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Commentary | 1 Wine Dude - Page 13

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Stop Hating On Pinotage, Already

Vinted on January 19, 2012 under best of, commentary, overachiever wines, wine review

Seriously. Stop hating on Pinotage.

Why? Because there’s nothing “wrong” with it.

I am here today to tell you that Pinotage is not bad; it is simply different. And if you don’t like this oft-maligned but more-oft-misunderstood South African cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut, that’s your prerogative. Just stop drinking it and shut about it, already, then. I mean, Pinotage has some high-profile wine critics who are haters right now – for Pete’s sake, Lettie Teague expresses disdain for it on her friggin’ homepage.

Yes, the worst of them (Pinotages, I mean, not wine critics) smell too much like overly-aged smoked meat wrapped in bananas and dipped into a vat of acetone that’s being bioled over a tire fire. I fully acknowledge that, okay?

But riddle me this, Wine Man: what bargain-basement version of any variety doesn’t have its fair share of sh*tty-tasting bottlings? Ever had really bad Cab? Terrible Pinot? Of course you have. Pinotage is no different than any other fine wine grape (yes, I meant to put the “fine” part in there), in that bad fruit in incapable winemaking hands results in a terrible wine, overemphasizing the worst qualities of any grape. It just so happens that Pinotage has more ammunition with which to work than most in the off-odors department.

That doesn’t mean that Pinotage cannot be beguiling when the right fruit gets into the right winemaking hands. It just means that there’s a little more of a deft balancing act to be attained when dealing with Pinotage.

But I know it can be done, and done well, because I’ve tasted some first-hand…

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You Are The Wine Conversation (What’s A Wine Critic To Do When Everyone Is A Wine Critic?)

Vinted on January 18, 2012 under commentary, going pro, wine appreciation, wine blogging

IntoWine.com recently (at least I think it was recently, as their posts for reasons unknown to me aren’t dated) ran an interview with SF Chronicle wine editor Jon Bonné (long-time readers will recall that roughly a year ago I was on a panel about writing better opinion pieces with Jon and the Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague, both of whom probably still in therapy trying to get over my inclusion; I’m kidding… I think…).

I’m not here today to dissect Jon’s responses (many of which ring true for me, and are worth a read because he’s a very, very intelligent guy), but one answer he gave to the IntoWine folks struck me as a bit odd. To the tape (emphasis is mine):

The average consumer still feels intimidated by wine and wine-speak. Are publications like the Chronicle partly responsible for the prevalent feeling among consumers that wine is somehow beyond their comprehension?

If we’re going point fingers at the idea that wine is pretentious, let’s start with the spread of overpriced, mass-produced wine sold as an aspirational luxury. I’ll borrow a phrase from a conversation with a fellow writer a few days ago: You write up to your audience, not down. If sportswriters had to explain a two-point conversion every time they mentioned it, we’d all die of boredom. That’s not an excuse to fall into jargon. But there is no shortage of amateur wine criticism out there that doesn’t contribute to the conversation.”

The trouble for me is that I’ve got no idea what conversation Jon is talking about in that response.

It might be that there is a hidden wine conversation, one available only to a Romanée-Conti-sipping secret society of critics with wine review superpowers like UV vision that can detect the exact number of Brett, fruit, and mushroom particles floating around in a glass of Burgundy and determine at a glance if they are at an appropriate level. A secret society that meets in an underground lair at an undisclosed location (guarded by pools of sharks with lazer beams attached to their heads) and through joint nefarious consensus determines what wines will get the really high scores this year.

The bottom line is that this secret society might as well also be made up of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, because the real wine conversation is actually the one that the amateur critics are having. Or, I should say, it’s the thousands of real and virtual “water-cooler” conversations that the amateurs are having every day, all over the world…

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Going Pro: Wrapping Up 14+ Years

Vinted on December 28, 2011 under commentary, going pro

As of the end of this week, I’m unemployed!

Well, unemployed in the traditional sense, anyway.

Those of you who’ve been following along with my (now well-protracted) endeavor to Go Pro in the wine biz are probably (and not without good reason) rolling your eyes and muttering “finally… it’s about time…” It only took me a year longer than originally planned to cut the cord (hey, it was their idea to keep extending me).

Nearly 15 years (that’s 14++* years in Wine Advocate math, I think) behind me at the same company… holy crap, that was a long time of not really fitting in (the pay made up for it, as did the people and great opportunities).

It’s become a bit of a tradition at my soon-to-be-former day job to send farewell email messages, and so I decided (after consultation with a few people at the DJ that I trust deeply) to author one of my own. I’m sharing an excerpt of that letter with you below, with the only modification being removal of some contact details and the company name.

On the surface, this has nothing whatsoever to do with wine, of course. So why am I sharing it? I’m not sure, actually.

Probably because so many of you out there feel like friends and family to me, even though many of us have never met face-to-face; and so I don’t mind telling you that the note was cathartic and helped to slow down the near-constant swing of my current emotional pendulum (which happens to be oscillating with vomit-inducing speed between he extremes of pure elation at chasing my dream, and sheer terror at facing the road-much-less-traveled) – and that the lessons-learned I described in that DJ farewell note have everything to do with how I approach the wine world.

That, and it feels more original than giving you a list of sparkling wine recommendations for New Year’s Eve (here’s some quick advice – go with the real-deal and pop open some Champagne… you know, the stuff actually from Champagne… in France)…

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Worlds Collide In New Wine-Related Music Vid (And YOU Can Win Some Free Tunes!)

Vinted on December 26, 2011 under commentary, giveaways, wine tasting

The first thing most people over the age of twenty-five think of when you ask them to name a song about wine is probably UB40’s Red Red Wine, which is ironic because they’re all totally drinking beer in the vid for that tune.

In a similarly ironic case of music-meets-wine creative worlds colliding, the band I’ve been playing in for… well… for a long time (some of you will remember us as the dudes who recorded a rock version of the Snow Miser/Heat Miser song, and a reggae/dub take on the Oompa Loompa Theme – we’re kinda into the holidays), has just released a video (available for your viewing pleasure below, after the jump) for a tune titled Wine Kissing Days.

The ironic part: the song is about the social pleasures of sharing wine (a near-constant theme among these virtual pages), was filmed in part at local PA producer Chaddsford Winery (which has been profiled here) BUT… apart from playing bass on the tune I had nothing whatsoever to do with it. More on that in a minute or two. Also, since we know that the music played during wine tasting impacts the qualities that people recall about the wine, if I were a tasting room manager I’d buy a few copies (you know, like, 10,000 or so) of this song. Just sayin’.

Anyway, you can hit up iTunes to grab the tune (and the album from which it comes, “Tricky, Seabass & the Hun – and damn, it sure makes me feel old to even talk about the conceit of an album at this point), but I’m giving away a copy of the new Steve Liberace Band CD (another near-ancient conceit!) to three lucky randomly-selected commenters!

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