot long and wet so we made quite a mess. Imagine if it was on Moms favorite linen tablecloth. Wash it and use it again after 2 hours in the freezer. It retails for $20-$25.
At the bottom of my list of products sent to me to evaluate was Cookies & Corks. It sounded like a good idea. Sparkling wine & cookie pairings- 15 bite-sized cookies for $7.50. Parmesan Thyme, Zesty Lemon and Sea Salt Chocolate Oatmeal with brut, demi-sec and rose Champagne as well as Prosecco. The red wine and cookie pairings had white Cheedar Rosemary, Shortbread and Expresso Chocolate Peanut Butter with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah/Shiraz. The white wine and cookie pairings had Apricot Sage, Peanut Butter chocolate and Ginger Molasses with Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris. To be truthful none of them worked better than our old standout Club Crackers.
For those who ask me why I have my students test products I answer- they are the future wine drinkers and their opinions are important.