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Earlier this month, I was a guest lecturer at a wine class for undergrads at Drexel University in downtown Philly. The class is taught by Jason Wilson (author of the very entertaining spirits book Boozehound and who somehow Id never met in Philly; it took a chance encounter at one of the Professional Wine Writers Symposium events in Napa for us to become friends)
Talk about flashbacks (but not those kinds of flashback!) – the impressive great court of Drexel’s Main Building and its serpentine staircases leading to the back classrooms reminded me in no small way of trying to find the Philosophy classroom at my alma matter’s (SJU) Barbelin Hall. I got the sense that a lot of 21-year-old students would’ve been very late trying to get to that Drexel class for the first time (and if you can make it back out after tasting ten-or-so wines without spitting… more power to you).
I was there to talk about the wine regions of Australia (which I’d recently visited), and taste the class through a sampling of wines from those locales, the theme of which, as I tried to summarize early in the likely eventuality that I’d completely lose control of the class later, was “in America we tend to treat French wine regions as if they’re continents apart when in reality you can drive between several of them in a couple of hours; but Australia we treat as one big dessert, when in reality their wine regions really are continents apart!”
Jason has published a fun and insightful take on the class – and on wine talk in general – over at Table Matters (a story in which I play the part of a Brett Nazi, though my reaction to the Bretty wine might have been a bit over-emphasized in that tale… or not, I was onto beer by then, so who knows…).
Scanning the faces of those kids (I can call them “kids” now that I’m 40, right?), sitting in two rows against the long side of the cramped rectangular classroom, I got a microcosm of the East Coast wine drinking future. Some stared pretty intently, offering quiet comments when a topic or wine really struck them. Others were yawning (hey, Wine Appreciation is a better elective than “Math Models In Chemistry,” right?). And others were clearly having revelations about their own tastes and the at lovable madness that is the diversity of wine just within Australia itself.
None of them had any fear whatsoever of trying a new region, grape, or blend. None of them had any concern more pressing than the price point of each bottle ($12 and under seemed to be the realistic cut off for future purchases).
And none of them – not a single one – has ever followed the advice of a wine critic…
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[ Editor’s note: following is a guest post from the 1WD intern: the young, unpaid Shelby Vittek. While Shelby may be young, she’s got better creds than a lot of would-be wine media folks out there: she’s been writing about wine for the millennial set for the better part of a year, is already working on her first book (a guide to wine for college students), and has been published in the Washington Post’s travel section. Her current writing gig is for the newly re-launched TableMatters.com. To give Shelby a break from having to catalog the small ocean of samples in my basement, we’re going to let her flex her writing muscles with guest posts centering on how young wine buyers view the wine world. We often talk about the Millennial wine buying generation here on 1WD, but this is a chance for you to get the scoop on Millennial wine habits directly from the source. You can follow Shelby on twitter at @BigBoldReds. Let us know what you think (but keep things civil, you opinionated b*stards!). Enjoy! ]
My usual cutoff price for a bottle of wine is ten dollars.
Yes, you read that correctly: $10 or less.
My problem isn’t that I don’t enjoy drinking higher-end wines, ones that are older or more intriguing – it’s just that frankly, I can’t afford them.
I’m part of the younger generation of wine-curious Millennials – the ones who have entered into the world of legal wine-buying and consumption age in the past few years. We are supposedly the generation of wine drinkers believed to be the almighty saviors of the wine industry. But finding an interesting, relatively delicious bottle of wine that doesn’t give me anxiety when I think about making rent at the end of the month is a never-ending challenge.
While I don’t anticipate these wines will blow me away the same way an older Barolo or an aged Riesling does, I want to be able to take pleasure in a glass alone after work (or rather, hours of organizing the mass amounts of wine samples in Joe’s basement). I want to share a bottle with friends without being embarrassed or horrified by the quality of my selection. (I have been deemed the know-it-all-wine-friend, after all.) And when I go home to visit my mother, I want to bring a bottle with me that impresses both her and her more sophisticated palate, without my budget-savvy ways being given away.
You may be shaking your head, or rolling your eyes at how frugal I am with my wine purchases. Maybe you think I’m crazy for expecting a ten-dollar bill to be traded for a beautifully perfumed wine that also delivers rich flavors. But I assure you, I am not insane, and I am definitely not alone. Many other younger Millennials are in the same boat as I am…
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I do not own a tablet computer.
I also do not own a smartphone (many of you who have seen me at events in 2012 can attest to teasing me about the miserable state of affairs of my “dumb” phone, which now goes by the nickname “Jurassic Cell” and employs technology so ancient that it was, I think, left by the Apostles and rediscovered before being sold to me by Verizon several years ago). The closest I’ve gotten to the tablet craze is lugging around what I refer to as my iPod, which is an Apple iPhone 3GS I received from a 1WD reader for free, the phone portion having been disabled. An avid reader, I still “process” e-books on my first-generation Nook (and, even more tellingly, still love it; e-ink FTW!).
By my rough calculations, this all puts me squarely into “old fart” tech territory, a status a share with about 0.0023% of the First World’s population. It might actually make me retro-cool, but probably makes me more anti-cool than anything else. Whatever – invested the several hundred bucks I haven’t spent on that tech, you beeaaatches!
Anyway, the entire world continues to go tablet crazy, to the point where there are now people who are looking to sell the iPad they bought just six months ago in order to purchase the slightly more upgraded same generation iPad announced by Apple last week. And now that Apple has joined Google, Nook, and Amazon and has entered the 7-whatever-inch tablet market (news you will already have heard, unless for some reason you’re dead), it’s been nearly universally agreed that the small tablet format (bridging the “gap” between phones and larger tablets and/or laptops) has officially arrived in terms of price/quality ratio.
What the hell does any of this have to do with wine?
A small bit, actually, but an important one for any people out there wanting to seriously up their personal Wine IQ…
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A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from the folks who create content for Publix Grape Magazine, a free newsletter with wine tips and recommendations from the grocery chain’s extensive list of available wines.
For those who don’t know Publix, they kind of rule the roost in terms of the grocer action in the Southeastern U.S., employing over 150,000 people across more than 1,000 stores, and registering sales in excess of $25 billion (yes, with a B) annually.
The creative side of Publix Grape wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing an overview of oak aging for the Spring edition of the magazine, including its pluses, minuses and the science behind it.
“Absolutely,” I told them, and not just because I thought it would be entertainingly ironic for me to be published in both Playboy.com and Publix grape, two outlets that have got to serve almost opposite ends of the Liberal/Conservative constituency. “In fact, this is spookily serendipitous because I’d just sat down at my computer to draft up a blog article I wanted to call ‘In Defense Of Oak’!”
Combine that eerie coincidence with the fact that I hadn’t contributed to Publix Grape in what seemed like forever, and I couldn’t pass it up. And as I penned that Publix piece, I had a particularly personal realization reinforced (and no, it’s not that I love consonance). Namely, despite the fact that my subjectively favorite wines in all of the world (Mosel Rieslings) are un-oaked, I rather enjoy oak in a lot wines.
Okay, maybe that was more of a confession than a realization, given the gestalt of the modern wine media and geekier wine circles.
But it doesn’t change the fact that the oak-perception pendulum when it comes to wine might have swung just a bit too far lately…
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