Posts Filed Under wine appreciation
Well… does it?
I ask myself this question whenever I receive a review copy of a wine book, which has been… a lot lately, it seems.
So here comes four-time James Beard award-winner Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, and her new book Drink This: Wine Made Simple. Another entry in a (very) crowded field. It also happens to be excellent, so I suppose the world could use another wine intro book. Drink This is excellent primarily because Grumdahl’s prose is lucid and entertaining. Her writing is also down-to-earth.
But excellent writing chops wouldn’t matter a hill of pomace if Grumdahl didn’t know what she was talking about, or if her method for learning about wine proved too rudimentary, too complex, or hindered by some wine-related prejudice. Thankfully, none of that proves to be the case. In fact, Drink This is so good that its overall quality makes up for the fact that Grumdahl uses the word ‘varietal’ as a synonym for grape variety (which it’s not). In fact, she does this so often that I nearly threw the book across the room (I say ‘nearly’ because my sample copy is a hardcover book, and I didn’t want to damage my living room drywall).
The thing that makes Drink This so compelling is that Grumdahl knew writing long before she knew wine. As a result, her method for learning wine (more on that in moment) is likely to work, because it’s the method that she used herself.
The method? Well, it’s a variation on simplification…
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As much as social media wine wizards and millennials rail against established wine media, most of them (myself included) share with those ‘old media’ types a similar and mistake-prone approach to wine evaluation and appreciation.
And that is, the rapid-fire assessment, review, and perfunctory judgment of any given wine. We are judge, jury and executioner of the glass’ contents, often within the span of two minutes.
We see this happen all the time – in fact in some cases (like certain Twitter Taste Live events, or the “speed dating” wine blogging at the Wine Bloggers Conference), it’s encouraged and necessary. I often participate in and have grown to love those events, provided that we don’t take them too seriously.
And we shouldn’t take them seriously, at least as far as true wine appreciation is concerned. Why? Because every glass of wine, from the pedestrian to the sublime, is speaking to you, trying to tell you something about itself – you need only take the actual time to listen to it.
In the case of many wines made in the ‘Old World’ style (what my compadre Randall Grahm calls Modernist), where typicity of place and nuanced complexity are the goals, that message may be “Come back later.” New World (Postmodernist) wines usually (and probably unfairly) fare better in rapid-fire evaluation scenarios, precisely because they more often offer their treasures quickly and liberally – “Hey! Over here! I’m talkin’ to YOU!”
In a globally-connected, information-based economy like ours, we are progressively programmed with positive reinforcement to spend as little time as possible on something – in fact, we’re rewarded for doing many things at once, and the more quickly we can shove them into the same time slot, the better.
The trouble is, if you want to appreciate wine fully, you need to dump the Speed Racer + Multitasking Pro persona. Pronto…
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It’s often said that imitation is flattery in its most sincere form.
Imitation is also a way of making a quick buck, and in the case of wine has sometimes been used to dupe even the world’s most influential palates and wine writers.
Counterfeiting, in the U.S. alone, is about a $200 billion a year business, and it’s been estimated by Wine Spectator (yeah, yeah, I know…) that 5% of old/rare wine sold on the “secondary market” is fake. Faking a wine isn’t necessarily easy, but somewhat ironically the job gets a bit easier for those trying to fake rare, older wines – simply because most people haven’t had them, so there are few barometers to judge how they should or shouldn’t taste. In some cases, as detailed in Benjamin Wallace’s The Billionaire’s Vinegar, the rock stars of the wine tasting world may in fact have based their tasting notes of older, rarer wines on fakes. Examining a bottle to determine if it’s a fake can be a time-consuming and difficult process.
The reason I’m telling you all of this?
I think I recently just may have had my first faked wine…
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Back in March, I pondered if wine appreciation was becoming cool, drawing a parallel between wine’s place in the cultural lexicon of recreation beverages and the newfound popularity of the long-running Canadian power rock trio Rush – or as I like to refer to them, The Greatest Band in the History of All Mankind. The comparison seemed apt to me, as Rush’s front man Geddy Lee is a huge wine geek (and I’m a big Rush geek).
Word on the street (well, maybe on the street named “RUSH NERD BLVD”) is that Geddy’s favorite wines come from Burgundy, specifically the region’s ultra-premium Pinot Noir.
Lucky for him that he was invited to Barberian’s Steakhouse for a lavish shin-dig that was hosted there three weeks ago to celebrate the 150th birthday of Burgundy producer Maison Louis Jadot (apparently it was also the steakhouse’s 50th birthday). I use the term lavish loosely, as some of you might not consider a four-course dinner that includes “vintages easily costing hundreds, if not thousands, per bottle,” “wild asparagus Fed-Exed from France,” bottles of ’78 Gevrey-Chambertin and ’69 Clos Vougeot, and a parting gift of “a magnum of 2007 burgundy packed in its own wooden box” to be “lavish.”
By some strange oversight, I don’t seem to have been invited.
Anyway, sounds like it was quite a night. Though I’ve heard no reports if the ultra-premium Burgs being poured caused anyone in attendance beak into a spontaneous acapella rendition of Red Barchetta…