Monday, February 22, 2010
The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes
Whenever I refer to wine books for information about the many and varied varieties of vitis vinifera I never find anything useful. They tell you where it's most famously grown, they tell you some imaginary aromas that the wine supposedly possesses, they tell you other names for it, but what does that get you? You can't impress your wine ignorant friends with that sort of knowledge. They are so impressed that you have a wine blog, you can't appear clueless! They turn to you for recommendations of the cheap crap that corporate-owned wineries send you for free. (Wow, is William Hill Chardonnay really that good?! It must be, it has Phthalates listed on the label ingredients!) They trust you! They buy all their wines based on your "I can't really be bothered to actually say something useful" 140-character Tweets about the free samples you receive. So now that you're up for an American Wine Blog Award (the equivalent of a Smiley Face on your sixth grade spelling test) it's time you learned a little bit more about the grapes that make the wines we love. Useful stuff this time, not that tired old Jancis Robinson crap.
What are we looking for when we taste a Chardonnay? Me, I'm looking for an excuse not to like it. I'm Simon Cowell and every Chardonnay is a contestant on "American Idol." I'm a Republican and every Chardonnay is a National Health Care plan. I'm Hugh Hefner and every Chardonnay is ah...um, I forget...what was it, um, where's my fucking Viagra? Everyone tries not to like it, but it's still wildly popular. Like airport security.
Interesting Chardonnay facts:
They try to sell the crappy ones by calling them "Burgundian." This is perfectly appropriate as a way to insult the French, who so richly deserve it.
Chardonnay is considered one of the Noble Grapes. This was 19th Century marketing. It's no more noble than French Colombard except that it denies its nationality. I much prefer German Colombard, which nearly destroyed London in WW II.
Chardonnay is particularly suited for seafood. Tuna drink it by the boatload.
Other Names for Chardonnay:
Sauvignon Blanc is only used as cocktail wine because it goes lousy with food. OK, it goes fine with food, but nobody serves it with dinner because it's too cheap. It's also known as Fume Blanc, a name Robert Mondavi made up in order to sell it, which has confused everyone since and is but one of the reasons he is now in Hell with Ernest and Julio and forced to drink Gruner Veltliner. (Which is what they serve by the glass in Hell, unless you want red, in which case it's Pinotage. It used to be Zinfandel but they ripped it out because it's hotter in Lodi.) Were it not for Sauvignon Blanc there would have been no reason to invent the Stelvin.
Interesting Sauvignon Blanc facts:
The best New Zealand versions can remove your pet's carpet accidents.
It is commonly blended with Semillon in order to find something useful to do with stupid Semillon.
Sauvignon Blanc is the major white grape of the Loire Valley. This isn't funny.
Other Names for Sauvignon Blanc:
Puckerface (often "Fuckerpace")
Everybody talks about Riesling as a great white wine, but nobody drinks it. So whatever you say about it, how it tastes and smells, doesn't matter, no one's going to drink it anyway. But it comes in a cool bottle and the German ones feature a word puzzle on every label! Riesling often has residual sugar as a trap to try and make Americans like it, but it doesn't work because it doesn't taste sweet really. So how stupid are Riesling producers? Riesling likes to grow where it's cold, so around Andrea Immer's house.
Interesting Riesling facts:
The traditional Riesling bottle is called a "hock" because so many people try to pawn off Rieslings on people.
German Rieslings are categorized according to the sugar levels in the must. The must is like the grape's taint, only sweet. The basic category is Kabinett, which has lower sugar levels and is named for where you store your German wines so nobody sees that you have them. The sweetest sugar level wines are labeled Trocaderobeerandpretzels and often cost more than a Volkswagen Jetta--though they are more dependable.
Rieslings are said to go well with Asian cuisines. Morons say this.
Other names for Riesling:
Other White Wines (wine lists)