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1WineDude | A Serious Wine Blog for the Not-So-Serious Drinker - Page 307

The State of Wine in America (or "A terrible amount of luxury and unease")

Vinted on January 21, 2009 binned in commentary
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HiYa! If you're new here, you may want to Sign Up to get all the latest wine coolness delivered to your virtual doorstep. I've also got short, easily-digestible mini wine reviews and some educational, entertaining wine vids. If you're looking to up your wine tasting IQ, check out my book How to Taste Like a Wine Geek: A practical guide to tasting, enjoying, and learning about the world's greatest beverage. Cheers!

Frequent 1WineDude.com readers, as well as anyone who has conversed even momentarily with me on twitter, will know that I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

Fans of the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and Baltimore Ravens may want to skip this post entirely, with all speed and probably extreme prejudice.

Are they gone? Good, let’s get started!

Okay, I want to talk to you about the current state of wine in the modern world. I figured that I could work the U.S. presidential inauguration of our 44th President, the Steelers entrance into Super Bowl XLIII, and, of course, Wine. And tie it all together.

C’mon, it’ll be fun. I hope…

Anyway, it’s natural that, as we in the good ol’ U.S. of A. celebrate the (long overdue) 44th consecutive peaceful transition of executive power from one affluent male to another affluent male, that we consider the ‘state of things’ – not just of the country, but for anything that we hold dear.

Like wine, for example!

Ok, so that transition was a little abrupt…

…and speaking of abrupt transitions and startling segues…

Being a Steelers fan, I’m finding the state of American Football particularly rewarding at the moment. So it’s surprising (to me, at least) that I was able to control my blinding exuberance to notice a reference to Alice Munro in a recent, eloquently written Post-Gazette article by Gene Collier. Collier’s article describes the unique and conflicting emotions that engulf the Steelers faithful when they host the AFC Championship game at home – a game that, until this past Sunday, they showed an ability to lose like no other team (emphasis added by me):

…modern Championship Sundays in Pittsburgh deliver a seismic coupling of pride and wariness, something realist short story master Alice Munro might call “a terrible amount of luxury and unease.”

So, to recap.: that’s 44th Presidential innaguration to The Steelers to The AFC Championship to the Post-Gazette to Alice Munro. All caught up? Good. “A terrible amount of luxury and unease” – a beautiful phrase, and one that uniquely captures my feelings about the current state of wine, at least in America.

To be a wine enthusiast in the U.S. is to be someone that lives with the joy of having thousands of wine brands sold in a market that continually drives up quality at all levels, while simultaneously not being able to enjoy those wines depending on what state you live in.

It makes me so terribly uneasy that I’m ending sentences with prepositions!

On one hand, the quality and selection of American wine has never been better. There has never been a time quite like this in the history of America, when it comes to Presidents, and when it comes to wine. In terms of quality and selection, this stage of American wine development trumps all others in history.

On the other hand, the unfairness, dishonesty, and bile of the state wine distribution monopolies has never been greater. To protect the revenue streams afforded to them via their monopoly position on the distribution of alcohol, many states are screwing the wine consumer – high prices, limited selection, curtailing your rights, and handicapping the free market (which screws other distributors, wineries, and you).


So, to bring us all up to speed here: that’s 44th Presidential inauguration to The Steelers to The AFC Championship to the Post-Gazette to Alice Munro to the State of the American wine market to unconstitutional wine shipping laws.

Anyway…

How does the future look to me?

If you’re talking U.S. executive world relations, or American Football, the future looks pretty damn good. In the words of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin: “Barack is selling hope. And I’m buying.

If you’re talking the future for the American wine consumer, the jury is still out.

Cheers!
(images: amazon.com)

Wine and Health (or "Here We Go Again")

Vinted on January 19, 2009 binned in commentary, wine health, wine news

Here we go again.

The topic of wine & health is no stranger to the (virtual) pages of 1WineDude.com. Basically, I like to keep on the topic, mostly because it provides such great fodder for ridicule.

Ok, that’s harsh. Let’s not call it ridicule. Let’s call it poking fun. That sounds better, doesn’t it? Ok, now that we have that cleared up…

According to ScienceDaily.com, a recent announcement by a joint team from Oxford and Norway – at least, I think it’s joint Oxford / Norway team; it’s listed in the article as “The team from Oxford’s Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and Norway”, which I assume is a joint effort as it would be strange to have a Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and Norway (nothing against Norway, of course; after all, they brought us the… uhm…. err… let me get back to you on that…) – dang… lost my train of thought there…

Oh, yeah, I remember now – The joint team (as in, the collaboration between Oxford and Norway, not a team researching ganja) announced study findings that showed that chocolate, tea, and, of course, wine enhance cognitive performance.

Now, before you go out and get amped up on Starbuck’s, blitzed on your favorite vino and buy stock in Ethel’s chocolate, you need to know a few things.

First, the study is based on data from about 2,000 participants in their 70s. You might not be in this demographic.

Secondly, while the team suspects that polyphenols (in the form of flavonoids) are the source of the enhanced cognitive ability for the mature audience in the study, the researchers caution that “more research would be needed to prove that it was flavonoids, rather than some other aspect of the foods studied, that made the difference.” In other words, the negative health impacts of imbibing too much caffiene, alcohol, and sugar/fat probably far outweigh the benefits of the flavonoids; moderate consumption, as always, is best.

Finally, Ethel’s is privately owned – so you won’t be buying any stock (sorry).

Cheers!
(images: creativelydifferentblinds.com)

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)

Wine for… Breakfast! (Wine Blogging Wednesday #53)

Vinted on January 14, 2009 binned in Tales of the Purple Monkey, wine blogging wednesday


Before Plumboo (the purple monkey) I get started on our contribution to Wine Blogging Wednesday #53, this month hosted over at Twisted Oak’s El Bloggo Torcido, I should note that we don’t necessarily condone the consumption of alcoholic beverages before 10 AM.

But the theme this month is “Wine For Breakfast” (they don’t called it Twisted Oak for nuthin’!), and we certainly don’t discourage early AM alcohol consumption – we just don’t find ourselves doing it unless we haven’t yet gotten to bed from the nightbefore, if you catch my drift.

The real twist on this WBW is that the only eligible contributions are dry white or red wines. This eliminates pretty much all of the “standard” brunch picks (rose, bubbly, mixed wine concoctions).

Plumboo and I are totally undaunted, however. That’s because we know a secret about a fruity, expressive, food-friendly, and (importantly) inexpensive wine. Sounds like near-perfect late morning fare, eh? Did I just say “eh”? I’m not even Canadian…

Anyway, our little secret is the other dry red wine of Burgundy: Cru Beaujolais.

Note that we are not talking about the popular but much-maligned Beaujolais Nouveau, which is released in the Fall and is meant to be quaffed up while very, very young. We are talking instead about the cream of the Beaujolais crop, which can produce suprisingly age-worthy and downright elegant wines.

Some background: Romans probably first planted grapes in the Beaujolais region, just outside of Burgundy, but “modern” Beaujolais wine probably began in the late 14th Century when Phillipe the Bold, obviously a big Pinot Noir fan, outlawed the Gamay grape from being planted in Burgundy proper; Beaujolais, as far as a place to cultivate wine from Gamay, was thus born (though the Appleations weren’t official until the 1930s).

Beaujolais itself dwarfs any single Burgundy district in size, with more than 50,000 acres of vines. The best sites sit atop granite, schist, and limestone soils on hillsides, and these constitute the Cru Beaujolais, of which there are ten areas, most with their own distinctive wine characteristics. Who knew Beaujolais could get so complicated, eh? (damn, I did it again…).

My favorite Cru Beaujolais wines come from the neighboring areas of Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent:

  • Fleurie produces wines with an almost candied fruit character, but they are also so floral you’d think you had a flower shop in your glass. What makes them a winner for me is that their texture is so smooth, it’s like wearing some kind of tasty satin underoos for your tongue.

  • Moulin-à-Vent is the serious wine of Beaujolais. They still have the candied fruit character that is unique to Gamay, but many of these wines see oak aging that gives them a more refined character. The soil in Moulin-a-Vent is also a bit poisonous to the vines, as it contains manganese. It’s not enough to kill the vine, but some cite the soil as one reason why the Gamay vines there struggle and as a result produce lower yields of more concentrated grapes, resulting in more complex wines. So, Cru Beaujolais is both complex, ageworthy, and comes from diabolical soil. Who’d a thunk it?

So there you have it – dry wine to brunch by from an area outside of Burgun-dy. Just try to avoid bathing in it, as some of the Chinese appear to enjoy based on the pic below. Who’d a thunk that, eh?


For more on Cru Beaujolais, check out the books Wine, The Wine Bible, Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia, and the World Atlas of Wine.

Cheers! (images: 1WineDude.com, thefiftybest.com, wills-burgundy.com, showchina.org)

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