Posts Filed Under commentary

How To Make Wine Evaluation Even Less Objective? Don’t Spit!

Vinted on August 3, 2010 binned in best of, commentary, wine appreciation

Lately I’ve found myself at (what I’d consider to be) a lot of (what I would call) professional (or, at least, semi-professional) environments in which I am expected (or at least it seems that way) to taste wine in the hopes that I might critically evaluate it (but with fewer parenthetical interruptions if I do).

I’m rarely alone at those moments – I’m usually part of a small group of bloggers, traditional press, or some mixture thereof. But I am usually alone in at least one respect at those tastings: I’m the one asking for a spit bucket.

Or the one looking around for an open outside door, empty unused glass, drainage grate, or random patch of grass so that I can spit. More often than not, I feel as though I’ve got to explain myself, and/or am left wondering why a winery or event coordinator hasn’t thought to at least provide a plastic cup for spitting purposes.

More concerning to me is that the majority of my peers at these tastings don’t seem to feel the slightest need to spit.

Now, I’m not about to tell someone how they should evaluate wine, and I’m certainly in the "wine tasting is more subjective than objective" camp – but I’m baffled as to how someone can taste several wines without spitting and think that they can remain cogent enough to provide an ounce of objective viewpoint about it all later…

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Losing It: El Camino del Vino (A Real Wine Movie, At Long Last?)

Vinted on July 19, 2010 binned in commentary

Sommelier and wine educator Charlie Arturaola and film directors Nicolás Carreras & Sebastián Carreras may just be putting together the most intimate wine movie yet made, and one that finally may have just the kind of reality-show crossover appeal to gain success among wine pros, wine geeks, and non wine-lovers alike.

At least, that’s the sense that I got from viewing the well-made trailer for El Camino del Vino (“The Ways of Wine” – with “Ways” taking on multiple nuances of meaning).

Like all promising films, El Camino del Vino starts with disaster and conflict, and promises to end with redemption. For wine pros and budding wine enthusiasts, the premise of the film is particularly terrifying (emphasis is mine):

“Charlie travels to Argentina invited to do tastings at the prestigious Masters of Food and Wine event at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Mendoza. Before the festivities begin at the Masters, Charlie is shooting a publicity spot for a wine and disaster strikes.  The combination of the pace of the shoot and a red dye used to enhance the photographic contrast and deepen the color of the wine, provoke the complete loss of his palate.”

I imagine that the loss of Charlie’s ability to taste wine critically echoes a deeper fear for many, many people in the modern industrial working world: What do you do when you lose the very thing upon which you rely to make your living?

I’ve met Charlie and he is warm, friendly, knowledgeable and approachable – exactly the kind of guy to whom you wouldn’t want this sort of thing to happen.  And it didn’t – not in real life, anyway.  But based on the trailer for El Camino del Vino, Charlie puts in a convincing performance, especially for someone who makes his living on wine and not via acting.  After seeing the trailers, I’m stoked to try to see this film when it gets released in August.

I caught up with Charlie last week (via e-mail and in-between trips for both of us) to briefly talk about the film and how he went about playing the part of himself.  Check out the trailer and the short interview below…

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Don’t Bogart That Sip: Should Sommeliers Taste Your Wine Purchase?

Vinted on July 12, 2010 binned in commentary

Last week, I was quoted in a very interesting article by Eric Asimov in the New York Times, based on a conversation that Eric and I had about restaurant sommeliers taking a small sip of their customers’ wines to ensure that they are sound prior to being served.

Many of you out there (at least, the ones who sent me all of the e-mail) were surprised that I hadn’t encountered the practice before.  Based on those e-mails (the ones in which I wasn’t called an idiot, anyway), the practice seems much more common for patrons in Europe than for those of us here Stateside.

Also, for those readers I should note that I’m a born-and-bred Mid-Atlantic U.S. boy, which means I’m naturally suspicious and pissed off until you do something nice for me, after which I’m convinced that it’s a ruse plotted to rip me off somehow and I’m really pissed-off at you.

Anyway, my quotes were (of course) part of a longer conversation that Eric understandably didn’t include in full in the article; so I thought the topic worth revisiting so I could expand a bit on the view I represented in that conversation…

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