Posts Filed Under wine appreciation
“A bottle of good wine, like a good act, shines ever in the retrospect.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Stevenson had it right about special wines being eminently memorable, though he forgot to add the part about how wine tasting, like a hot date, owes so much to anticipation.
And as much as I like to think that I am inching ever closer to the Zen mystery, it’s really difficult not to put expectations on a tasting in which magnums of 1995 Champagne and Graham’s Vintage Port (1977), as well as bottles of 1981 Vieux Chateau Certan, take second billing.
Which is exactly what happens when you have a bottle of (genuine) 1929 Haut-Brion in the lineup.
That’s because the 1929 Haut-Brion is one of those extremely rare triple threats: world-class producer, renowned vintage (before every other release was deemed “vintages of the century” in Bordeaux) and rare old wine (in decent condition).
Or so we had hoped, anyway.
As it turns out, that fabled bottle that had me (and several other guests at the Columbia Firehouse restaurant in old town Alexandria, VA) buzzing with anticipation last week had apparently leaked at some point in it’s 81-year history.
We (a group of about 15 people) were assembled as the hand-picked guests of my buddy Jason Whiteside, DWS (Washington Wine Academy instructor, friend of the Dude and frequent guest poster here) to celebrate the achievement of his WSET Diploma in Wine & Spirits (a pre-req for entrance into the Masters of Wine program). It’s a difficult and hard-earned achievement, well-worthy of opening some special bottles. As our generous host put it after inspecting the most special of that night’s bottles, “this wine could be deader than Lincoln”…
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Put your high-school chemistry goggles on (you know, safety is paramount, right?) and join me today on Corkd.com for a look at the wine flaws.
I’ve been asked by Cork’d to contribute to their Cork’d Content feature, which showcases original content from different wine bloggers each day on a variety of wine topics, with the goal of adding fun, informational / educational wine content for Corkd.com users.
I’m excited to be contributing to Cork’d and to be apart of the vibrant wine-reviewing community over there. I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying the articles already posted at Cork’d that were written by friends of mine, like Robert Dwyer and Hardy Wallace.
My article focuses on the particularly egregious wine flaws that, while not common, nonetheless create unforgettable moments of awful stinkiness that can abruptly and totally destroy your wine-drinking experience if and when you do encounter them.
Should be fun!
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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