Monday, September 30, 2013
The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes Vol. 3
I think I wrote seven volumes of The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes. It was always a solid premise, but coming up with endless material about grape varieties finally wore me down. In rereading a few of those volumes, one joke in Volume 3 made me laugh out loud, a rare occurrence, so I decided to republish it as Best of HoseMaster. So, here, from March of 2010, is one of the legendary volumes of The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes. (If you want to read the other six volumes, they can be found in my Compost Heap in the left column.)
There are lots of facts about grape varieties, but what we're interested in on wine blogs is opinions unsupported by facts. This is the great tradition of blogging, and one I intend to uphold. Facts are so boring. This is why the Internet was created, in order to end truth once and for all. Social Media is all about muddying the truth, and that's why wineries are so intent on hiring someone to do this for them on a daily basis. But I digress. There are the bone dry facts about grape varieties--you can look them up in Jancis Robinson's brilliant book "Vines, Grapes and Wines," or you can go to Wikipedia and read the plagiarized version. But when it comes to worthless opinions, I know you look to the HoseMaster of Wine. Let's explore a few more white varieties.
There is some dispute about how to pronounce Viognier. In France, it's vee-own-yay; in Texas, vee-og-near. I'm going with the Texans cuz they're scarier and they hogtie Frenchmen and brand them. Smells a lot like chicken when they do. It wasn't that many years ago that there were but a few dozen acres of Viognier in the entire world, all of it in the Northern Rhone appellations of Condrieu (KON-dry-u in Texan) and Cote-Rotie. At the rate it's selling, in thirty years it will be back to those same dozen acres in the world. Wine pundits predicted a few years ago that Viognier would be the next Chardonnay, and they were right, except they meant that it would be a popular wine instead of yet another wine to heap scorn upon. The best thing about Viognier is how it smells. The same is true for a leather thong. And the consumer knows that when he purchases a Viognier he can be absolutely certain that there is little chance he'll like it, though it does make a terrific gag gift.
Interesting facts about Viognier:
There is a long tradition in Cote-Rotie of mixing Viognier with Syrah in order to give the wines some aromatic character when they're young. In the New World, Viognier is added to natural gas to let you know when you have a leak.
The name "Viognier" is thought to derive from the Austrian city of Vienna, and refers to the men who drink it having tiny little sausages.
If you drink enough Viognier your breath will smell like your grandmother's girdle drawer.
Other names for Viognier:
Sorry, Rhone Number
Contrary to popular belief, Pinot Gris is not what you call the smegma that gathers if you're uncircumcised. That's Gruner Veltliner. Pinot Gris is thought to be a mutant variety of Pinot Noir because, after drinking, it often comes back to haunt you and chainsaw your children. Pinot Gris goes by a slightly different name in Italy; there it's known as Pellegrino. The best versions come from Alsace, where they used to put "Tokay" in front of the name as a tribute to their favorite Little Rascal, Buckwheat, who was a dark shade of Gris. (For a short time in the 50's you could also buy Alfalfa Pinot Blanc.) In recent years, Oregon has become the home of many Pinot Gris producers, lending credence to the theory that Oregon is where you fly over from California to get to Walla Walla.
Interesting facts about Pinot Gris:
Pinot Grigio is Italian for "print money."
Another theory holds that Pinot Gris is actually related to Ambergris. And because ambergris originates in the intestine of the sperm whale, they smell remarkably similar.
Pinot Gris is considered one of the Noble Grapes of Alsace, but this is a region that is often confused about nobility.
Other names for Pinot Gris:
Sex in a Rowboat
Chenin Blanc is a variety of grape capable of producing great wines that no one cares the least bit about. In California there was a time when Charles Krug Chenin Blanc was on every wine list in every chain restaurant in the country, which singlehandedly spelled Chenin Blanc's demise. Chenin Blanc is a very versatile grape, producing wines of every type, from sparkling wines to dry wines, demi-sec wines to dessert wines. So it's the Mel Gibson of grapes--doesn't matter if he acts, directs or produces, nobody cares. However, Chenin Blanc is one of the major grapes of the Loire Valley and, in particular, Anjou. Gesundheit.
Interesting facts about Chenin Blanc:
In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is known as Steen. In Germany it's known as Frankensteen. In Austria, it's called Mary Steenburgen.
Vouvray is famous for Chenin Blanc, and, oddly, is how people with a hairlip say the last word in Hip Hip Hooray!
Chenin Blanc is mentioned by Miss Manners as being the wine to bring to a person's house for dinner to ensure that you won't be invited back.
Other names for Chenin Blanc:
Shannon Blank (porn name)