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This is a guest post from frequent 1WineDude.com contributor Jason Whiteside, who recently attained his WSET Diploma in Wines & Spirits (with Merit). Jason recently returned from a trip to Argentina, cataloged below, in which he went inside Bodega Catena Zapata to answer the question “How Well Does New World Malbec Age?” His trip recap. coinincides nicely with an interview I recently gave for WineSur.com, in which they asked me about the state of Argentinian wine in the U.S. (for some reason, they left out my comment that Argentinian Malbec needs to prove its high-end age-worthiness… oh, well…). As an added bonus, Jason also gives us a peek inside the mind of your physician in the era of health care debate. Enjoy!
I recently spent a week in Mendoza, Argentina on a singular, secret mission assigned to me by The Dude: find out how well Argentine Malbec will age. The assignment seemed simple enough; I was headed to Mendoza anyhow as guests of Winebow and the Catena family. If anyone knew about the age-worthy qualities of high-end Malbec, it was the folks at Catena. What I didn’t know is how hard I would work to find the answer, and that I would have to rely on years of elite training in a secret language to get the answer.
Laura Catena isn’t just the President of Bodega Catena Zapata. Even with all of the responsibility that alone entails, she has a life outside of wine. She is also Laura Catena, MD, and an Emergency Room Physician at UCSF. When I uncovered this little fact about her, I knew I’d leave Mendoza with an answer to our collective Malbec question. You might not know this about me, but I was trained to speak DOCTOR.
It has been many years since I was a professional doctor-botherer. I don’t speak about it much, but it is indeed a part of my pre-wine life. Before my career in wine sales and education, I was a Pharmaceutical Salesman. Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca; I was trained by the best. Almost nine years of my life were spent charming receptionists, nurses, and anybody else in the way, just so I could get 45 seconds of a doctor’s time, in order to tell him/her some science stuff he/she already knew. The job was a big waste of time, but the sales training was priceless. And learning how to speak DOCTOR sometimes really pays off…
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Master of Wine and scientist Benjamin Lewin’s non-fiction book What Price Bordeaux has a title that, unlike many non-fictional works, is meant to convey a series of meanings or themes that are touched on at some point in the body of the work itself.
In this case, What Price Bordeaux refers, at turns, to
- The skyrocketing prices of wines from Bordeaux’s top chateau, while its minor AOCs are in such crisis that they are forced to sell their wines for distillation in order to avoid bankruptcy.
- The maddening opacity of Bordeaux’s wine business, which Lewin investigated intensely in the writing of his book, and where simple data points, such as the average price of a bottle of red Bordeaux in 2007, were hidden from him by the area’s professional organizations.
- The 1855 Classification of Bordeaux’s top producers, which organized the “best” wines by price in the Medoc (Lewin boldly offers an updated, new classification in What Price Bordeaux, which contains some shockers in terms of who now ranks above whom in current Bordeaux market prices).
- The loss of Bordeaux wines’ identities in favor of an “International” red wine style currently more popular with consumers and influential wine critics – resulting in skyrocketing price increases and occasional price crashes for high-end Bordeaux wines.
What Price Bordeaux contains enough fodder for a month’s worth of wine blog posts, but that would deny you the pleasures (and shock) of reading it (which I recommend that you do). Instead, it’s the last point above that I want to talk about, concentrating on Chapter 10 (“The New Bordeaux”), which alone is worth the price of the book.
After reading Chapter 10 in Lewin’s book, I’ve grown increasingly convinced that Bordeaux wines are becoming more and more like those of the Napa Valley not just because they are chasing the elevated scores that wine critics give to that style of red wine, but also because they may have no other choice…
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A few tidbits to end the week on some hopeful notes:
Palate Press Kicks Ass for Haiti Relief
Mad props are due to on-line wine e-zine Palate Press for their efforts (mostly spearheaded by yeoman David Honig, its Publisher) to raise money for the Red Cross’ Haiti Relief & Development activities.
David organized a stellar wine auction catalog that leveraged the generosity of dozens of wine producers and wine industry stalwarts. The result was well over $10,000 raised in donations to the Red Cross for the people of Haiti. David’s work was nothing short of amazing and he’s really shown what the wine blogging world is capable of when it’s determined and focused.
THANK YOU DAVID!
In a similar vein, the wine world is also reaching out to help Chile take care of its own after the recent earthquake there impacted not just wine production, but also affected the lives of many of Chile’s winery workers and their families…
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Here’s one for the “it’s NOT just me” department:
Remember last week, when I jokingly poked fun (or, as my friends in the U.K. would say, “took the piss out of”) the current state of California vintage reports?
Well, most of the people who left comments and contacted me via twitter, facebook, and e-mail took the piece light-heartedly (thankfully!), and one of those cool people – who happens to work in the PR side of the wine biz – sent me a tool used in wine marketing meetings that proves that I am not the only one who finds humor in the situation of writing vintage reports with serious spin on them.
I give you Wine Bulsh*t Bingo. Just don’t read it while drinking coffee or sipping wine, because you’ll end up either doing a keyboard-destroying spit-take, or unintentionally snorting wine up your nose – because this stuff is scathingly, laugh-out-loud funny. Many thanks to the wonderful person (name withheld for obvious reasons) who passed this one along to me!
In other news, Dale Cruse over at the very cool DrinksAreOnMe.net blog has been running a series in which he asks wine bloggers to contribute short pieces of fiction, in which Dale provides the writer with a (usually racy) picture involving wine to act as the starting point and general muse of the submitted work. Dale waited, and waited, and waited, and waited very patiently for my submission, which is months overdue but was finally completed last week (sorry, buddy!). The piece (which Dale titled “The Innocence Slips Away”) is (unsurprisingly) odd and quirky, and involves a corkscrew, a bottle of Barolo, half-naked Southerners, a Godzilla movie, and the liquor control board. Enjoy!