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Another new podcast!

In Uncategorized on March 21, 2017 at 4:48 pm

I know, I know, I need to write more blogs, I’m sorry you guys, I know I’m causing both of you to suffer. Anyways, I had a new podcast idea, and I’ve recorded two episodes so far, and I’d love for you to listen. A comic with whom I was working a few weeks ago gave me the idea to introduce comedy into my wine podcast, which I had somehow not thought of because I’m bad at thinking apparently. So, we drank a bottle of wine together and talked about wine and comedy. Then I did the same thing with a couple other comics, so now it’s a thing. Episodes are here.

Feedback is welcome.

I have a podcast!

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2017 at 3:19 pm

In case you’re new to my blog, or you don’t want to dig back to wherever I first posted a link to it, here’s a link to my podcast! I Think About Wine by I Think About Wine

https://itun.es/us/pUb4_.c

It features the same inconsistent publishing schedule you’ve come to know and love here on my blog, but also you get to hear me talk. Enjoy!

Also, I’m working on putting more content on here, but in the meantime I just re-read this article that I wrote a little over a year ago, and I still think it’s awesome. Enjoy.

Ten important wine terms for beginning servers.

In Uncategorized on January 5, 2017 at 3:40 pm

There is a lot to learn when it comes to wine, both as a server and as a consumer. As a salesman and an educator, I am constantly trying to find ways to make wine accessible to new learners in a way that prevents them becoming overwhelmed. So, here are ten important words/subjects that you are likely to encounter as you begin learning about wine:

 

Appellation-The place a wine is from. Every country has different rules for their appellation systems, so there is a lot to learn here. I consider the first and most important parts to be the fact that old-world wines are often named only after the region, whereas most new-world wines will bear the name of the region and the grape variety. Also, generally speaking, the smaller an area a wine comes from, the higher it’s assumed quality, price, etc.

Bold-This is a common descriptor, but it is unfortunately also not very specific. This word can be used to describe a wine with heavily concentrated fruit flavors, with intense tannins, a wine high in alcohol, or any combination of these factors. When faced with a customer asking for a bold wine, I try to lead them with additional questions to find exactly what the word means to them.

Burgundy-Burgundy is a region in France, but it is also a word that has been used for wines from California, and there are consumers who are unfamiliar with the distinction. The goal of clarifying this distinction should never be to be a pedantic know-it-all, but simply to clarify the customer’s actual need. In a retail setting, a person may be looking for Californian “Burgundy”, meaning inexpensive box wine, or they might need a higher-end French Pinot Noir.

Buttery-This is a descriptor that is most often used to describe California Chardonnay, but it is important to know that not all Chardonnay is buttery. It is a characteristic imparted by part of the fermentation process, not a characteristic inherent to the grape itself.

Champagne-Like Burgundy, this is a term that was co-opted by California winemakers, though now very few still use it. Many consumers still use the term broadly to refer to any sparkling wine. My two cents, it’s not necessary or in fact prudent to automatically launch into education every time a consumer misuses the word. I recommend using leading questions to find out more specifically what the customer needs. There are three factors that make Champagne what it is; the location, the fermentation, and the grapes. Two of these factors can be duplicated, and there are many wines from other parts of the world that are made in the same method as Champagne, and using the same grape varietals, and the finest among these can rival the quality of Champagne. There is a second fermentation method called the Charmat method, which is less difficult and costly than the Champagne method, and produces sometimes excellent wines, but with a distinctly different character from Champagne, owing largely to the fact that they are not left in extended contact with their fermentation lees.

Chianti-A third term that is often misunderstood by American consumers, Chianti is a region in Italy where the wines are made primarily of the local grape Sangiovese.

Oaky-Oak barrels are commonly used for the fermentation of many types of wine, the age and type of barrels. Oak barrels will impart flavor to wine for about 3 years, after which they are considered ‘neutral’.

Old World/New World- Simply put, the old world is Europe, and the new world is everywhere else. Stylistically, old world style wines are generally lower in alcohol, higher in acid, and often considered more austere or more of an ‘acquired taste’, particularly to American consumers. Wines made in the actual new world can be described as old world in style, or vice-versa.

Sweet/Dry- Actual sugar sweetness is a characteristic that can be measured, however there are several characteristics in wine that can make a wine seem more or less sweet, we can call this perceptual sweetness. A wine with no residual sugar can seem sweet, and a wine with residual sugar can seem dry, depending on the alcohol, acid, and tannin levels of the wine.

Terroir- Terroir is the French word for soil and environment in which a wine is produced, but in a broader sense can include many of the factors that go into creating a wine, from the farming of the grapes, through the specific decisions that can be made during the winemaking process.

 

Fact!

In Uncategorized on December 30, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Wine fact: the funniest word in the wine world is Bocksbeutel, which is the name for a specific type of wine bottle that comes from Franken, Germany. The bottle is a flattened oval shape, which is where it gets the name Bocksbeutel, which means goat scrotum.

California top ten grapes

In Uncategorized on March 7, 2016 at 10:28 am

I’m in the middle of writing a class on California wine, so I’m going through acreage statistics (2014), and found some things I thought were interesting.

#1- Chardonnay, 97k acres. I just thought this was kind of interesting because I would have assumed Cabernet would be #1. And, while red wine acreage does outpace white, 310k acres vs 185k, Chardonnay is still the #varietal for the state.

#2- Cabernet, 87k acres. No surprise here.

#3- Zinfandel, 47k acres. Not a shock, although I would have assumed Merlot would be ahead of Zinfandel.

#4-Merlot, 44k acres.

#5- Pinot Noir, 42k acres. Again, no surprise, Pinot Noir is extremely popular. But what stands out to me is the change in relative plantings. In 2004, Pinot Noir was still the #4 red grape, but with 24k acres, compared to 51k for Zinfandel and 54k for Merlot.

#6- French Colombard, 22k acres. This one caught me off guard. I had heard of the former glory of French Colombard in California, it was the most widely planted white grape in the state until it was usurped by Chardonnay in the 70s and 80s (Thanks, Chateau Montelena). Colombard has been on a steady downward trend since the height of its popularity (that 22k is down from 29k in 2004), but I thought it interesting that the 5th most widely planted wine grape in the state is one which most consumers aren’t even aware exists. The grape is rarely bottled itself, and is used primarily for blending or distillation.

#7- Syrah, 18k acres. I feel like Syrah has had a rough road among American consumers. A group of passionate and dedicated winemakers in the central coast lead the charge in planting Syrah, along with other Rhone varieties in the late 90s and early 2000s, but consumer response has been mixed, and the grape is currently experiencing a downward trend in total planted acres.

#8-Sauvignon Blanc, 15k acres

#9- Pinot Gris, 15k acres

#10- Rubired, 12k acres. This was one I hadn’t heard of before, it’s kind of interesting. It’s a hybrid of two Portuguese varieties, and it’s a tienturier grape, meaning it has both red skin and red flesh. Most red wine grapes are only red on the outside, their flesh is white. As a result, Rubired can produce extremely deeply colored juice, and can be added by winemakers wishing to produce more deeply colored wines.

I made a podcast

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2016 at 2:52 pm

I made a podcast to accompany this blog. You can listen. It is here https://soundcloud.com/i-think-about-wine. Or you can search for I Think About Wine on itunes. Enjoy my dulcet tones.

Mancan: the latest thing I hate.

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2015 at 3:08 pm

I’m not going to link to it, because I don’t want to run the risk of driving traffic to their website, but suffice it to say, yet another product has hit the market that is trading on the tropes of wine being “too complicated” and “not manly”, both premises that I find generally offensive. Here’s why.

  1. The “man” part. There is an implication inherent any time you put the word ‘man’ in front of any other word: that whatever it is was once not for men, but now it is. Purses aren’t for men? Solution: man-purse! Chapstick too girly? Boom! Dude-stick (yes, that’s a real thing). Want to enjoy a refreshing glass of sangria without being in danger of having your man-card revoked? Mangria (also real). Want to put your flowing locks up, but don’t want anybody equating it with some wussy girl hairstyle? Man-bun. Want to drink wine, but afraid your friends will call you a faggot for using a wine glass? Mancan. Gender equality can go fuck a rock. (Seriously, if your friends are still sincerely using ‘faggot’ as an insult, your friends are terrible.)
  2. You’re giving canned wine a bad name. I don’t object to wine being put in a can. At all. Ten years ago, nobody thought craft beer in a can would ever fly, and guess what! But Mancan trades on nothing but the gimmick of its packaging, you can tell by the name. There are two aspects to this wine. It is for dudes, and it is in a can. I’m all for quality wine in alternative packaging. I take canned and boxed wine camping all the time. It’s lightweight and convenient, it’s great! But I take those wines because I think they’re quality wines, regardless of their packaging. And to be clear, I have not even tried these wines, and for all I know, what’s in the can could be totally legit juice. But the packaging will still be profoundly stupid and misogynistic.
  3. Mancan is not original. Sorry, can-bro, but you’re not breaking any new ground here. Wine in a can has been on the market for several years at this point, so your product whose only distinguishing factor is the fact that it’s in a can just isn’t that interesting.
  4. This quote from the website: “OUT WITH A FRIEND AT A BAR, GRAHAM WISHED HE COULD ORDER WINE, BUT DIDN’T WANT A “SAUVIGNON BLANC” OR “PINOT” IN STEMWARE WHEN HIS FRIEND HAD A CAN OF BEER. HE BOUGHT MANCANWINE.COM THAT NIGHT.”   Graham sounds like a cartoonishly insecure douchebag. Seriously bro-Graham, if your masculinity is so fragile that you’re unwilling to touch a wine glass, I think you need to do some soul-searching.
  5. Seriously, what the fuck is up with the quotation marks around the grape varieties? It’s not like Pinot Noir is a nickname, or slang, or colloquialism. It’s just the name of the grape. I’m sincerely asking this question here: do you know the purpose of quotation marks? I’m not even judging. It’s not your fault brah, the public school system failed you. The internet is here to help. 
  6. Now that I think of it, what bar were you in where your bro-friend was actually drinking beer out of a can? Again, I’m not judging, it’s just that the story doesn’t hold together. I can only think of two circumstances where one would normally be drinking beer from a can in a bar; either it’s a dive bar where you’re drinking Beast Ice ironically because it’s 50 cents a can during happy hour, or it’s a progressive craft bar that serves one of the many great craft beers now available in a can. The thing is, if it’s the dive bar, you really shouldn’t drink the wine there anyway, and if it’s the craft bar, don’t they serve the can with a pint glass? I’m just saying.
  7. I want to flesh out the misogyny inherent in this attitude that certain things are for women, and are therefore unmasculine and gross/embarrassing/shameful. You understand that the inherent implication there is that it is gross/embarrassing/shameful to be a woman, right? And, I mean, if that’s the way you feel, I guess that’s a whole different issue, but if it’s not, you seriously need to spend some time on introspection. Personally, I love women. A woman carried me in her body, which I super appreciate, and every person I’ve ever done naked bedroom wrestling with has been a woman, and I legit LOVE naked bedroom wrestling. And that’s just my own selfish perspective. Beyond gestation and sex, it’s super important that all people, but men in particular begin dismantling traditional gender-assigned rules and roles, because with the exception of anatomy, there is basically nothing that is inherently male or female, from clothing to behavior to hairstyle, and most definitely not wine in a can.
  8. Finally, where does this idea that wine isn’t dudely enough even come from? Seriously, wine gets you drunk just as good as beer does, guys.

 

Dear every winery website

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2015 at 10:50 am

Dear every wine website,

Please stop asking me for my goddamn date of birth just to get onto your website. If I actually buy something, yeah, totally, check my ID, whatever, but I’m just here looking for information. Access to that information is going to make it easier for me to sell your products. And come on, you know I’m not actually taking the time to scroll to my actual birthday. I’m willing to bet you’ve got an overwhelming shitload of logins claiming to be born on January 1.

I’m assuming I’m not gonna get a lot of pushback on this argument, but just in case I do, let’s address every argument I can think of for why this age verification should exist.

“Alcohol is restricted. Minors aren’t allowed to have it.” Well, that’s so, but information about alcohol is not alcohol. And more importantly, minors are every bit as capable as the rest of us of lying, so this feature is doing literally absolutely nothing.

And that’s all. That’s the only reason that exists for making me pick a random date before 1994 before I can get on your website and find out how much Zinfandel is in your proprietary red blend.

I know, I know, they’re only doing it because they have to, right? I’m assuming that’s the case. Some legislator somewhere decided that this extra step had to exist, so I’d like to talk to that legislator real quick….

Fuck you, dude. Seriously, you couldn’t find anything better to do with your time than enact an idiotic piece of legislation that has the capacity to do absolutely nothing besides annoy the shit out of people looking for information about wine? Seriously, you think a winery website is gonna be the gateway getting minors into alcohol? You think teenagers are going to winery websites to score their first buzz? Really? Seriously, you think teenagers are starting on wine? Because they are not. They’re asking their older brothers, neighborhood degenerates, and local homeless people to buy them Joose and FourLoko at the gas station. Like normal teenagers. You dumb dick.

I’m legitimately sick of having this conversation.

In Uncategorized on May 31, 2015 at 5:49 pm

It happened again. Somebody got on a mission to prove that wine snobs are all full of shit, and then did a ‘study’ to prove it, and now it’s all over my goddamn Facebook, and I am sick of it. Joss Fong published a column entitled Expensive Wine is for Suckers. With all due respect to Mr Fong (very little), I’d like to suggest he cram this title up his ass.

I’ve tried hard to de-mistify wine over the last 13 years because I really like wine, and I want more people to be able to enjoy it. I make a specific effort to taste wines of all different styles, even styles which I don’t generally enjoy myself, just so I can remain as objective as possible in my assessments, and thereby be as helpful as possible when trying to help somebody choose the right wine for the right situation.

The trouble with this article, and most like it is, first and foremost, the title. It’s deliberately confrontational and sensationalist, and furthers the idea that there are these “wine snobs” out there who are looking down on you if you don’t know what “leesy” means. And I’m not saying that those people don’t exist, but those people are assholes independent of their interest in wine. If wine just suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth, those people would find something else to be condescending and snobby about. The rest of the wine-drinking world, and particularly the wine industry, is not out to get you just because you don’t know as much as us. You shouldn’t know as much as I do about wine. I’ve been doing this shit full-time for thirteen years. It would be outright irrational for somebody who doesn’t actually make a living in this industry to spend as much time and energy trying to learn all this crap. But do you know why I do that? Because it helps me sell wine to people. Not like a con artist who’s trying to figure out what are the right words to convince you to spend your rent on a bottle of rare Himalayan ice wine that’s harvested by sherpas and aged in barrels made out of the actual Noah’s Ark. I want to know as much about wine as I can so I can help you find the right wine for you. If you like that Santa Rita Cabernet more than the Honig Napa Cabernet, chances are you like a wine that’s basically just fruity and unassuming, and seriously that is fine with me. I can find you something that will work for you, just don’t try to make me feel like an asshole if I tell you that I genuinely prefer a more expensive wine.

The other problem with this article and others like it is food. This is a problem inherent to the wine press that is mentioned in the video, and seems to be all throughout the wine-reviewing industry. Wine tastes different with food. I don’t expect I need to get too deep into the science here. In my experience, most people who are shopping for wine are looking to have it with food. And even if they’re not, that’s a choice as well that’s going to impact your perception of the wine. Sugar, acid, tannins, and all the other chemical compounds in a wine will be perceived differently when put alongside different food pairings. Applying this to the Vox tasting, it can be generally assumed that an inexpensive wine is made to be drunk straightaway, and not specifically intended to go with food. Whereas the winemaker of the Honig almost certainly made his wine with the intention that 1) it be cellared for at least a few years and 2) it be consumed with food. The Santa Rita is literally made for these tasting conditions- it is meant to show it’s best straight out of the bottle, no aeration needed, and can be as easily appreciated in an office/video studio, as in an actual human environment. And it won’t suffer significantly from being served in COMPLETELY the wrong glassware, I mean come the fuck on, where the hell did you even get those glasses, Vox? Did you have a martini tasting last week and just bought too many glasses? Jesus tapdancing christ!

Ok, I’m calmed down now.

The other problem inherent to these “gotcha” articles that seem aimed at proving that people who claim to know things about wine actually don’t is the spurious nature of the qualifications of the judges they employ. Articles like this one will sometimes even tout the lack of experience of their tasters in an attempt to demonstrate the inherent objectivity of the palate of the common man. Or something. And here’s the thing, again, if you don’t drink a ton of wine, and you can’t tell the difference between the Honig and the Santa Rita, or you can tell the difference but you still like the cheaper one, that’s fine. Sincerely, it is. I don’t care. You should have what you like. But just because an admittedly inexperienced wine drinker prefers inexpensive wine, that doesn’t mean that people who enjoy more expensive wines are suckers. It’s exactly the same as developing a taste for any other subtly nuanced thing, whether it be food or cocktails or music or movies. I can’t tell the difference between good Dubstep and bad Dubstep, and I’m not using that as an example to make a joke about how Dubstep sucks, it just all sounds the same to me. But if you tell me you really really love dubstep, you’ve dedicated your career to becoming an expert in Dubstep, and then one day I need to buy a bottle of Dubstep, I’m gonna come to you, and I’m gonna trust your opinion, because you know a whole shitload about Dubstep, and all I know is this one time Deadmau5 played this prank on Skrillex.

Lesson learned-people who are assholes about wine are such because they are assholes, not because of the wine.

You get what you pay for, so what are you paying for? (part 1)

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2015 at 9:00 pm

I tasted a group of cheap wines today. And I’m using the word cheap on purpose in an attempt to overcome the negative stigma that I feel is associated with that word, especially when it comes to wine. I’m so accustomed to people objecting to the word, that I autocorrect to ‘value’ or ‘affordable’ almost as a reflex. When I say cheap, I mean in the most objective sense, using the #1 definition listed on dictionary.com; “costing very little; relatively low in price; inexpensive”. A bottle of wine that retails for $6 is cheap. Not “shitty”. Not “you should be embarrassed if anybody sees you buying that”. Not “the wine steward is allowed to treat you like shit because you like it”. Not “just leave it in the bag and drink it in the park because by buying it you become a hobo in the eyes of society and the law”.

It’s just cheap. And that’s ok.

Now, whether any of those other things I said are true depends on what else happens between the time the grapevine flowered and the time the liquid hit your lips.

If an exceptionally long time has passed between those two moments (let’s say you’re shopping at a local…um…outlet…that sells…um…groceries…) and you find a bottle of wine that’s vintage says it’s 8 years old. Chances are that wine is past it’s prime. That means that either a winery, a wholesaler, or a retailer sat on inventory for too long, and is now trying to get at least a little bit of their money back. Now, let’s say the store is selling it for $3. I’m gonna go ahead and say it’s safe to try. It might not taste great, but worst case scenario it’s cooking wine, and $3 is a fine price for cooking wine.

Let’s say there’s a wine that’s inexpensive, and it’s a current vintage, but you’ve only seen it at one particular retailer. We’ll make up a name. We’ll call it Four Dollar Larry. So, you can only buy Four Dollar Larry at a store called Transaction John’s. A friend says it tastes ok for $4, and you’ve got to take something to the party. Fine, your friends are only worth $4, whatever, I’m not hanging out with you, but whatever. But is it really a good deal? I will argue no, and here’s why. Retailers want private label wines, wines that no other retailer can carry, because they’re able to make additional margin on those wines. If a wine is widely available, they know they have to be competitive with pricing. So, when Transaction John’s is picking the juice that’s going to go into Four Dollar Larry, literally their only concern is getting the juice in the bottle for the lowest price possible, in order to maximize their profit margins.

Now, there are other circumstances when a retailer may have an exclusive on what I’ll call a real wine. Real wine means it comes from an actual place, rather than being blended together from the cheapest juice available. You can’t take a vineyard tour or meet the winemaker of Four Dollar Larry.

When a retailer buys an exclusive of a real wine, however, that can be a good deal. That is because by buying the exclusive, they can often make a deal with a winery or importer that allows them to increase their own profits while still decreasing the price to the consumer. This is where knowing and trusting your local wine professional is suuuper important. Then again, I advocate doing business exclusively with people you trust, at least wherever possible.

I’ve gone well past what I meant to say on this subject, so this is gonna have to be a two-parter, so I’ll just say one more thing on cheap wine, then I’ll talk about when expensive wine is worth it in the next post.

If you enjoy cheap wine, good on you. Save the extra money. If you feel bad about the cheap wine you like, do me a favor. Start a savings account. Decide how much you think you ‘should’ be spending on wine, and then subtract what you’re actually paying for the cheap wine you like, and every time you buy your cheap wine, deposit that difference in your special savings account. And then, I don’t know, do whatever, buy something that will make you happy with it, because nobody should make you feel like you need to spend more money on wine if there’s something cheap that makes you perfectly happy.

Except chocolate wine. Stop fucking drinking chocolate wine. You make me sick.

Gross.