Embrace the "Snobs." Don’t Drink Cheap(ened) Wine

The Joys of Processed Wine and  Ignore the SnobsDrink the Cheap, Delicious Wine was the two-titled opinion piece from writer Bianca Bosker. It appeared in last week’s New York Times. It didn’t strike a nerve but it did press buttons. “The story shouldn’t have been titled cheap wine, it should have been cheap shots,” wrote Vermont winemaker Deirdre Heekin. 

 I’m not sure those who reacted to the click-bait of it all were being fair. Any thinking person who read Bosker's conclusion (or the titles), would guess the writer was clearly out of her mind. But while I would have rather believed that explanation, I expect something else had to be going on.

For me the Op-Ed’s problems were elsewhere; credibility and believability. Or as the Times magazine cover suggests, "Is truth dead?" In that Times piece was a deep bait and switch that you would only know if you read the Bosker book. Which I did.

 

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Photo grabbed from Marko Kovac's facebook page. I've no idea where he found it. 

 

The Cork Dork--which reveals more about Bosker's ambition and competitive nature than any love for or knowledge of wine--energetically chronicles her journey towards the first certified level of the Master Sommelier exam.

This is more like running the Turkey Trot than the Boston Marathon, but through the study one should pick up some tips.  However, being considered a pro or an expert does not come along with that first pin. I suppose this is why there are so many misleading and wrong statements in her essay such as "learning to savor the delicate aromas of aged Barolos from organic growers in Piedmont." That's a weird one? How old? This was one of the worst farmed areas for ages. Organic except for the very few is a rare thing.

Then there's,  “I spent long days studying the farming practices that distinguish the Grand Crus of Burgundy.” 

Farming practices do not separate the Grand from the Village, geology and micro-climate do. There’s a bunch of other stuff I can take on in the essay. While this might seem like small potatoes, it does makes me question her wine knowledge and grasp of the market. But what really confounded me was her flip from her book to a flop of a different conclusion in the Times.

Here’s the deal: The Op-Ed was a condensed version of one of her book's chapters entitled, Quality Control. In that chapter she discusses wine additives and the way marketing team can shape a wine.

The essay oddly reads as if she were on a Treasury press junket. I don’t know whether she was or not, but one understands that she drank and liked Treasury's Kool-Aid. There she was, tasting the wines after a certain natural wine bashing and then  she drops this bomb;

These maligned bottles have a place. The time has come to learn to love unnatural wines.”

Honest opinion here: Treasury and others of their ilk should run and grab this concept for a press release. It’s perfectly transparent. Its message? “So what if we load up wines with process and additives? We make wines of pleasure.”

So in the Times she says processed wines are great.

In her book when at the same big table tasting yeasted, chipped, mega-purpled, reverse-osmosed, acidified, enzymed, Velcorined wines, she seems to have had a very different experience.

They reminded me of blueberry smoothies with a shot of vodka and Hershey's syrup stirred in. But I was trying to keep an open mind. Price is a spice, I reminded myself, and don’t be such a snob. Truth be told, I didn't want to finish them. There was nothing new that revealed itself after the second sip.

 

In the memoir she couldn’t drink the wines.

In the essay she embraced them.

Okay. Fess up. Which one is it? And what would prompt the author to so drastically change her opinion from book to post. In the age of press manipulation, the whole situation left me uncomfortable, and that the Times printed it, took her seriously was part of it. 

Eric Asimov recently wrote a fabulous column, wine is food. Bravo. Absolutely. Fresh orange juice or concentrate? Fresh strawberry or artificial flavor. Genetically modified tomatoes or a syrupy, black acidic one. Wine from grapes or from 60+ additives. Which one do you want to drink? The answer seems is self-evident. To paraphrase Aubert de Villaine, “Do I have to prove that the sun rises?”

To most of us who take wine and food seriously, wines of pleasure are not  concocted grape beverages from ground that I wouldn’t want to walk on let alone eat from. What gives pleasure is deliciousness from great winemakers who can work soils responsibly and give the grapevine an unadorned and unspoofed voice. 

If this piece that would land on April Fool’s Day I would have gotten it. But it didn’t. But frankly, any writer who confesses, as she has, to have a weakness for old champagne --which is a game only the well-heeled can play-- comes off as someone sipping out of her coupe and saying let them drink cake, or rather Layer Cake.  

when Hugh Johnson talks about natural wine

When the wine writer emeritus Hugh Johnson told Washington Post wine writer David McIntyre that "orange" wines were a sideshow and a waste of time fur raised on Facebook and Twitter. He went on to say, "Making good wine is hardly modern technology, it’s just experience and common sense. And hygiene!"

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He's right about the part on making good wine, of course. But the sharp that stuck in the throats of wine drinkers who have come to love skin-contact wines (full disclosure, I did write a love poem to Georgian wine, home to skin-contact) was that this wonderful writer, (thoughtful enough to write me a fan letter after The Battle for Wine and Love came out. I was completely honored.) the very same one who wrote The History of Wine, failed to realize that orange wine was nothing new but a revival of all things old, and made by common sense and without a doubt, hygiene.

Yes, Mr. Johnson, today, we do know how to make a really good wine and many times--though not always--the ancients had something to teach us way more than the modern laboratory does. Cleanliness of course is key. All agreed.

Back in something like 2006 the first skin contacts started to arrive on our shores. Many weren't successful. Some had dried, starched fruit and aggressive tannins. But over the past decade as the skins were more understood as a way to make wine without addition, when the use of clay for fermentation spread (grape juice takes to clay as butter takes to toast), and winemakers learned to do less, great "orange" wines have proliferated. Not because they were a style, but because they had a purpose. They have developed a juiciness that combine the refreshment of white with the satisfaction of red. Many are in this category. Some are raised in wood like Radikon, La Stoppa and La Garagista, but others raised in clay like Vodopevic, Pheasants Tears and Iago.  

The disappointment here was not that Mr. Johnson didn't like orange wines. He gets to. But from this scholar and historian, we all expected a more thoughtful and researched statement and opinion.

Now we have another piece from him, in Decanter, where he seemed to suggest that natural wines were the wine equivalent of the Paleo Diet. In it he posed the question; 'Is "natural" a self-justifying word to cover any sort of accident?'

I think it's time for Mr. Johnson to take a break from garden writing for a minute to reconsider his words. Give us the courtesy of a more well-researched response instead of falling down the tweet drain --the second son of the blog--where unsupported feelings have become the norm. There are plenty of wines that are made like a military bed, tightened so extremely that an accident surely has happened. And yet it finds its way into a bottle. This statement is a little aggressive.

Then he dances with a lovely line that could have had some truth to it. "Wines like unmade beds are the In Thing." 

But what exactly does he mean?  What is his unmade bed and how tight does he like his sheets? Hospital corners? A little rumpled just enough to remember the night of passion?  Give us a little there, there. 

I kind of liked his unmade bed analogy.  Today, there are indeed too many wines, "like unmade beds." These to me are unfinished, quick to the bottle before the flavors and aromas have evolved to stability. Many are being supported mostly by newcomers to wine who find these wines fresh. This is a state of infatuation that can stay with the drinker for I'd say, up to ten years. And to some sommeliers who are following trends it could be an 'In Thing.' And my sympathies are with him if he has fallen victim to such a wine director. But there is life beyond the bottled wine still in progress, and surely he's had these --because they are some of today's most celebrated wines, but failed to identify them.

However, when he suggests the word natural is a coverup tactic, is he actually suggesting that  Burgundy, Bordeaux, Brunello, Barolo, made according to the spec sheet, still with ridiculous amounts of very bad and sour wood taint, too much acrid So2 addition, tannin addition and sloppy acidification, not to say anything about chemical agriculture, are superior? Do those get pass? Or is it that Mr. Johnson knows how to avoid those wines yet does not yet know how to navigate the world of natural?  In that case he should subscribe to my newsletter. 

The most stupefying sentiment, however, was tucked into his penultimate graf. 

The sales pitch for natural wine usually tells you that conventional wines contain a lot of non-grape juice gunk. Fish guts: horror. Egg whites: poison. Sulphites: allergens. Colouring: dishonest. Sugar: cheating.

There seems to be a high ground – is it moral, ethical, fashionable, hygienic? – shared by ‘naturalists’ and vegans. Then again, if you read the list of preservatives and allergens on any supermarket packet, you may want to give up eating altogether.

Mr. Johnson fails to acknowledge the 72+ which sail beyond chaptalization and fining... and coloring? Really Mr. J, do you want your claret colored? And by the way, who is giving this so-called sales pitch?  He also ---and surely he knows better--understands that most of todays wines are not made by commonsense and vintage, but by marketer and machine. And I don't know about you, but I don't eat processed food with anything artificial in it.

Look: Most of us have come to natural wine because the other seems dead. Lifeless. Natural wine, made with grape alone from healthy soil---the good ones, and there are many--make us happy.

Many of us choose our food the way we choose our wine and choose our wine the way we choose our food. Meaning any list of ingredients that I don't want to ingest, whether in cookies or in wine, I don't. Real food alone. Yes. Grape alone. A little So2 perhaps. Minimum intervention. Yes.

These wines mesh with our philosophy AND excite our senses. This is not the 'in thing,' this is not a fad. This is the future.

However, buried in the ill-edited piece is the nut of the piece: change natural wine to alternative wine.

Hmm...would that be like alternative fact?

Nope. That won't work. To those of us who only drink natural and natural enough, there's nothing alternative about it. Those wines? They're the real thing.

 

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The Wine Trends of 2017

 What are the wine trends for 2017? I am looking to these top ten.

  

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1) Natural wine noise settles down

The non-stop stories about this new  natural wine will finally slow down as the world realizes this is not fad, but just a return to sensibility. In the end, what good wine is will get redefined and we can get back to the business at hand, drinking.

2) More conventional winemakers will actively seek to crash into the natural wine world

Gatekeepers like Isabelle Légeron, and The Feiring Line will prove essential to keep the interlopers at bay. This means you, who cross-flow filter your wines and grow with systemics and can't quite understand why your wines are not considered natural when there are such fine marketing opportunities you could take advantage of, if only they'd let you in. Just when I thought it was getting easier, the role of wine cop will be more intense.

3) Wine writers, critics and tasters will speak up (about mouse taint and other wine flaws)

Some of our most beloved winemakers wine's been thus afflicted with mouse taint. This is the kombuchu-like, gassy retronasal smell that messes with a wine's finish.

Over the years there has been a collusion of protection, much like when a good friend has bad breath; i noted, moved away from but rarely mentioned. In 2017--at least when talking of wine--this avoidance will stop. The discussion will be broached, and discussion is essential. Skilled winemakers are stymied, why does this happen. I even experienced it on the not hard core natural, Terroir al Limit  rosé.  Is it about wine in the bottle too quickly? Is it about something going screwy in malo? Too warm in the winery?  Is it true that a little S02 squelches the problem or that give it some time it will resolve? (I had a three-part series on this issue over at TFLN) New drinkers will understand that this isn't merely a sign of it's natural so it's good, but that it is can be indeed be a sign of natural yet is a most unpleasant problem. 

4) The new collector will start putting out the bucks for natural Burgundy

The well-heeled collector was used to going bargain hunting in the Loire for slumming but stayed conservative when buying Burgundy. But that price barrier will be breached in 2017. This isi when outlier Burgundy gets respect. Collectors will spread their reach from Fred Mugnier to let's say, Jean Yves Bizot. They will not only stock up on Jean Marc Roulot but they'll stock Pierre Fenals. As this new drinker armed with credit cards and an increasing curiosity, develops tasting chops and is ready to explore the holy terroir and will finally pay the three-digit price tag for it. 

5) Reconsidering the vats 

As winemakers look for the most stable and least interfering container for fermentation, stainless will continue to lose as will oak. Interest in cement and especially clay grow into preferred  essential fermentation vessels. What is unclear is what the oak industry do to fight back.

6) What we will drink

More Georgian, Slovakian/Moravian wine, natural Chiléan and Austrian will be the big splash. Grapes that will rise this year? Look out for aligoté a grape that is superb but for years disrespected, makes a comeback. The Pet' Nat craze will saturate the market one more year before pulling back. Rosé stays strong. 

7) Biggest Burgundy story?

Survival. With 2016 being one of the most devastating with frost and hail decimating crops and offering yet another miniscule vintage, winemakers are doing what they need to do. Look to gamay from the Loire and syrah from the Rhone and even carignan from the southwest being made in the Côte d' Or in 2016.  And that means more from one of France's most sublime hi-rent district as Burgundy goes shopping for grapes elsewhere.

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8) The world goes to pot

Last year when on a panel at the Grape Symposium on market disruption, the great Gilian Handelman pointed to pot as the biggest industry disrupter. We will see the beginnings of her soothsaying this year. Marijuana will impact on a certain sector of wine consumption, at the supermarket level. 

9) A backlash on the vin de soifiness of carbonic maceration

While there will always be a place for the wines that are easy to drink without food, a respect, admiration and demand will be on the rise for wines with backbone and spine, as well as those who commit to allowing wine to take its time. 

10) Cider and other wild fermentations

Wines that come from other sources than grape will make a break for the wine list. This means you, mead and autumn olive.  

What's the big wine takeaway? In 2017, wine boundaries break down. There's an increase of interest in the exciting, no matter where they come from. 

Best Wine Moments in 2016 (p.1)

I received an email from a friend who is ex-patrioted who said he was bored with wine, and he hopes to get it back. Sometimes when making a living at what we're good at, whether importing or writing, it can indeed kill the love. I too have been in this position, really? Another tasting note? Another story? How can I fire up the enthusiasm. Especially when working in a local fast food place is a better living than capitalizing on my two decades of experience playing pairing words and wine. 

But looking over the year at stories that I loved writing, about people worth writing about their soil, and tasting the rare wine that wasn't just drink-worthy but transformational, or ones that merely just give pleasure, and the people and the conversations..I think can indeed restore the love, and I am feeling it these days. The love.Yet when I look over the memories, sure I could pull the bottle shots, but mostly they were wine moments. I could tell you the wines, and the bottles are scattered throughout, but this year, I'm going with the pictorial.

So here's to my struggling, enervated colleagues. I hope these help inspire, and if I failed to give the stories, there's room in your own imagination to make them happen. 

Happy New Year to all, may there be miracles...  Alice  

 

The year started out with Pierre & Catherine's 30th anniversary birthday bash

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                  Pierre does his party trick. DSC03136

Last January I landed in Angers, went immediately to tastings and that night Pascaline and I went to a fabulous party at the Breton's to celebrate their 30 years making exquisite wine. It was packed. 

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Some of the very memorable guests...Fred Cossard, Jean Foillard, and David Lillie

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 Xavier Caillard, expressive, magical wines. Here is telling us of his battle with with vine virus esca and its tedious fix. 

 

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Meeting the remarkable Hacquet sisters. 

 

                                                                                                                                                  

                                                 BasculeLunch with Eric Texier and Pascaline at de la Bascule  (we drank Yohan Lardy)

 

IMG_7257          IMG_7290  the judging dream team, wine without walls

 

                                                        DSC03488book signing!

 

 

 


IMG_7349   A lunch in Vittoria with the Occhipintis, Arianna and her uncle Guisto

 

 

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Salvo Foti on Etna

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Faro Giuseppina, a great Etna discovery

and then there's Eduardo's wine

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A beautiful Rosso from Etna's basalt

 

And the beautiful mess at Calabretto.. IMG_7597



in the morning we were in the sun, on the volcano, by night fall we were in Trentino. And in the morning after a restful night we took the gospel from Elisabetta Foradori. 

 

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End Part 1

TTP wants to put more, not less, into your wines

Elaine Brown alerted to me about a petition that had just gone up on the TTB site.

I went right to it. The document is dense. It is complicated. And it is stunning.

Now when industry is using less, big wine wants to use more. The TTB should understand that commercial wine and real wine need different governance. If people buy wine in the supermarket they can expect flavorings. If buying what they consider fine wine, then that category should offer the consumer some protections.

Most of the petitions have been requested by Gusmer Industries, a sales and wine consultancy that has been invaluable to me to find out what is the latest on wine manipulations. They are particularly interested in increasing the nutrients as well as the maximum dosage of additions.

There are also proposed changes to wine processing, and a special request by Constellation Brands.  

I've tried to provide a cheat sheet. Please head to the website for a complete distillation, and if you don't think the amount of gum arabic, biotin, niacin, PVP, chitosan should be increased or even allowed, please speak up. 

Acacia (gum arabic): TTB is proposing to authorize a maximum use rate of 8 pounds of acacia per 1,000 gallons (1.92 grams per Liter (g/L)) of wine in the list of authorized wine and juice treating materials in § 24.246. Acacia is currently listed in § 24.246 as an authorized treating material to clarify and stabilize wine, subject to a limitation that its use shall not exceed 2 pounds per 1,000 gallons (0.24 g/L) of wine

This category has a limit of one percent acacia gum (rather than 2 percent); the functional effects for this category match TTB's uses as clarifying and stabilizing wine. TTB is correcting this mistake in this rulemaking by proposing to increase the maximum use rate of acacia gum in wine to 8 pounds per 1,000 gallons of wine. TTB's earlier administrative approvals authorizing the use of acacia at levels greater than 8 pounds per 1,000 gallons of wine are revoked.

Potato protein isolates: as a fining agent. 

Sodium carboxymethyl cellulose: to stabilize wine from tartrate precipitation at a level not to exceed 0.8 percent of the wine.

Chitosan: TTB is proposing to add chitosan from Aspergillus niger, at a use rate not to exceed 10 grams per 100 liters of wine, to the list of approved wine and juice treating materials contained in § 24.246. TTB administratively approved several industry member requests to use chitosan from Aspergillus niger to remove spoilage organisms, such as Brettanomyces, from wine.  

*** Chitosan previously used has been derived from crab shells, this Aspergillus niger is responsible for what we know as black mold. 

 Inositol (myo-inositol): TTB is proposing to add inositol to the list of authorized wine and juice treating materials in § 24.246 to be used as a yeast nutrient at a use rate not to exceed 2 ppm.

Polyvinyl-pyrrolidone (PVP)/polyvinylimadazole (PVI) polymer: wine treating material to be used for clarifying and stabilizing alcohol beverages. According to FDA FCN No. 320, the blend “is intended to be added directly to alcoholic beverages during the maturation process . . . is to be completely removed by filtration . . . and is limited to single use applications.” The amount must not exceed 80 grams per 100 liters of wine.

L(+) tartaric acid: TTB administratively approved several industry member requests to use L(+) tartaric acid, prepared using an enzyme from immobilized Rhodococcus ruber cells, to correct natural acid deficiencies and to reduce pH when ameliorating material is used in the production of grape wine.

The list of SIX new nutrients Gusmer wants added

Bakers yeast mannoprotein: TTB administratively approved the use of bakers yeast mannoprotein to stabilize wine from the precipitation of potassium bitartrate crystals,

Beta-glucanase: TTB is proposing to add beta-glucanase, at a use rate of 30 parts per million (ppm) of wine, to the list of approved wine and juice treating materials contained in § 24.246.

Biotin: The Gusmer petition proposed a maximum use rate for biotin of 25 ppb.

Calcium pantothenate (vitamin B5):  TTB administratively approved an industry member's request to use calcium pantothenate as a yeast nutrient in the production of wine.

Folic acid: TTB is proposing to add folic acid to the list of authorized wine and juice treating materials in § 24.246 for use as a yeast nutrient at a use rate not to exceed 100 ppb.

Magnesium sulfate:  Nutrient

Pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6):  Nutrient

Machinery

CROSS FLOW FILTRATION

Both nanofiltration and ultrafiltration are capable of reducing alcohol content in wine, and this proposed liberalization will provide industry members with more tools to reduce the alcohol content of wine.

REVERSE OSMOSIS IN COMBINATION WITH OSMOTIC TRANSPORT

TTB administratively approved several requests to use reverse osmosis in combination with osmotic transport to reduce the ethyl alcohol content in wine.

ULTRAFILTRATION

In two separate requests, an industry member requested to use ultrafiltration to separate red grape juice into high and low color fractions for blending purposes, and to separate white grape juice that had darkened due to oxidation during storage into high and low color fractions for blending purposes.

USE OF WOOD TO TREAT NATURAL WINE

 TTB is authorizing the use of toasted wood in this proposal. Section 24.185(b) would state TTB's position on the use of wood essences and extracts in the production of wine.

TTB is also proposing to remove the last sentence from § 24.225 (“Wooden storage tanks used for the addition of spirits may be used for the baking of wine”) and include it in the new § 24.185, and to remove the reference to oak chips from § 24.246 and include it in new § 24.185, in an effort to maintain in one location all regulatory provisions pertaining to the treatment of wine with wood.

ACCIDENTAL WATER ADDITIONS 

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Accidental? This is really funny. It's illegal to add water to wine but everyone uses "Jesus Juice" to bring down the alcohol. How do you drop tons of water into the tank by accident? Or is this just another way to increase sales of Reverse Osmosis?

TTB has approved the use of reverse osmosis and distillation to remove water from wine under TTB's authority in § 24.249. In those reviews, TTB considered how the accidental water addition occurred, the ratio of water to wine, and whether or not the requesting industry member has submitted similar requests in the past. TTB applied the following conditions to those approvals. The industry member must:

  • Return the wine to its original condition;
  • Transfer the wine to and from the distilled spirits plant for treatment in bond;
  • Not remove more water than was accidentally added;
  • Not alter the vinous character of the wine; and
  • Keep the usual and customary records of the processing.

TTB believes that proprietors should have the authority to remove small amounts of accidentally added water from wine using reverse osmosis and distillation without first seeking TTB approval. 

 

 

Other Issues for Public Comment and Possible Regulatory Action

++Reverse Osmosis To Enhance the Phenol Flavor and Characteristics of Wine and To Reduce the Water Content of Standard Wine

 

TTB has not received other requests from industry members to use reverse osmosis to improve the phenol and flavor character of wine. However, TTB did receive a request to use reverse osmosis to improve the “sensory quality” of finished wines and to evaluate the potential sensory benefit of water content reduction compared to the resultant loss of volume.

 

If you believe that the use of reverse osmosis for these purposes is consistent with good commercial practice, your comments should explain your position in detail, as well as provide guidelines/standards concerning how much water (maximum percentage) may be removed. If you believe that the use of reverse osmosis for these purposes is not consistent with good commercial practice, your comments should explain your position in detail.

 

LET THEM KNOW HOW YOU FEEL

 

  • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal:You may send comments via the online comment form linked to this document in Docket No. TTB-2016-0010 on “gov,” the Federal e-rulemaking portal, at https://www.regulations.gov. Direct links to the comment form and docket are available under Notice No. 164 on the TTB Web site a https://www.ttb.gov/wine/wine-rulemaking.shtml 

 

Inclusive and affordable wines for Thanksgiving 2016

For no good reason at all---except that I flunk self-promotion, the wines I send out monthly to The Feiring Line Wine Society are cloaked in secrecy.  I've a right mind to change that and giving the mono-chrome political climate, it seems correct that I break the silence with Thanksgiving.

This year the message is poignant;  resist the mono-varietal supremacy and go for the blend. A melange of grapes in a bottle make plenty of sense. These can be perfectly wonderful melting pot way of celebrating the diversity that makes America great, even though some---like the current president elect---see nothing to praise.

All are in featured in my annual Econoplus issue---great wines under $18

All organic or biodynamic. All with low So2 (none here have zero). 

 

 

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2014 Podere Giardino Lambrusco “Suoli Cataldi"

Where: Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Grapes:  Mostly lambrusco marani, lambrusco salamino, and lambrusco oliva. 10% is divided between ancellotta and malbo gentile. 

 Here I give you one winner from the 2016 Wine Without Walls award that I presided over at VinItaly. It's an example of how Emilia's wines are singing excitement. A red lambrusco. This specific one comes from a 1.5ha plot with a sandy clay soils locally called ‘Cataldi.’ It's firm, earthy,  refreshing, blending the the bubble with tannin in an exciting way. Classic pairing is prosciuitti and all things cured and piggy, but think larger--or smaller, depending on how big a turkey you're dealing with.

 

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NV Leon Boesch Edelzwicker

Where: Alsace, France

Grape: sylvaner, pinot blanc, pinot gris, muscat

A full liter for a good price makes this fun wine even more of an event. It's NV but based on the 2013 vintage. Absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving, whether a host gift or plunked on your own table.  Why? Edelzwicker is a category in Alsace for blends, and what is Thanksgiving other than a blend of humans from all over. Celebrate that with a  bottled field blend. As far as the vigneron?  I'm in love with everything Boesch. Raised in old foudres, balanced, peach and peach pit, with a good dose of grapefruit acidity that makes you reach for more. 

 

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Grange Tiphaine Ad Libatum 2015

Where: Touraine-Amboise, Loire Valley,France

Grape: cot, gamay, cabernet franc

Damien Delecheneau's entry level wine has become way more serious when he stopped doing carbo. This is now reborn as a  beautiful wine from organic vines between 15-45 years grown in limestone soils. Raised in tank, with no wood involvement we have purity, structure, velvet, bones, dusty fruit underneath it all. 

   

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2013 Cellers de Can Suriol Azimut Negre

From: Penedes, Spain

Grapes 40% ull de llebre (tempranillo), 20% garnatxa, 20% monastrell, 10% syrah, 10% samsó (carignan)

 Suriol is among those pioneering natural in the Penedes so forgive the terrible packaging. What lies beneath is and adult wine worthy of the crowd, or the Friday after the holiday when you want casual. This actually over delivers. S It's velvety, mentholated cherry and a good dollop of acid. 

 

 

The blend of grapes, an ancient tradition. Never forget it. 

Helping our Wine Friends in France

The season of 2016 was a disaster in many parts of Europe. Hail. Flood. Drought. Frost. Mildou. Five of the ten plagues. As a result some people in the great tradition of no atheists in a fox hole, stopped their bio or biodynamic practice. It didn't help. No chemical treatment could prevent the disaster. Others kept the faith with the same outcome.

But here's the thing.  Many people we drink in every vintage had almost nothing to pick. This is the year that people in Burgundy do what the Californian's do---buy grapes. This is the year you get to see what a syrah looks like when made in the middle of Chablis or a cinsaut made in Vosne. It will indeed be an assortment of  strange wines emerging from the hands of familiar people. However, as fun as that might be for one year, it is really a terrible financial hardship for many, and some vignerons. And so what can you do to help? Drink and buy wine. Here's the press release. 

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Racines NY and Chambers Street Wines are participating in Vendanges Solidaires (www.vendangessolidaires.com/en/home/), an initiative started by the French wine community to aid vignerons affected by extreme weather as frost, hail and drought, formerly rare occurrences, now more common and more intense due to climate change. This year in parts of Beaujolais, Bourgogne, Loire and Languedoc – including Chablis, Morgon, Fleurie, Pic-Saint-Loup and Menetou-Salon – some winemakers lost 70 to 100% of their harvest - a whole year of work ruined by one night of frost or 15 minutes of hail. In show of a solidarity and support, Racines NY and Chambers Street Wine are joining a number of restaurants and wine shops in France to help raise money to aid the most vulnerable and affected winemakers (most have only been making wine for less than 10 years).

Financial aid collected via Vendanges Solidaires, which was formed by a group of French retailers and restaurateurs, will go to those most in need – winemakers who have been established for less than ten years and who suffered 75% losses or more. Racines NY (94 Chambers St., 212-227-3400,www.racinesny.com) will donate $2 from every bottle of French wine sold from October 24th through November 5th. And Chambers Street Wines (148 Chambers St., 212-227-1434) willdonate $1 from every bottle of French wine sold at the store October 29 - 30. In addition, those wishing to donate directly may do so by searching for "Vendanges Solidaires" atwww.chambersstwines.com, donations are accepted now until Nov 6.

Mother and the friend. Sexism and the silvaner

"Go ahead, you don't have to stay with me," Ethel said.

Ethel, that's my no-longer-89-year-old, still doing the daily drive in from Long Beach to 'the place' on the Bowery, Mom. (Jewelry, if you must know. 82 Bowery. Piccadilly)

A few days back she had cataract surgery. At the intake they asked her about her alcohol intake. I answered for her, "Not enough." 

The nurse wrote it down as two glasses a week. This showed up on the medical chart as uses two glasses a week.

Uses? Sips for Kiddush.

Glasses? Hah!  Thimble-sized vessels! And she fills those thimbles with  5% mega-purple enhanced kosher wine. "The best there is," she says.

She's serious. 

Mom passed the operation with courage and flair. Post, she was miserable, pissed off that she still needed glasses, terrified to find teensie balls of crud in the corner of her eyes. She, always negative, was positive the procedure failed.  "You really need a drink," I said.

Not until shabbos.

Five days later, I waited for her at the Eye and Ear. She was a half-hour late. "Traffic was impossible. A two-hour trip," she said as I signed her in.

She was feeling guilty. "I can do this on my own. Go. Go." Then she stopped ranting and asked, "What is it you have to do today?"

"A tasting," I said.

"Always with the tastings," she shook her head. "Ah, well, I feel guilty enough for last week."

I was quite stunned, she actually seemed to look burdened by guilt.

"Go live your life. Not that approve of what you do..." She then shot me a look that could defeather a chicken and then added, "Please tell me you don't swallow." 

In my life, swallowing is involved.

Just the other night I swallowed a particular wine. It made me happy. I needed to be happy because I was pondering a particularly pernicious oft- asked question, "Have you experienced sexism in the wine world?"

My pat answer has been to say no more than others. Then I often have reconsidered and said that   introvertism and lone-wolfism had had more of an impact. "One gets ahead by networking, not sitting alone in the corner," I'd offer, "I rarely can figure out the safety route to the middle of the room." 

While my shyness is a liability, so is being outspoken and opinionated, traits that are celebrated in men and in women? Hmm, not so.

Oh, that old boys club. Not exactly as profound as Roger Ailes, but the wine world has had its very own special sand box of changing characters. Finally, even to me,  a woman taught to look away, to make excuses, to say, no, that didn't happen, the sexism was undeniable. Under the rubric of satire? An attempt at humor, based in ignorance without point of view is not satire. So, the next time that question comes up? Check. I'm going for it.

That crazy-assed silvaner pulled back the curtain to revelations. It deconstructed fantasy and turned it into reality. Yet at the same time it was one that would scare hoses of all sorts. The wine was 2 Nature Kinder. I knew it wasn't only a wine, for those who don't like this thing called natural wine, it could be a weapon. 

The 2 Kinder's feet are in Franken, Germany. A place known for crazy high acid wines and really shitty agriculture. You know, the take no prisoners approach to pests and weed killing.

All that changed when young Michael Völker rode in on his white horse, his beautiful wife Melanie at his side to take back his dad's winery. In only a few years, in miserable weather, the wet, the rot, they showed that wine and the earth could be different. And Franken, could be known for something else other than their Mateus bottles known as Bocksbeutel. In the states they will soon be represented by Jenny & Francois. The price yet unknown. It won't be eviscerating. May they go forward and fruitify.

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 There's a man people call my boyfriend but-well, he prefers 'friend,' (which makes me think of little girls of the sixties who got their period, but nevertheless). My 'friend' was a little shocked by the wine.

"Is it a little too cidery?" I asked him.

Sitting at the head of the table, his fingers about to pince a green olive, he said yes. But these days he's dealing with IBS or a relative and maybe everything is tasting a little sharp, because usually, he can swing with me on the wine perversion.

 "But it's so refreshing!" I declared. "And what about that zingy silver water in there, and its energy?"

The weather was sticky and tropical. The sun so bright the humidity caked. I imagined being in a solid vat of vaseline.  The wine swung through it like a hulu hoop. All of the sudden I was a little girl jumping through a hose in the backyard, with Becky barking alongside, egging me to leave the hose behind and celebrate the joy of a sprinkler.

Nice stuff. Metal and cringle and edge. Sprinklers. Waterfalls. Refreshment.  A time when my brother was alive. He would have been curious. The wine's  finish went on all the way to the next morning. That is wine. 

"I suppose it is cidery," I admitted, even though for me it was so alive and quaffable, I couldn't fault it for it, and anyway, I drink Bragg's Apple Cider vinegar by the spoonful. To me this is not a negative. 

It was my second experience with the wine. I loved it as much back then when I had it in a blind tasting. Judging, actually. It showed up in April during the VinItaly Wine Without Walls award. I had my judges at my side. It was in the afternoon. This bottle in a green sock appeared. We poured. We tasted. The chorus started to sing and the sprinkler went on high. It was our afternoon beer, our breakfast champagne, it was a palate cleanser sorbet between courses. Love? Five pretty decent tasters? Oh yes. It was fine.

 In my newsletter I'd give it these symbols . 

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No sulfur added. Heart throb. Geek. Cool stuff. Hard core. 

 

Take a look at that symbology, couldn't it describe some love interests in your life?  Complex, wild, verbal, cool, and emotional. And don't misinterpret that hard core, please. Take your mind out of the gutter. I mean it here as intense. Thank you.

As my mother said, it's not that she approved of my lifestyle. She actively disapproved. I should have grandchildren by now and make shabbos ever Friday night for my doctor husband. But there I am, approving of a wine that has a good dollop of apple cider vinegar and a whole lot of excitement. I'm dangerous for a mother ruled by fear. 

The end of the story?  I made my friend happy with the Pignard Régnie. I sat through Mom's appointment and waited for the bus, holding the not yet fragile hand of a woman who cozies up, once a week, to Kedem Matuk Rouge. And as I sprinted off to the tasting, I thought of the paradox of it all.