NASA made it official earlier this week – Opportunity is dead. After nearly fifteen years spent wandering the surface of Mars, the sprightly rover was caught in a massive dust storm last June. Opportunity’s batteries were unable to recharge during the storm and attempts to reconnect once the dust had settled went unanswered. It’s unknown at this point whether the solar panels were damaged or if some other critical piece of equipment failed. What we do know is that the little rover that could managed to cover roughly twenty-six miles, and while it would probably get blown off the road by a Yugo, it proved to be a gutsy little traveler, sending back amazing images of Mars and reams of data that the Opportunity team is still poring over.
Since we’re always looking for a reason to toast someone (or something), this seemed to be a good Opportunity to do so. The real question was what would be the wine of choice? We felt that something equally sprightly would be perfect, which suggested something white in our minds. But then, given how unexpectedly long Opportunity’s journey turned out to be, we felt that something older would be appropriate.
Ah, it’s that old conundrum. We’ve been told that we shouldn’t keep white wine that long. White wine is meant to be drunk right away. Reds are the only ones that you can safely store for years. But if there’s one thing wine and English have in common, it’s that there’s an exception for every rule.
We’ll start by mentioning a couple of the more obscure wines. Assyrtiko is a high acidity wine from Greece. Young versions of this wine have a very sharp tang on the tongue and an almost champagne-like sensation in the nose and mouth. After several years of cellaring, these lovely wines will reveal more delicate flavors of honeysuckle and fig, and a complexity to rival any red.
Another lesser known white is Hermitage, a French blend of Marsanne and Roussane grapes from the Rhone valley. As a young wine, the citrus tends to dominate, creating a sharp, vibrant wine. After a few years of cellaring, it develops a deeper layer of more exotic fruits, like mango and anise, without losing that lemony tang. It’s the perfect wine for grilled fish or any seafood that’s heavy on flavor.
Austrian Grüner Veltliner can be cellared for as long as twenty years. Grüner is a chameleon grape. Depending on the vintner, it can be bright and grassy, or white fruit and flowery, or peppery, or any combination of these and a hundred other possible tastes. A Grüner that starts as a young, sweet, fruit-packed wine will often become a smoother, denser wine with hints of opposing yet carefully balanced flavors. The real trick is finding an older bottle of Grüner.
Australian Riesling is another white that can be safely tucked away for up to twenty years. Of particular note are the Rieslings from the Clare Valley. These wines usually have a vibrant blend of lemon and orange with a crisp, dry body. After a few years on the rack, the mineral bite becomes softer and the fruit mellows, so that more delicate flavors can be really appreciated.
If you’re looking for something closer to home, consider the Sauvignon Blanc from Napa. Most wine drinkers think Sauvignon Blanc is all about the green grass brightness but given a little time to mellow, a good S.B. will develop a second level that’s more delicate in flavor and aroma without losing that distinctive S.B. taste. That extra bit of exotic complexity can take your Sauvignon Blanc to a level you never knew it could achieve.
So here’s to Good Opportunities and a delicious white wine in the cellar.