This week, attacking vital concerns of wine drinkers—wax capsules and tannins.
• You likely have confronted a wax capsule “protecting” the wine cork. First, whether foil or wax, there is no real purpose for a capsule in today’s wine world. In the past, when wine was stored in dark cellars, the capsule protected the wine bottle from marauding vermin intent on gnawing corks. It is a rare place that faces that threat today.
The capsule today is largely an advertising gimmick/opportunity. Thus some wineries cover the top of the bottle with wax to add a pinch of panache. OK, fine, but what do you do when you want to pour wine out of the bottle?
The simplest and most common solution is to plunge the corkscrew directly into the top of the wax and pull. The cork will come out cleanly; you can remove wax shards easily before you fully pull out the cork. Shiny wax tends to be more crumbly than the duller shades and can pose problems. You also can remove the wax with very hot water or even a candle flame, but take care to heat only the very top of the bottle so you don’t also heat the wine.
• Wine tannins freak out some people. In plain terms, a tannin is a compound that will interface with proteins and precipitate them. It is what happens in the process of tanning animal hides. That process is where tannin got its name.
Most foods have tannins. Cherries, dried apricots, chocolate, beans, most berries, tea leaves, walnuts and almonds are a few. White wines do not have as much tannin as red wines. Wine tannins come primarily from skins, seeds, and stems. White wines don’t spend much time in contact with those grape elements. Red wines are red—and tannic—because of extended contact with skins, seeds, and stems. Oak barrels, especially new ones, also have tannins, and most reds and some whites get some tannins from barrels, although oak tannins are different than grape tannins.
There has been much research in the past 40 years into minimizing the bitter, astringent impression of wine tannins while enhancing tannin texture and aging properties. It remains a work in progress, but there clearly has been progress, which is why so many red wines today can be consumed and enjoyed young.
Last round: Everybody has to believe in something. I believe I will have another glass of wine.