What is it that the average wine lover wants from a glossary of grape varieties? Now ask yourself, what does a below average wine lover want from a guide to grapes? Considering my audience, I've chosen to answer the latter question. He wants short sentences and easy to understand words, he wants opinions disguised as facts, he wants simpleminded opinions he can memorize and pretend are his own--in other words, he wants to be an average American. Well, friends, let's not aim too high. Let's speak to the Lowest Common Denominator. Let's aim at wine bloggers, the great democratizers of wine, the voice of the people, or, truly, the voice of the poodle, those truly generous souls who give of their copious free time, time that they would not have had they any actual friends or lives, to speak to us of their great love, their undying love, the love they cannot stop speaking of no matter how hard we wish they'd stop, their love for God's greatest gift. Themselves. Themselves in Wine and Music, themselves in ghastly photos, themselves in caftans, themselves in almighty Wordpress, holy Blogger, Not my Typepress. The HoseMaster's Guide to Grapes is dedicated to all of them. Volume Five returns to the land of white grape varieties. I'll speak slowly.
Gewurztraminer is the wine nobody reaches for when having a nice meal. Gewurztraminer is the first choice of sommeliers everywhere to be left off the by-the-glass list. Sure, we've got Gruner Veltliner, we've got Roussanne, we've got Arneis by the glass, but Gewurztraminer? Nah, that's for sissies. It smells like your grandmother's perfume if your grandmother was a hooker for SnoopDogg, or Hugh Grant. The most common descriptor for Gewurztraminer is "lychee," even though the vast majority of people using that adjective have never tasted lychee and think it's related to Tai Chi and smells like old Chinese people sweating. The only Gewurztraminer that sells is Navarro's Gewurztraminer from Mendocino and that's because it's actually Snapple not wine. But Gewurztraminer is considered to be a Noble Grape in Alsace, a region with notoriously low standards. Think of Alsace like the Wine Blog Awards, and then think of Gewurztraminer as the blog Bigger Than Your Head, and you get the idea. It's just the best they can do. Sure it sucks, but, hey, it's better than nothing. Gewurztraminer is like other people's personal lives--you don't mind sticking your nose in it, but you're sure as hell not taking it home with you.
Interesting facts about Gewurztraminer:
It's easy to pass a Breathalyzer test if you're drunk on Gewurztraminer, the machine thinks you're wearing too much after shave. The bad news? You have to get drunk on Gewurztraminer.
Gewurztraminer means "spicy meatball" in German. In Italy, it's simply called Traminer, which means "I surrender."
Gewurztraminer is often the suggested pairing with Asian cuisines. Which makes sense if you think it's a good idea to pour oil on fire.
Other names for Gewurztraminer:
VicWertztraminer The G-Spot Old Spice
Pronounced "semi-yawn," in actuality, it's a total yawn. In California, Semillon is often found in Sauvignon Blanc, as though it were a gerbil. In Bordeaux, it is one of the three white varieties allowed, making it one of the Three Muscadelles. It is also widely planted in Australia where it makes wines that are uniquely capable of embarrassing Australians, something even Olivia Newton-John had a hard time doing until she starred in "Grease." But it is in Sauternes where Semillon does its finest work. When it's covered in mold. Sort of like the great Chilean writer Roberto Bolano who gained most of his fame after he was dead. In Sauternes, Semillon is harvested covered with botrytis cinerea, nicknamed the Noble Mold because it was originally discovered between Ann Noble's toes. Semillon makes up about 80% of the blend in the amazing dessert wine of Chateau d'Yquem, the other 20% is the Euro. So here's the key to enjoying Semillion in a simple rhyme: If there's no rot/Drink it/NOT!
Interesting facts about Semillon:
It's often confused with Sensimilla, but only by those who smoke and inhale.
In double blind tastings, Semillon is often confused with the bottled water.
Australia is famous for its "Bottle Aged Semillons," so named because no one buys them. Except Olivia Newton-John.
Other names for Semillon:
S'Nores Earwax Chateau Ygack
Most people believe Roussanne is the big, fat, ugly comedienne once married to big, fat, ugly Tom Arnold. Easy mistake to make. Both the grape and the comedienne are highly susceptible to powdery mildew and rot. But Roussanne is the big, fat, ugly grape of the Rhone Valley and was once married to John Alban, another tragic mistake. Actually, wines made from Roussanne tend to be rather delicate and elegant, like Elton John, only Roussanne ages well. Randall Grahm was one of the first to plant Roussanne in California, only it was Viognier that was in the witness protection program. Grahm finally admitted he'd been Condrieued. Roussanne has become a trendy white wine grape in California because it is difficult to grow and makes wines that other winemakers admire. The public hates it, which also makes it a popular choice for snooty winemakers. Roussanne is among the most ageworthy of white wines and dominates the cellars of people who want to leave worthless wines to their heirs.
Interesting facts about Roussanne:
The name is thought to derive from the French word "roux" which means "russet" and refers to the way the variety is about as interesting as potatoes.
In the Savoie region of France Roussanne is called Bergeron because it is about as interesting as Dan Berger, who is starchier than potatoes and as thin-skinned.
Roussanne in California is predominantly planted in the Central Coast where the powdery mildew leaves it alone in favor of the hicks who live in Paso Robles.
Other names for Roussanne:
Grahm is Crackers Rosie O'Donnell Roosanus (Australia)
After 19 years as a Sommelier in Los Angeles, twice named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers' Association, I moved to Sonoma County to explore the other aspects of the wine business. I've spent, OK wasted, 35 years learning about and teaching about and swallowing wine. I am also a judge at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition--so I can spit like a rabid llama. I know more about wine than David Sedaris and I'm funnier than James Laube. Stay tuned for an informed but jaded view of everything wine and everything else.
I'm living proof that alcohol kills brain cells.
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