Monday, August 18, 2008

Boxes (I just can't get enough)

Another perfect storm of media awareness has brought my attention to something that has long been in the back of my head somewhere . . . boxed wine. The NYT reported that Italy will begin allowing DOC wines to be sold in boxes and this weekend Dr. Vino also contributed an article to the Times extolling the virtues (mostly environmental and economical) of boxed wine. And in a rare moment of clairvoyance I also brought up the subject last week with my WBW roots post about "wine stands". Granted, I was speaking of Franzia which not only is this not Real Wine I'm not even sure it's real Industrialized wine. But whatever, it's all a part of the public consciousness. The salient point is this: I love boxes. For all the reasons Mr. Coleman mentions--lower carbon footprints, lower prices, ability to keep a "house wine" around for longer which is also about lower prices--but also because it fits nicely with my philosophy of wine as a food, or with food all the time. Boxed wine is a homerun concept for me, but I haven't actually purchased a box in many years. Because despite the emerging media attention and the increasing number of manufactures there are still few options on the market, and almost none that aren't bullshit. You can see a list at the BoxedWine blog site. So before I get in bed enthusiastically w/ this box trend I have a few suggestions.

  1. The wine has to be good. By good the mainstream media means comparable in taste and quality w/ what is offered in a similar bottle, meaning most boxed wine is typical, industrialized, super-market style stuff. Dark, soft, inky Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz and blends from Spain and Southern France that are usually flavored w/ oak. Or oaky Chardonnay or watery Pinot Grigio. I think the focus should be on wines or grape varieties that are versatile w/ food and take to a chilling well such as Gamay, Schiava, Bardolino, and Zweigelt. The options for white are endless but I think oak ageing requires some bottle ageing too so don't put those guys in a box.
  2. The wine has to take to chilling because of storage. I would never encourage someone to keep their reds stored on top of the fridge or in a kitchen cabinet, espcially once they're already open. And since there's not a lot of wine fridges w/ built in box holders (and most of us don't have that $ anyway) you've got to keep the box in the fridge.
  3. If we're going to be "green" in packaging and shipping than we should do it all the way. Use recycled materials and sustainable agriculture. Better yet let's get some natural wines into boxes. If Joe D. is listening how about some boxed Muscadet or Loire Gamay from Marc Ollivier et. al.? Most Real Wine doesn't require a cork.
  4. Even better still would be good, natural, local wines in boxes. For me that means a North Fork Cabernet Franc or Chenin or Sauvignon Blanc. I'm going to lobby the Long Island wine community for a good, inexpensive boxed wine made responsibly and available only in the Greater NY area. You do the same in your hood and soon we will save the world.
The picture is of Gertrude Stein, who by all acounts also loved boxes, the photographer is Carl Van Vechten.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday

I don't usually participate in this, but the guy who started it seems nice and it's the anniversary and besides it was easy for me. Just use the picture from the post below. No, that's not me, but it could have been about 7 or8 years ago (except probably not with the puffy jacket). We called it a "wine-stand" and when you got close to the end you had to pull the bag out of the box and squeeze it like it was a sheep's bladder or something. Usually we had the red stuff but sometimes it was the pink--oh that cold, sweet pink stuff. I'm not going to try it again. Not out of snobbery but time and I can't really waste money these days. There you go, WBW drink your heart out.

And the picture came from this blog.

But What's Wrong With Wine Snobbery?

I'll tell you. But first let's pretend you and I are out on a deck on a summer night somewhere in the vast sections of North America where you can still see stars and you ask me "is it wrong to wish on space hardware?" What the hell are you talking about? Except I know what you're talking about, we have a shared cultural experience and are connecting through it. In a limited sense we are spending Cultural Capital. This is a theory, or rather set of theories used in Sociology to explain how people use knowledge and life experience much like currency to advance themselves. Pierre Bourdieu is credited w/ introducing this concept (which was introduced to me by a sociologist friend, Sam) and you can do your own research if you want to learn more, I don't have the time or space to do so here. But it is an interesting framework for discussing many current cultural topics. It could help explain, for instance, why Barack Obama has been easily portrayed as elitist, effete and out-of-touch with the average American by the McCain Campaign. This seems counter intuitive since Obama grew up w/ a solidly middle class, single mother who was a student and academic and he only began to make serious money in the last decade after his books were published. McCain is the son of an Admiral and his second marriage to the heiress of the 3rd largest beer distribution company in the U.S. puts him squarely in the domain of the super-wealthy. But although Obama's education and life experience have worked like currency to help him advance to a Presidential nominee, they don't count when dealing with the working class of much of the middle U.S. But enough politics, cultural capital also applies to wine.

A cursory knowledge of wine has long been considered a sign of culture and class among the members of the Landed Gentry or social elite. In hoping to become accepted by these small social circles the wealthy along with the literati or intelligentsia (academics) have long sought to increase their cultural capital by learning as much as possible about fine dining and beverages. Often they over-compensate for humble backgrounds by knowing more than there noble hosts about said dish or wine or brandy etc. I know this description seems anachronistic, like a period film set in a 1930's British Estate or something, but the basic premise remains intact. In some places and cultural settings knowing something about wine is valued while in many others it is not. So what's the problem? A few people learn a lot about wine and are passionate about it, while most others not only don't understand wine, they don't understand why anyone should want to: they don't care. Except there are lots of people these days who do care, who are interested but are intimidated by the levels of specialization and sophistication that are often displayed by the "wine elites". This is where snobbery hurts.

A snob is not, as some have suggested, simply a person who cares about what they eat, drink, watch etc. I think most people have opinions about what they eat and drink and how the spend their free time. Their likes may be different than yours, but not worse. So a snob is, to borrow from the online dictionary, "a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field: a musical snob. " I think most of us can immediately sense when some feels superior to us because of their knowledge in a particular field and it is, quite simply, off-putting. When dealing with wine this leads many who would otherwise be willing and interested participants to become defensive and engage in so called "reverse snobbery". It's a vicious cycle and it does no one any good. If your whole sense of self-worth is based on knowing more about something (wine) than others that's fine, enjoy your life of constant doubt. But for the rest of us we should attempt to share our knowledge with others in a friendly, non-hierarchical manner realizing that everyone knows more about something than we do. We all have acquired some cultural capital that's worth sharing rather than spending.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Don't Take Anything Too Seriously . . .

Ever. Don't take yourself too seriously, don't take others too seriously, don't take me too seriously. Don't take anything too seriously, I mean it, I'm serious. Ciao.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wine Judgments . . . Who Cares?

Since two movies are being released about the famous Judgment of Paris (Bottle Shock, and another based on George Taber's Book) there's a resurgence of interest in the impact this event had as well as heated discussions about the incursions of the mainstream media and Hollywood into the serious, academic and purportedly independent world of wine. When Sideways came out same thing happened: much hullabaloo and prices for most Pinot Noirs went up.

The scientific validity of that competition in Paris is generally considered statistically irrelevant. Like most blind tastings and competitions there's too many factors involved to render any sort of accurate conclusions. The wiki article on the whole event sums this up nicely. But of course the public perception and the imagery of the tasting did matter. California wines were on par (some said better) with their French counterparts. This ushered in a whole new perspective among casual wine drinkers around the world and while the effects were probably as much negative as positive it was, and is of lasting importance.

For me, Bordeaux is as much a British wine as it is French (and these days it's a truly international affair) so I don't think that line-up even mattered in principle. The Chardonnay war was a little more interesting, but I think the effects of the '76 tasting on Chardonnay around the world was largely an unfortunate one. The question of American vs. European wine is of course interesting to me. I've already pontificated too much on it though, but you can check out an interesting little discussion I was involved in at the Wine Camp recently.

As far as the movies go I think they should be judged as movies, not wine history pieces. And all those that devote long posts and discussions to all the inaccuracies and wine fallacies in these movies should proudly take their place beside the Tolkien fans that did the same when those movies came out. That being said I'm a bit skeptical about a film that portrays a British man (Alan Rickman as Steven Spurrier) as being uncomfortable and tepid around fried food. And after aging for a few years I still give Sideways a solid 89pts.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The End of the Beginning, Part 2

3 to 4 decades ago the traditional wine producing regions of Europe (the Old World) found they'd escaped almost a century of calamities: phylloxera, drought and floods, wars and severe economic depression. They were poised to capitalize on improved technology, emerging global markets and a resurgence of producers who were ready to bring the past and future together while continuously improving the quality of their wine. Only problem was these emerging markets (the New World) were already producing their own wine and then . . . DISASTER! At a tasting in Paris wines from California were forced to compete with their French counterparts and they won (sort of)! This famous Judgment of Paris is now finally being made into an accurate, objective and sober historical documentary. Winemakers all over the globe were emboldened to break the mold and attempt to copy the success of these California producers. Meanwhile the Seventies and Eighties flew by and emerging middle classes throughout the developing world found they had more disposable income and sought to emulate the lifestyles of their economic counterpoints in Europe and North America. And people in the States began to want something other than beer and martinis at cocktail parties. Wine seemed like a really good idea--classy, pretty, more booze than beer and less than vodka--but the only problem was most people didn't like what was available at the middle to low end of the market. These wines (often European) were too sharp and astringent to drink alone at ambient "room" temperatures (too warm). It was a perfect storm for the New World producers. They had warm climates along with access to technology and cheaper operating costs (inexpensive land, lower taxes, lax labor laws) which allowed them to began producing wines at the same quantity as Europe's wine lake regions for less money. And these wines were friendly w/out food; soft, dark and lush and often flavored w/ oak. No nasty acidity or chewy tannins that needed time and a good meal to be enjoyed. Drink this stuff at the loft party out of an over-sized glass or through a straw. The "New World" of wine had arrived with a bang.

This is where the Old World/New World debate sort of stagnates in the late '90's. But the last ten years has seen a rise in the awareness of "natural" or "artisanal" winemaking and this sensibility is beginning to leave the domain of wine geeks and writers and enter the mainstream. Although this new (some may argue traditional) movement is prone to the same sorts of marketing schemes and gimmicks that the global wine trade inspired, it is, at its most fundamental, a perfect counterweight to the world of mass market, over-produced, over blown wines. And not all (most, but not all) of these natural wines are from Europe. Also, parts of Europe now successfully compete with mass produced wines from North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. And there are even newer wine producing areas like India and China. So reducing wine styles to a simple aesthetic of Old World vs. New World and linking a method or style of winemaking to a region is no longer completely accurate.

In the tradition of (pseudo) Academia, which this series of posts has attempted to embrace, it is now time to conclude with some bold and definitive statements. It seems that wine today can still be categorized or separated in to two camps: wine that is made in a way that respects and is symbiotic with the land it is grown on and the people who grow it and that seeks to be the best it can be for what it is, and wine that is made as a commodity first with the goal of pleasing as many people as possible and making as much profit as possible. The latter could be called "modern wine" and the former "neo-traditional postmodern wine". But that's silly. Instead I like the preferred nomenclature that has arisen lately (not my invention, maybe his) of "Spoofulated" wine vs. "Real" wine. Of course our history shows that winemaking is always a balancing act between nature and technology and the best Real Wines still do this today. And we shouldn't romanticize the past; wine has always been a commodity and some regions have been producing wine with the primary goal of making lots of money for hundreds or thousands of years and even the craziest, stinkiest Biodynamic producers have to make a profit. But clearly there is a vast and distinguishable difference between what one winemaker called "wines that tell a story in a bottle" and those that sell an image to a consumer that wants all his wine to taste the same, day in and day out. And even if Real Wine becomes a global trend it will still be possible to distinguish the real Real from the fake. At least that's my belief.

The pic., by the way, is of a bottle of GrosJean Torrette: a traditional blend of indigenous red grapes grown in the Val d'Aosta by French speaking Italians. It is most definitely on Team Real and it was quite tasty.

A list of references I've used in all the posts dealing with the history of the Old World/New World debate. (Just because I got info. from them does not mean I endorse the views or opinions of these references. The internet is a strange place, dudes).

Phoenician Wines and Vines
Wine making, beer mark Middle Ages | History of Alcohol | Event view
Research Centre for the History of Food and Drink
Wine from Classical Times to the Nineteenth Century: Information and Much More from
The World Atlas of Wine 5th Edition, Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson
A Wine Atlas of the Langhe, Felice Campenella et. al.

All of the blogs and websites on my roll, but a special thanks to the lab rats at Rational Denial

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Good Bad wine vs. Bad Bad Wine vs. Bad Good Wine

Just wanted to take a quick break from history to put in my 2 cents on a topic that's been popping up all over wine-blogger land recently. It's nothing new, but the issue of cork taint (TCA) and other flaws in wine always gets people excited and encourages passionate conversations about chemistry and taste and winemaking practices. Although I think there's a bit of muscle flexing involved in the Science and Tech. discussions I understand completely why this issue is raised so often. It's a real bummer to open a wine you're excited about (and possibly spent a bit of money on) and discover it's corked or otherwise flawed. But it's also a bummer to open a wine that tastes exactly like it's supposed to and that taste is, to you, gross. The source of controversy and/or difficulty emerges in all the possible scenarios in between these two extremes.

The ability to detect TCA in a wine has become a litmus test for credibility at many wine drinking occasions. Often the person deemed to have the most knowledge or experience is expected to make final judgment on whether a wine is corked or not. This is silly. I think most people with even rudimentary wine knowledge could be trained to quickly spot cork taint and distinguish it from other flaws just as well as anyone. But there are some wine aficionados who for what appears to be biological reasons have a very difficult time with this; Brooklynguy's post on this subject is both honest and refreshing. Others may be "immune" or simply unfazed by different flaws such as "heat" (excessive alcohol) or oxidization or when a wine first begins to "turn" (become vinegar). One common flaw occurs when a wine is "cooked", which means it has been damaged by poor storage and subjected to temperature fluctuations or exposure to heat. But in an earlier experiment at the Lab a wine that was exposed to extreme heat was preferred to the normally stored bottle. So does this mean some people prefer "cooked"(flawed) wines or that sometimes heat damage isn't actually a flaw? Another controversial flaw is brett, a sort of renegade yeast strand that can manifest itself in many ways. Some think it adds complexities and secondary flavors to certain wines, others claim it's always a bad thing. At their extremes all of these "flaws" will make a wine taste bad to almost everyone, regardless of their knowledge or experience. But the difficulties arrive when a wine that should be good just isn't that good. If you've had this wine before than you'll know for sure if it's not as good, but if we're talking about something finicky like old Burgundy maybe it's just not "showing well" or maybe there's a little flaw somewhere. If you don't have the luxury of buying several bottles of the same wine every time then you may never know. And though it's easy to let this frustrate (and then overcompensate by declaring a definitive flaw) I don't think it should become an issue that ruins an evening or a meal or a gathering of friends. If you get an obviously corked, or otherwise flawed bottle at a restaurant send it back, or return it to the store where you bought it. If there's more ambiguity involved then just allow for a few seconds of disappointment and then move on, use it as a learning experience and get excited about the next bottle. Or open a can of beer.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Beginning of the End, Part 1

There's little doubt that wine has been bought, sold and traded as a commodity for almost as long as it has been cultivated. But the rapid expansion of the global wine market over the past several decades is a phenomena with only slim historical precedence. Bordeaux may be the best example of the first "branding" of a wine and a region in order to trade or sell their product to consumers who lived many hundreds of miles (or kilometers) from the vineyards themselves. But certainly Sherry and Port were doing the same thing around the same time, and possibly even earlier, and there's evidence that ancient wine merchants provided certain wines to the wealthy and powerful in Greek and Roman societies that were made with the specific tastes of these valuable consumers in mind. It seems, however, that preference for wines produced in a particular manner or from a specific locale were probably a happy accident at this time. The ways in which technology and information were spread during antiquity and even in the Medieval Period make it unlikely that farmers in Northern Algeria or the Valle d'Aosta would all of sudden decide to change their winemaking methods in order to compete for markets in cities hundreds or thousands of miles away. Clearly, this is not the case today.

In the past 10 or 20 years vintners and companies across the globe have rushed to cash in on the ever increasing demand for wine in both new and established markets. Many are eager to hit the sweet spot in positioning a wine that looks, tastes and performs like some of the most successful global brands. Producing the next Yellowtail or Kim Crawford or Santa Margherita is a prize that's hard to resist. In the meantime a movement has emerged in winemaking that is antithetical to all of this. The natural or sustainable wine movement (or whatever you want to call it) emphasizes much smaller production levels, traditional methods and often organic or biodynamic practices. The idea is to return wine to its sense of place and produce something that is in harmony with its immediate surroundings.

The backdrop to all of this is the modern wine era that begin to emerge during but mostly after the two World Wars. Traditional wine-producing areas in Europe began to increase production with an eye towards new markets, some rustic, traditional wines began to emerge as more serious players and winemakers outside of Europe began to compete with the motherland. By the 1960's and '70's Italy, France and Germany were all exporting lakes of bland, indistinguishable but inexpensive table wines like Soave, Valpolicella, Riunite, Beaujolais, Bordeaux and Liebfraumilch. Most of these wines were exported and sold by just a handful of large companies buying wine from all over w/ little regard to quality or typicity, but at the same time a few producers began to increase the quality and decrease the quantity of some of the very same wines. This made it increasingly difficult for consumers to differentiate the few good reds from the Veneto (for example) from all the bad ones. So France started tightening it's AOC laws, Italy introduced the DOC's and Germany came with its own set of quality control laws. These regulations coupled w/ a little negative press for mass produced wines (most notably the "anti-freeze" scandal in Austria in 1985) were doing a good job of pushing more and more European wine producers and merchants toward favoring quality and originality over quantity by the late '80's and things probably would have continued to improve (and in many cases did) except there was another player entering into the game of wine: the rest of the developed world.

(The picture was found on this lovely little blog).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Need Better Editing

That last post was obnoxiously long. Allow me to sum up.

Rome fell. People kept drinking wine. The Catholic Church rose. People kept drinking wine. Monks got really into making and drinking wine. The English and the Bordelaise fell in love and their child was a light, fruity red called Claret. In Bordeaux, Jerez, and the Douro much money and ships came and went. The monks kept drinking better and better wine. The Popes and the rising merchant classes of Italy, France and Germany liked what the monks were drinking. The Brits still loved claret. Wars happened, persecution continued, some guys decided they didn't want to be Catholic anymore. Farmers in Sardignia kept drinking wine. Monks went to the "New World" and couldn't live w/out wine. The wars ended, sort of. Glass bottles emerged and magically so did cork closures. Chateau Haut-Brion got real fancy smancy and bottled their wine on premise. The Brits loved it. Farmers in Slovenia were still drinking wine.

Time covered: 400 AD to 1660 AD.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Everyone Was Drunk or Getting There

The production and consumption of wine increased steadily from the pre-classical era to the rise of the Greek and Roman Civilizations and although Classicals from all walks of life drank wine in large quantities (by modern standards) there was almost certainly a vast difference between the quality and style of wine meant for the poor and what the wealthy and powerful consumed. Then Rome fell. From the (relative) chaos of centuries of migration, conquering and being conquered came the foundation of the modern wine world and the establishment of colonial boundaries that have a huge influence on the Old World vs. New World wine discussion we've entered into.

To be sure, medieval Europeans put their ancestry to shame in terms of shear consumption. Just like the Greeks and Romans everyone from serf/slave to the Kings and Religious Leaders drank fermented beverages (mostly wine, some ale) morning, noon and night. But w/out any major institution or government advocating any sort of temperance and the crumbled infrastructures unable to provide fresh water or sewage the vast majority of Europeans must have been in a continual haze. What didn't change was the quality to status/wealth ratio. The rich and powerful drank "good" meaning real wine that may have been spiced or otherwise manipulated but was probably strong and somewhat sweet. The poor drank mostly tart or bitter wine made from poor or under-ripe grapes or from the water fermented on the leftover pomace after the good juice had been pressed. There are always exceptions of course, and I'm sure some nobility drank complete garbage while the poor farmers and winemakers saved a bit of the best stuff for celebrations, but I think the distinction is largely accurate. Regardless, the presumption that the production of wine slowed dramatically during the early middle ages because of the lack of Roman expertise is probably wrong, although certainly trade was more difficult, technology and know-how stagnated or regressed and many prized vineyards fell into disrepair. So who comes to the rescue around 7 or 800 AD and begins to reclaim the best Roman and Pre-Roman vineyards and nurse them back to health and prosperity? The Popes and their legions of Monks of course!

Although the early Middle Ages saw decline in the extensive wine trade of Imperial Rome there was most likely an increase in local viticulture which included the specialization of indigenous varietals within their prospective regions in order to satiate the need and desire for wine. But most historians credit the various monastic orders with rejuvenating the best vineyards and preserving and progressing the practice of wine making. It does seem that much of what we think of as the "World's Great Wine Regions" owe much of their existence to the monks. A short list would include the Rhine, Mosel, Tuscany, Priorat, the Rhone, Champagne and of course Burgundy. A name conspicously absent is that of Bordeaux. Winemaking in Bordeaux was always a mercantile operation. This is because the region was acquired by the English Crown in the late 12th Century and during this time most of the wine produced in and around Bordeaux was sent to Bristol or London and is the source of Britain's love for claret. This wine came from modern day Graves and surrounding areas. It was not until the Dutch helped drain the swamps of Medoc in the 17th Century that the region was planted w/ vines.

By the end of the Renaissance the great monastic vineyards were in full swing, busy determining the best variatels to plant and the proper times to harvest as well as the most benificial ways of fermentation and storage. In the meantime Bordeaux was entering a troubled time during the 100 Years War and other political strife only to reemerge by the late 17th Century w/ the first wine to be bottled at the Chateau (Haut-Brion). Places like Jerez, The Douro and Madiera were doing fabulously well producing fortified wines for overseas journeys and English Nobility and adventurous monks were planting vineyards in North and South America. Communities in wine growing regions continued to make local wine for consumption and barter while more Northern towns and settlements increasingly took to beer (thanks to hops). Protestant upstarts began advocating temperance and literacy and common folks started thinking that maybe things could be a bit better.

The stage is set for the beginnings of modernity. Wine would continue to evolve as would wine drinkers and the forces of global trade, capitalism and nature would lead us to the the World Atlas of Wine and it's clear deliniation of Old World and New World wine producing regions.

(As state early I'll post a list of references used at the end of the full discussion).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Spoofulated Pompeii Wine Parties, Hooray!

The excursions into the hazy underworld of online information have finally begun to paint a picture for me of the history of wine cultivation, trade and consumption. I had quite a few ideas to begin with and also went back to the wine history sections of books like the World Atlas of Wine to clarify and summarize in a more orderly fashion than the Internet provides. But all of this taken together has focused my attention on the overarching and pervading question of economics. In discussing or researching wine history I just can't get away from "the money". I think if we "follow the money" we can get at most of the Old World/New World questions I posted here.

First, wine has always been traded. It seems that viticulture can be traced to the beginnings of agriculture and therefore civilization itself. It's easy to project that humans had discovered the effects of fermented fruit/grain even before settling down to grow stuff and it was simply a matter of learning to control this science, or at least help it along. When we began to navigate the ancient world by boat trade naturally grew in size and scope. It was probably the Phoenicians who were the first big time wine merchants and there is much speculation (and some science) pointing to the coasts of Lebanon and Eastern Turkey as being the birth place of vitis vinefera. The Greeks followed some centuries later and thanks to the dominance of Western Culture are usually given the most credit for spreading the wine and vine. The Romans are famous for many forms of conquer and the exportation of viticulture is but one of them. However, it seems clear that thanks to the Phoenicians and some industrious indigenous populations (the Etruscans stand out here) that many modern wine producing areas--Jerez, Sicily, Provence, Tuscany, Abruzzo etc.--were already making wine a thousand years before Julias Ceaser was assassinated. But what was it like? Who was drinking it and how was it consumed? Again we just follow the money.

Although those famous aqueducts were sprouting up around the time of Christ it's fairly certain that most of the world's people had precious little access to fresh drinking water. So the small communities of farmers and the poor villages that began to spread around Europe and the Middle East from antiquity onward needed a cheap water substitute and wine was the obvious answer. This wine was probably very light and much lower in alcohol than modern table wine since it would be costly and time consuming to let the grapes get super ripe (and may not have happened anyway depending on the climate of the time) and things like oak aging and chaptalization were centuries if not millennia away. But this was not what the wine bar/orgy crowd was drinking at Pompeii, and certainly not the preferred drink of the Emperors and their hoards. They took lessons from the Greek Rulers and Scholars who drank wine that was flavored with honey and herbs and spices and maybe even seawater. This may have been something like a lighter version of Chinato or even sweet vermouth w/out the fortification. And the biggest prize was raisin wine; no doubt the Caesars would have been huge fans of Quintarelli's Recioto (who isn't?). But just as Quintarelli's wines are not priced for the masses neither were the wines of the palaces and the senate.

This trend seems to have continued with few interruptions into the Early Middle Ages. In the next post I will discuss the rise of the monks and their magical ways that helped birth things like Clos de Vougeot, but even then the vast majority of Europe was drinking local wine like it was water and the wine trade was busy making (spoofulating?) wine that was to be enjoyed by the upper classes in the Medieval Courts around Europe. So now we have the background of wine that was made in a specific way at a higher cost for trade and export (for money) versus wine that was made as cheaply as possible to drink instead of water with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of course this is all still within the geographical landscape of the "Old World", but I think you can see that I'm headed towards a cultural and economic redefinition of that debate. More to come.

(I'll post links to all the resources I've used at the end of my full discussion).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Slack and Sack

Sack was a word used for Sherry in the Middle and Late Middle Ages. Slack is because I haven't posted in a few days. My Mother is in town so I've been a bit preoccupied. But I'm still on the trail of ancient wine trades and practices. Wolfgang over at Spume was the first to mention the Phoenicians and I welcome the reminder because I encounter them again and again. They are widely believed to be the originators of our alphabet and were certainly fierce and cog nascent traders who, apparently, were very fond of the vine. Sherry is the conduit I'm using now because it's cool, don't you know. If you don't just check out some wine blogs. A couple weeks ago Eric Asimov of the New York Times posted this blog accompanied by a full article and since then the other blogs are all-a-buzz about it. Some examples are here and here. I don't mean to suggest that they get their inspiration from him (in fact I think the opposite is true) but it's funny how cyclical and connected all this stuff is. My thoughts on Jerez and its place in wine history and culture will follow soon. Until then chill yourself down w/ some cold Fino, a glass bowl of almonds and a parrot who won't shut the hell up.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Panic on the streets of Bristol

A bit of quick Google searching has focused my summer research project on question number 2 first. It seems that the wine trade between England and Continental Europe was in place from the early middle ages when Britons began drinking much more wine than their dismal island could produce. The vast majority of this came from Gascony and would help to explain the Bordeaux region's long domination of the fine wine trade and markets. I think it could be argued that what Bordeaux is today is a product of the emergence of wine as a global trade commodity and therefore the first "modern" winemaking (making wine with a specific customer in mind, as opposed to the culture of Meditterenean winemaking: wine that accompanies the food and culture of your village or town). Bristol, strategically located across the Chanel, grew very prosperous in the import/export business and you could read more about it here. But to summerize they were forced to find new products in the 18th Century when London began to dominate trade with Gascony. This is where Sherry and Port and Brandy and all sorts of other beverages that are both Iberian and British in their DNA began to dominate the world market. Of course many other wines were becoming availabe, but as we learned from the lab at Rational Denial, Jefferson could easily get sherry or other fortified wines but had to go through great trouble and expense to get his Y'Quem and Lafite shipped to the States.

So it seems that Britian has played a monumental role in shaping the wine trade and therefor, In my estimation, influencing how wine is made and consumed around the world today. I need to do more research in order to verify some of my gut instincts about the effects of the Medieval Wine trade on our Old World/New World debate and I'm trying to track down a cheap (free?) copy of Dr. Margery James's book Studies in the Medievel Wine Trade. Hopefully I'll find information about wine culture and trade in the Meditteranean regions while I do this and will then get back to question number 1.

The image, by the way, is from this blog, which asserts the divine power of the Monarchy in France and rejects all types of revolution. Very interesting.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What did wine taste like?

The lab over at Rational Denial is attempting something pretty marvelous: recreating (somehow) a wine that would be similar to what Thomas Jefferson drank. It's a very ambitious project and I'm pretty stoked about it. It has relevance to my Old World/New World research project so I'll be keeping an eye on the proceedings.

One note of interest: in my Julia Child cookbook she discusses the general types of wine (this is about 1960) that are available and gives very brief, general descriptions. According to her light reds are Cabernet, Gamay, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, and Merlot; full-bodied reds are Pinot (noir), Chianti, Burgundy, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and Hermitage. While this isn't completely backwards I think it is clearly not consistant with todays standards. Did the meaning of "full-bodied" and "light" change? Or was she mistaken? Or did these wines change that much over the last 40 years? I think the latter is most likely though maybe all explantions are somewhat true.

Traveled all over, wrote some books, drank some good wine. He was apparently partial to Chianti, but I'm sure he had plenty of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Barolo, and Rioja. And lots of Champagne. He probably drank Txacoli way before it was on the market and Brunello when it could have been a blend of anything but was probably just Sangiovese. I do wonder what these wines tasted like then, sure you can still find some bottles out there from vintages he could have enjoyed, but I haven't generally got that money and besides they would be different now. I don't know how he managed to know how good what he was drinking was w/out points or stars or detailed tasting notes, but I think somehow he did.

"Wine....offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than possibly any other purely sensory thing which may be purchased" ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bring on the depths of Wikipedia!

As I mentioned earlier there was an ongoing discussion at enobytes about the Old World vs. New World debate. Craig camp is the moderator and his statement is here. This is an interesting question for me because it deals not just with the merits of individual wines but with questions of wine culture, tradition and, I think most importantly, the role of the consumer in contemporary wine marketing and the role of global markets and trade in the production and discussion of wine. Craig’s main point is that European (Old World) winemakers make wine that is inherently tied to the food of their region and that European wine drinkers consume wine almost exclusively with food. While I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule I think he’s pretty much spot on. In the U.S. he points to wine consumption being increasingly popular as a cocktail alternative to liquor or beer and that winemakers who wish to be successful in this market must make wines that are “enjoyable” by themselves; big, soft fruit flavors softened even more with oak and low in acidity and/or tannin. Again, I think this is basically correct. But it leaves a lot of questions for me and that’s what I’d like to focus on. So here’s a list of thoughts that I hope to address in future posts.

1. What is the historical role of wine as commodity? Before the emergence of global trade was wine still often produced to be sold (bartered) or was it simply meant for consumption by the producers and their family or village? And was there always a food/wine connection? What about wine producing regions in Europe that aren’t part of the Mediterranean culture; Germany, Russia, Hungary etc.?

2. When Europeans began to trade globally did wine immediately enter into this or was it exported only for consumption by the traders? (The Madeira story comes into play here). What is the role or legacy of British wine trade and culture in the U.S.?

3. What’s the real story in the exportation of vitas vinifera vines to the New World? What about the indigenous vines of America?

4. Craig mentions that 30 years ago or so wines in California were hard to distinguish from European ones. Is this true? Or was there already a natural occurrence of more fruit flavors and less structure and was this what led to events such as the Judgment of Paris and the rise of critics like Parker? This is a chicken vs. the egg question but still an interesting one.

5. This discussion often focuses on the U.S. consumer and their palate vs. the European one and how winemakers cater or don’t cater to this. But what about other wine producing regions? What are the wine cultures of Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa or even Canada like? We know that what these places export here falls almost exclusively into the cocktail wine category, but what about what is made and consumed in their own backyards?

6. When Hugh Johnson coined the Old World/New World phraseology was he identifying clearly noticeable differences in approach and style or was he simply engaging in a bit of British/European wine colonialism?

Clearly all of this will take some research so any help or suggestions or tips on good references will be greatly appreciated. I’m limited in time and money so I’ll be relying heavily on the old internet and the few encyclopedias and wine books I have lying around. But a trip to the library may be necessary at some point. Sorry if this seems tedious and uninteresting, I’ll try to use as much brevity as possible and break up posts with more entertaining ones on occasion. If you find these questions to be a bit juvenile because you already know the answers feel free to clue me in or just move on to another blog. But I’m interested in this and I think it’s a good summer project. If anyone knows someone or some school who wants to give me money to do this as a PHD dissertation please let me know.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wait, Wait, Wait!

After I plugged Gary Vaynerchuk I went to his website and saw his most recent video. Oh no, no, no. He's got Jim Cramer on and they're discussing wine and comparing it to oil. Supply and demand, the investment possibilities of '05 Bordeaux, trusting in talking heads when making decisions about money. It's making me feel light headed. Surprise, Cramer loves oaky fruit bombs. Apparently Chinon is like utility stocks--out of style. I never took Gary too seriously but now I'm pretty sure he may be someone to take very seriously. He's gonna take us to the promised land of making money on Chateau Latour. It's one thing if Cramer buys up all the Screaming Eagle or Quilceda Creek out there, but when he's got a majority of the 2005 DRC wines and vast holdings in vintage port we'll have Gary Vaynerchuk to thank. Cramer, by the way, isn't spitting but that's not so fun because I think he's drunk all the time anyway. Goddamnit.

Meanwhile, in the Blogosphere

Deb Harkness has an interesting post here about attending a wine blogging conference and how the online community of wine bloggers and enthusiasts is influencing the wine business. Basically she says we ARE INFLUENCING the wine business in a pretty major way. Awesome. It's a real populist movement to promote the desires and the palates of wine geeks everywhere. We have the power, not Wine Spectator or Southern Wine and Spirits or Inbev.

At the conference she mingled with other online wine personalities like Gary Vaynerchuk whose Wine Library TV is really very entertaining. But just once I'd like to watch him do a bit (maybe about Amarone) w/out spitting. You know, watch him slowly get his buzz on, but I guess that wouldn't be professional. Too bad.

I really am working on a long, tedious discussion of Old World vs. New World but as you can see I just wanted to post something with as many links as possible.

Breaking News!

InBev, the giant, global beverage company just bought Anheuser-Busch. Now Budweiser, Beck's and Stella are all on the same team. HOORAY! They will save the world.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Vinifera Conquestedores

I've been meaning to post about a discussion on enobytes that's being moderated by Craig Camp. Actually, I mostly want to discuss the post he included on his Wine Camp blog about Old World VS. New World. As usual I think Craig makes some great points, especially when it comes to the idea of a food/wine connection in Europe that is often absent in the American market. But I think he left a few things out or maybe didn't have the time/space to discuss them, so I'll be posting a more in depth look and discussion of this in the next few days. The enobytes discussion is kinda interesting but it's also a bit like fark for wine geeks so I'm probably not checking in there. Again, I meant to do this sooner but I got a little distracted with some other issues and then the weekend came and blah blah blah. So look forward to it, I know I do.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back to the future of green

I just read Craig Camp's post about the natural wine controversy and found it to be very balanced and interesting. He talks about spoofulation and gives a link to a really funny, sardonic post on Dressner's blog. But the point is that there are still good, honest wines out there that for whatever reason don't really fit the definition of "natural". Also, what is the definition of "natural"?

Apologies and Clarification

It's come to my attention that some of my remarks in earlier posts were a bit over-the-line and unnecessary. In particular I regret and apologize for the comment that compared Lyle Fass to Ralph Nader in a disparaging way. I don't know Lyle personally and even if I did that sort of personal attack is not what I intend to do on this blog and should not have happened. In the future I'll do everything possible to avoid making comments that could be construed as personal attacks in any way. If someone feels slighted please let me know and I'll rectify the situation as quickly as possible.

Part of the goal or idea for this blog is to act as the voice of an inside outsider within the online wine community and larger world of the wine trade in general. I won't spend too much time discussing particular wines or making tasting note lists because I think that many of the people who write the wine blogs on my blog roll already do this and can do a much better job of it than I (Lyle is included in this). If I encounter something really unusual or if I disaggree with someone elses notes than I may mention and discuss a particular wine. I also think that there are now plenty of wine writers and bloggers who have taken up the mantle of anti-point scale, anti-parkerization, anti-mass produced supermarket wine and again are more knowledgable about this than I. I don't wish to simply be another voice in the choir but it should be assumed that I agree with those principles and am obviously a big fan and advocate of natural, no gimmicks wine. What I think may be useful is someone who can read and disseminate the information out there and discuss larger issues of how we talk about wine and food and what the social, economic and environmental implications are. I think this conversation could include other blips of both pop and high culture but for me the framing reference will be wine. Why? Well I like wine. I like it's connection to geography and history and culture. I also like drinking it and so I'm lucky to be able to work in a field that I truly care about. But does this mean I believe that wine and the wine community are above criticism and/or some fun-making? No way, I don't think anything is so serious that you can't criticize it or laugh about it. But again, this should not and will not enter the realm of personal attacks. I hope people will read this and enjoy it and feel free to criticize me and all my ideas since they are probably deserving of it. That's all for now, I need a drink.

Blog blogging for blog blogs

In a most recent post on Tom Wark's blog Fermentation he mentions that to gain a wider readership you should talk about his blog and maybe he'll add yours to his, and you should do this with other blogs. Since this is one of my stated purposes for this blog I don't think it's entirely uncouth of me to do so in a somewhat shameless matter. Also I went to Wark's blog from a new blog that I really like called Rational Denial, and I don't think it any more shameless to mention him here. Especially since I just figured out how to hypertext and besides I'm pretty sure my only reader right now is my wife (thanks honey). Now I'm gonna go and scratch at a bug bite 'til it bleeds.

Oh, expensive wine IS good

There's a lot of distrust between casual wine drinkers and wine critics and those who make a living in the wine trade over quality to price ratios. Most people don't buy it when you tell them that $50 wine is twice as good as a $25 one or a $100 is 4 times better. And their skepticism is probably appropriate. I've not had nearly as many high-end wines as most people in this business but I've had enough to know that the laws of diminishing returns are usually pretty valid. There's plenty of $100 bottles that are only slightly better than the $50 or $25 ones (and some are worse). This is a complex subject which I plan on revisiting but my point here is that sometimes the expensive wine is also the best one hands down. At a farewell party for a coworker the other night we opened several bottles of wine and the favorite and clearly the wine with the highest quality factor was a 1987 Forey Eschezeaux. At about $80 or $90 a bottle it's certainly not in the category of super-premium wine or something, but it was more expensive than the other bottles which were all good and all in the $20-$40 range. Now, someone else may have preferred one of the other bottles opened but you'll just have to trust me and the judgement of six people who all work at wine shop together when I say the Burgundy was the best. Of course a Grand Cru Burgundy should be the best right? Well the '87 vintage is pretty spotty and Eschezeaux is also pretty spotty (as far as Grand Cru appellations go) so we could have had a very disappointing bottle and like I said it wasn't up against a bunch of average, everyday wine either. But it was really, very good. Was it worth what it would have cost? Well that would depend on what you make, but I don't think it would ever have been a total rip-off. I guess there is always a better use for that money . . . yes, there's always a better use. But I didn't pay for it I just drank it and I would drink it again.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Good wine is for smarties

Asimov's latest post is about Sherry. I like Sherry. Sherry is good. In the post he states I don’t mean to come off as a snob, but sherry and most great wines require a commitment to understand them. Like Coltrane or Mahler, Dickens or Dostoevsky, or even baseball, understanding great wine is not something that you enter lightly. You must make a commitment of time and of thought in a way not required by a simple fruity wine or a popular romance or mystery. Hmmmm . . . so basically being a wine aficionado or whatever simply requires commitment to study just like scholars of Jazz, Literature or Baseball. First I think all these things require interest, you have to like it enough. A whole lot of people in this world enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages, but I think most don't give a damn what the background or context of what they're drinking is and would find it boring and wastefull to spend any time doing so. And they're probably right. So you like wine, so you get into it, fine. But I think there are many more factors involved than simply commitment. Number one is money, and time is a related number two. Labor theories and cultural capital and social context are all huge factors and too much for me with my puny brain and lack of time and money to get into. And while I think there may be connections between people who make commitments to Literature or Music or Wine it's a bit overboard and self inflating to lump them all in the same sentence. Wine is closest to food in that it is an almost base requirement (at least before safe drinking water was widely available) that is tied inherently to culture and geography on both macro and micro levels. The confluence of simple necessity and the almost spontaneous eruption of art is of a never-ending interest to me, and here is where food and wine and other beverages can rightly be elevated beyond subsistence. But the existence of music, story telling and visual art is (so far as I know) uniquely Human. It's the closest I come to some sort of god or religion. The same tendency to art allows us to elevate our subsistence (food and wine) to levels of faux godliness and more importantly communicate with each other in ways that are simultaneously primal and divine. But even apes have been known to put aside fruit for fermentation in order to party. And not to hammer on the socialist theory but food and wine as "art" is almost exclusively in the domain of the wealthy. Not so, clearly, with music, stories and art.

And another thing

In the post about "green" wine I forget to cycle my thoughts completely and come back to my title so . . . the final point is that the natural wine movement isn't new, it's been building since at least the mid '90's and maybe earlier. In fact I wonder if it started shortly after that whole Austrian wine/antifreeze fiasco (1984?). Not sure; I was a five year old Mormon living in Chandler, AZ at the time so my connection w/ the wine world was minimal. Furthermore it's really a retro movement that comes in reaction to the mass production/marketing/pesticide mania that gripped agriculture (including wine) after WWII. So if you're writing about the "green" wine movement as if it's a brand new thing then you're a lame-ass square. But if you've been writing about it and/or promoting it for a decade than you're definitely a bonified wine hipster and either a complete dork or independently wealthy or both. I've been all about it for less than two years and much more than one. So I'm perfect.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I'm sick and tired

of waiting for my son (1 year old) to learn patience. Seriously, I can't wait any longer.

Green wine isn't young anymore

There's a little ado about something in the wine(cyber)world over the issue of natural wines. It started with this article on Food and Wine's website by Lettie Teague. The article is prefaced by saying "Skeptical about the “greenwashing” of the wine industry" so you know where she's headed. But that's no excuse for the misinformation, poor execution and general lack of knowledge that is displayed by Lettie. So Alice Feiring was the first to call out some obvious problems, but by her own admission she went a little easy on Lettie and left it to others. Like Lyle Fass who does the usual personal attack and rants and raves incoherently for a paragraph on the superiority of natural wines. He's basically right but it's sort of like agreeing with Ralph Nader 95% of the time; you know he's right and very knowledgable but still feel gross agreeing with such a pompous asshole. So back to the article: it would've been nice if Lettie had compared apples to apples--say a Brun Beaujolais to a Dubeouf Beaujolais (Dressner would love that)--but instead she picks a Mosse Chardonnay poured by the glass at some dismal hippie wine bar. The wine shows no typicity and who knows how it was treated at that place. I've always enjoyed Mosse's wines, most recently the Boire Rouge, but would probably not gravitate to his chardonnay. Anywho, she never mentions the big guns out there who are organic or biodynamic--maybe she's not aware or she didn't want to kill her predetermined ideas by bringing up things like Domaine Leroy, Domaine Montille and Domaine de la Romanee Conti. This is a good argument for the mastery of natural winemaking as is Lapierre or any number of great German and Austrian producers; no need to assert that she's been drinking wine made by pedophiles.

Natural wines are superior in many catagories but you can and should harbor some skepticism. Obviously marketing is suspect and it's true that some natural wines are a bit more volatile or picky about their treatment. And of course sometimes you can't always get what you want, or you may opt for a Budweiser and not recycle the can. Hey I eat local if I can afford it and don't drive but I like the convenience of zip-lock freezer bags and sometimes buy more groceries than will fit in my reusable tote so? I think my carbon footprint is smaller than yours now please, go and fuck thyself. Peace.

Monday, July 7, 2008

No more lists, probably

That last post where I listed a bunch of stuff I'd recently tasted or consumed was such a boring, tedious task that I know it's even more boring to read. Whenever I encounter those lists on blogs and websites or even magazines my eyes tend to gloss over and I scan quickly for something weird but mostly I want to see how much of an idiot or genius the writer is and that is probably the whole point so from now on I'm skipping that whole game out of a sense of superiority or maybe I'll just occasionally post pictures of me holding that kick-ass bottle I just drank in one hand and a suitable flag in the other while perched atop a great steed or elephant.

First (and maybe last) wine tasting list

So, here’s a list of wines I’ve had in the past week or so. A quick thought on tasting notes first . . . There is a lot of debate about the terms wine writers’ use when describing wine; most people are dumbfounded by the never-ending lists of adjectives for aromas and tastes, and for good reason. But simply sticking to dry or tannic or soft or heavy or light or sweet or fruity is restrictive and not really accurate either. So I think if it’s a familiar smell or taste than say so—I eat grapefruit so I know what that tastes like, same with pepper or cherries or lime or smoked meat or salt etc. etc.—but when you say something like “dark mashed violets emerged with time” (from Lyle Fass’s blog Rockss and Fruit) it just alienates most everyone and I don’t think it’s true. Has Lyle encountered the aroma of mashed violets often? And dark is a description of color not smell, unless he’s also smelled light mashed violets enough to distinguish from the smell of darker ones. Bullshit. Here’s my list and notes which are probably bullshit too. (Oh ya, the prices I list are retail; since I work in wine retail my actual cost is somewhat less).

Domaine de L’Ameillaud, Vin de Pays de Vaucluse 2005, $10. This is such a good deal on well-made wine I’ve had a few over the last year. Vaucluse is in the Southern Rhone and so this VDP (country wine in France—the second lowest legal category) is in the same family as Cote du Rhones—usually a blend of Grenache and Syrah with some other grapes here and there. This particular wine has a great balance of fruit and acidity along with a little pepper and some earthiness. It’s refreshing and versatile with food.
Domaine de la Roche Saint-Martin, Brouilly 2006, $18. Cru Beaujolais is sometimes all I want to drink in the summer. Tired of white wine, don’t like most rosè so Beaujolais is the answer. Brouilly is light and fruit driven and crisp and goes great with most food.
Cascina La Ghersa, Piage 2006, $8. A white from Piedmont that is a blend of chardonnay and cortese and is unoaked and has nice fruit and its acidity isn’t too out of whack and we got it at a great deal so I can’t afford not to drink it.
Parés Balta, Calcari 2006, $20. I’m guessing a bit on the price since I got it for free at a tasting I was working that focused on wines from Catalan. This a 100% Xarello wine (maybe pronounced “shuh rello”) which is an indigenous Catalonian grape mostly used for cava. It was a decent wine, a bit too much fruit and alcohol but overall pleasant, though I wouldn’t buy it but I liked it for free.
Domaine Jean-Luc Dubois, Savigny-les-Beaune “Les Picotins”2006, $30. A little pricey but I drank it and split it with people at work. Young Burgundy is a toss up but this was pleasant though a bit tight and tannic at first. Apparently ‘06’s are better for current drinking then the fabulous but massive ‘05 vintage blah blah blah.
Ponte de Lima, Vinho Verde 2007, $7. I often crave dryish, lightly effervescent things served quite cold in the afternoon. Txacoli is usually 3 times as much though and other substitutes like things from Gaillac or Penedés are less reliable. Portugal comes through in many ways but especially Vinho Verde like this which I drank straight out of the bottle.
Bera Vittoria e Figli, Arcese 2006, $13. Another wine with a bit of natural effervescence, but this stuff is complex and simultaneously enjoyable. A blend of indigenous grapes in Piedmont—this is an awesome deal on something totally unique and soooo fucking good.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

So? What About Wine?

A quick perusal of the wine blogs will usually reveal lists of tasting notes (the exceptions are the more offbeat blogs like Joe Dressner's and the non-independent ones like Asimov's): wine dinners the bloggers attended or meetings with winemakers or gatherings of other wine geeks where everyone brings something crazy or hard-to-find or themed gatherings (Rieslings your parents could have had on your conception night, premier cru burgundy's that are missing their import labels, etc.). But you rarely see lists of everything they drank that past week or weekend. Or maybe you do and I'm the only one whose job as an asst. manager at a wine shop coupled with my wifes administative salary is just enough to cover bills and student loans and the habits of our 1 year old son and living in NY and so you still drink wine most everyday but not usually the good or interesting stuff. Lyle Fass does do a bit on his blog Rockss and Fruit about terrible, weird wines that he opens. But most of this stuff is old, rare wine that was never meant to age so much or was just gross and overpriced from the get go (maybe they're old samples he finds buried in the basement of Chambers Street). It doesn't include the everyday wines that might be ok or flawed but drinkable or boring. I'm not implying that these wine people only drink expensive wine, they just rarely drink average stuff and almost never drink supermarket stuff. I understand and am against mass-produced, supermarket brand wines like all the rest but I'd be interested to see a list of everything they drank, if there weren't a few Journeys or Eagles or Arcade Fires among all the jazz masterpieces and underground, indie-rock classics. So my next post will be a tasting list of all I had over the past few days. I'll probably forget a few things that I just tasted briefly with an importer rep. at the shop, but I'll try to include as much as I remember.


How do you blog when you know no one is reading? It's really a diary than, but you have to write assuming that at any moment someone could stumble through cyberspace onto your blog and then you have an audience. My hope is that eventually lots of people read it, but even if that happens these early posts will be buried so far back that it's doubtful anyone will see them. And if they do? What is their reward for going all the way back to the beginning? Nothing but that pervasive, mild sort of schizophrenia that exists throughout the ends of the internet; boring.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Question for those with expertise in the fields of Queer Theory, Feminist Theory and/or Religious Studies

Does Morrissey really know how Joan of Arc felt?


I've only posted once and I already have to make a correction. The posting about chilled reds is actually a column in the NYT, not an entry on Asimov's blog The Pour. Whatever. I plan on correcting my mistakes when I notice and hope others will do the same.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The wine blog I read most consistently is Eric Asimov’s on the New York Times Dining and Wine page. This section is under the larger heading, Style, and I find it fits neatly into the Times well-honed penchant for bringing the fringes and edges of art and culture into the (somewhat) mainstream. Something is out there on the periphery—it’s backyard orchards or steampunk or roaming dinner parties—and then it builds in some hip neighborhood and finally an astute Time’s reporter gets the go ahead to publish and from there it’s only a matter of months or even days ‘til it pops up on MSN’s homepage or the Today Show. The latest post on The Pour ( discusses chilled reds and although my wine shop in Brooklyn has been on this train for a couple years (we keep a selection of reds in a fridge) we will no doubt have customers coming in to tell us about what they just read and have we ever heard of such a thing or do we have the wines mentioned. So? Do I want some sort of cultural elite badge for maybe helping to push a trend into the mainstream? The short answer is yes. I really do want a badge that says look I’ve been saying this all along: chill your goddamned reds and now it’s in the NYT and so you should just assume that whatever I tell you from here on out is at the least prophetic. But really you should serve your reds cooler than you do unless you’re like me and you laughed when steampunk graced the cover of NYT’s Style section because you saw it coming all along and in the meantime you’ve been drinking Lapierre’s Morgon at 55 degrees Fahrenheit for at least a year and a half. Ha ha ha.