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Earth, Wine And Fire… and Wine Lists

Vinted on January 16, 2009 binned in learning wine, wine appreciation

Shall we explore the world of restaurant wine lists, while interpolating the badassness of Earth Wind & Fire in the process?

What the hell, why not?

First, we can establish the baddassness of EWF right away - that’s easy: They funked, singing harmonies in octaves that would require most people to otherwise suck helium to achieve, all the while dancing in reflective costumes with capes. If that’s not badass, then I don’t kow what badass is.

What brings EWF to mind (in other words, what the f–k does this have to do with wine)?

I recently did a restuarant wine pairing review of a new wine list concept at nearby Teikoku for West Chester PA foodie website WC Dish. According to the Teikoku website (bolded items highlighted by me):

For millennia, many eastern cultures have embraced the notion that five fundamental elements govern all aspects of life and environment. Though these elements appear in many forms, the most common are Earth, Water, Fire, Wind & Sky. At Teikoku we believe that wine can be represented by these elements as well. Keep in mind that our wines are not arranged according to conventional methods. We have selected a more transcendent form of organization. Perhaps our philosophy will offer you a unique perspective on your dining experience.

I found the wine choices to be quite well done, and in some cases even inspired, with very good by-the-glass selections reflecting quite a bit of the diversity in today’s wine market (Spanish Rose, Torrontes, Carmenere, etc.).

But it’s the Elemental wine concept that obviously stands out as unique. I’ve seen many, many styles of restaurant wine lists, from the stuffy and mundane “By Region” to wine flights inspired by a wine’s palate weight, proces or even just fun, semi-random themes. But this is a different take entirely.

Teikoku’s list certainly brings the Earth Wind & Fire funkiness. The trouble is, I’m not sure it actually helps anyone navigate the wine list any better than a more traditional method.

Some of us might feel a need to be more “grounded” on a particular day and gravitate towards the Earth (get it?) theme wines… but I can imagine many others looking at the Earth heading and wondering if the wine is going to taste like a mouthful of dirt.

But… you’ve got to give props to Teikoku for what they’re trying to do. Unless you think they’re trending towards the gimmicky side.
What do you think? Are they bringing the funk with this kind of wine list? Or are they just wearing the silver jumpsuits and capes?

Which got me thinking, Are other restaurants doing this? Will we see a more progressive trend towards different wine list presentations? And if we do, will these help the consumer? Or just confuse them even more?
Let me know YOUR thoughts!
Let’s Groove, baby!
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Cheers!
(images: 1WineDude.com, associatedentertainment.com)

The Summer of Wine’s Discontent (or "What Wine Can Learn From Beer")

Vinted on September 22, 2008 binned in best of, commentary, learning wine

The wine world probably won’t miss the Summer of `08.

That’s because the Summer of `08 seems like wine’s Season of Discontent.

Personally, I’ve never been so happy to see the Autumn (even taking into account that the Fall is my favorite time of year… colorful leaves… dark beers… heavier wines… and football… sweet, sweet football…).

Anyway, it was last week, with Autumn and football in full swing, when I realized that the wine biz has a lot to learn from its “little” cousin, beer. You know, the one that wine likes to look down on and winsomely tolerate from time to time at family reunions, all the while not seeming to realize that its cousin lives in a bigger house, makes more money, and has more friends. Yes, that cousin. Wine – I’m talking to YOU.

Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting fellow blogger The Beer Wench, touring nearby beer stalwart Victory Brewing Company with her. Dude loves beer (in fact, I used to brew it), and he is tight with Victory: it’s my favorite beer location, Mrs. Dudette and I are friends with Victory’s events coordinator, and Dude’s band is playing Victory’s outdoor Fall Fest celebration this year. So we were able to score a private tour of the beer-making magic for The Beer Wench.

About halfway through said tour (when I was rolling hops in my fingers, forever imprinting it’s aromatic fingerprint into my brain), I realized something very important (to me, anyway): I’ve yet to meet anyone involved in beer – whether it be media, distribution, crafting, or enjoying – who was snobbish to the point of being exclusionary. Nobody. Zippo. Nada. It just doesn’t happen. All seem to be welcome in the land of beer. Sure, they have their favorites, and the occasional “low on taste high on commercial budget” examples that they love to hate (Bud Light, anyone?). But you’re never, ever turned away at the door of fine beer. Never.

The mantra of the beer lovers?

Everyone else is also a potential beer lover – they just don’t know it yet!

I wish that I could say the same held true for the world of fine wine…


The sad truth is that there is snobbery in the wine world, and some parts of the industry might actually bank on that snobbery to make their take-home pay.

Too many budding wine aficionados are scared off by “experts” or turned away by the snobbish who view fine wine as some sort of elitist entitlement, to whom holding wine at arm’s length from newbies is some sort of perverse badge of wine honor. By actively deterring new potential wine lovers, the only thing that the ‘elite’ are doing for fine wine is driving its future of appreciation into the dirt. I’m NOT talking about the Robert Parkers of the world. I’m talking about those who think they’re Robert Parkers, but lack the experience, renown, know-how, clout, and funding, yet somehow feel as though wine ‘belongs’ to them.

This has nothing to do with print wine media. It has to do with individuals (no matter if they’re in the wine industry or not) who are perpetuating a myth that you need to earn your place to love wine. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Wine loves you already. it wants you to be its friend. Wine doesn’t like the snobs, either!

In my view, it would help the wine world if most of those in it took a long, hard look at the world of beer and instead of turning their noses at it, embrace its sense of helpfulness and down to earth charm.

Hey! Wine world! You need to help yourself to a glass of “Get Over Yourself” Ale. Vintage: Now. Region: You.

In general (not just for wine), people are looking more and more to social networking and customized recommendations. Some wine distributors, wine mags, wineries, and a whole lotta bloggers “get” this, and are doing their best to help those consumers, newbies, and enthusiastic learners. And they’re probably enjoying a cold brewski while they’re doing it (and if not, they should, because whether hey realize it or not, they’re taking a cue from the beer industry).

Arguably, there are now more helpful resources to help the wine neophyte than there have at any other time in history. The tide is changing. And it’s coming for the wine world, whether it’s ready or not.

Cheers!
(images: old-photos.blogspot.com, 1WineDude.com)

Wine Mags that are Worth Reading

Vinted on August 20, 2008 binned in commentary, learning wine

Asking me what wine mags to read is sort of like asking me what television shows are worth watching. I access them so infrequently, that I’m in danger of being totally irrelevant in my commentary.

But what the hell, it’s never stopped me before!

I also get bored easily, so committing to reading an entire magazine or watching an entire TV show in one sitting doesn’t always appeal to me (though longer formats, like books and movies, are no problem; oh, the irony…). Plus, I can’t stand obnoxious advertisements, and I swear I can actually feel my brain cells dying just watching a few seconds of most TV commercials.

And if there are brain cells that need a-killin’, I prefer to do that via the consumption of tasty vino!

Anyway, here are two of my quick picks in the Wine Mag. department…:


Best Traditional Mag: Wine & Spirits Magazine
Is it snooty? Sure, it’s snooty – but it’s well-written, award-winning snooty. Despite it’s title being a bit of a misnomer (Spirits are often relegated to just one page), it’s a useful mag. in that it offers good, terse commentary on the wines that it reviews.

The often highlight good wine dining picks as well, along with features on up & coming wine directors / sommeliers – which can be handy when you’re traveling and looking for some excellent wine-related eats.

Most importantly, they also devotes special focus to value picks, which is the category where the vast majority of wine lovers are looking for help and recommendations.

Most Promising Up-&-Comer: Mutineer Magazine
Is it smarmy? Sure, it’s smarmy, in the same way that MAXIM is a bit too pleased with itself – a style appreciated most by 20-somethings who don’t know any better, but also appealing to 30-somethings who do know better, but don’t care anyway and can therefore appreciate the small touches of irony sprinkled throughout the articles.

I asked Alan Kropf, Mutineer’s Editor, about their mission: “I started the Mutineer to try and create a way for unexperienced drinkers to experience the world of fine beverage. A lot of people get frustrated with wine being so stuffy, so we saw an opportunity for a magazine like Mutineer Magazine to come about.

Lots of wine bloggers will find solidarity in that, since it’s the reason many of us decided to start blogging in the first place.

And I can seriously dig that.

Cheers!


A Wine Introduction (and Some 1WineDude.com Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes)

Vinted on June 27, 2008 binned in about 1winedude blog, learning wine, wine tips


Changes are afoot here at 1WineDude.com.

By the way, I recently learned that the first recorded use of “afoot” was in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” – which is way cool. I’m a nerd, I know.

Anyway, I’m making some slight changes in the footprint (ha-ha) of the blog posts. Basically, they will start to get shorter – easier for you to read, harder for me to write. And, I’m hoping that they will also start to become more frequent. I’ve got a newborn in the house, bear with me…

Today, I thought I’d offer you a small contribution I made a few years back to the world of wine knowledge. When I started this whole wine consulting thing, I was frequently asked to provide wine overviews – so I put together a handy presentation that gives an overview of what wine is all about – from the dawn of wine in history, all the way to why you taste those fruits in your glass:

You should be able to view the original presentation file in most versions of PowerPoint, or with the (free!) Impress tool from OpenOffice.org. Handiest of all, you can access it online in Flash (Ahhhh-ahhhh!) format here.

I think some of you fine folks out there may find it useful. Enjoy!

Cheers!

(images: handpicked.co.uk)

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