Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What is a "Claret"?

The following is adapted from "Jack's Manual On the Vintage and Production, Care, and Handling of Wines, Liquors, Etc.", by J. A. GROHUSKO; subtitled "A HANDBOOK OF INFORMATION FOR HOME, CLUB OR HOTEL"; Third Edition, 1910. It presents a straightforward definition of the term "claret" from the 19th century, and gives specific instructions for cellaring, decanting, and serving.

The word "claret" means a wine of clear, red color. It is the English name given to the red wines of France, and particularly those grown in the Bordeaux district.

Chateau wines are those made from grapes of a selected character and grown on vineyards of wealthy gentlemen, who devote much time and money in their careful cultivation, storing and aging. Chateau bottled wines rank very high in the estimation of the connoisseur.

Wines described as bearing the cachet "du Chateau" are simply those which have the crest or coat of arms bearing that name on the label. The caps and corks are likewise branded.

There are hundreds of districts where good wines are grown. To enumerate their varieties would fill volumes, and with a limited space at disposal it is impossible to give more than superficial indication of the best known brands. The wines of France have a recognized classification, according to value.

Clarets do not throw a deposit as quickly as Port wine, but the greatest care must be exercised in decanting them in order that they may be served in brilliant condition; the sediment being extremely fine, with a bitter flavor, it is not easily detected and will entirely spoil the delicacy of the wine if mixed with it.

Clarets moved from one cellar to another, are temporarily put out of condition; it is like transplanting a tree without giving it time to recover and develop in its new soil, therefore, wine always requires to settle down before being consumed.

Old wines particularly need a rest after a journey, and they should always be taken from the cellar direct to the Dining Room. This is important, but it is a very general omission in hotels and clubs.

To acquire the proper temperature, a Claret should be stood up in the Dining Room the morning it is to be consumed, and decanted at least half an hour before serving. A full wine may be kept a little longer, as it improves by contact with the air. Young or cheap Clarets should also be carefully decanted because any sediment coming into the glass destroys the character of the wine.

It is most inadvisable to serve Claret in a decanting basket, it should always be decanted, because the last one or two glasses invariably run muddy. Claret should, if possible, be put on the table at about the temperature of the room in which it will be consumed, to preserve the delicate freshness of the wine. The bouquet escapes when the wine is exposed to sudden heat or warmed to excess; this bouquet is mainly due to volatile vinous ethers which it is most desirable to retain. Clarets of medium quality improve with age, whereas the lightest table wines may be drunk fresh bottled, as is the custom in France; a fine, large, thin and white glass being used, and only two-thirds filled. Sherry and stronger wines are liable to throw a deposit in bottle if kept for any length of time; care should therefore be exercised in decanting them or in fact any wine in which a sediment may be formed.

The sound and natural wines of Bordeaux are refreshing and appetizing, and are the best type of a universal beverage for every day use; no other wines which the world produces are capable of yielding such lasting pleasures to the palate. They have also the additional advantage that when mixed with water do not spoil.

When taken with food they entice the languid palate and are admirably adapted for persons of all ages and conditions, whose occupations tax the brain more than the muscles, and as they contain only a comparatively small percentage of alcohol have but little tendency to inebriate.

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