Monday, March 8, 2010

The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes Volume 3

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:

My Mistake
Green Lantern
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
Macy Gris


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:

Wine Coulee
Shannon Blank (porn name)
Kruger Juice


John M. Kelly said...

ROFL - thanks, HM! Especially the bit about Viognier, though I'm pretty sure I heard someone in authority pronounce it "vug-ner" once and I have been saying it that way since.

But allow me to be so bold as to suggest alternative rationale for blogs and social media: they are all about revealing naked truths. One, that all opinions are equally unfounded. And two, that sooner or later everyone will be an idiot for 15 minutes.

Thomas said...

"...that sooner or later everyone will be an idiot for 15 minutes."

Only those that can count. The rest--forever.

Charlie Olken said...

I don't write a blog, but I am thinking about it. I guess my fifteen minutes of idiocy is yet to come.

Now there is something to look forward to.

Of course, I did answer Samantha Dugan's questionaire. I guess you could call that fifteen minutes of lunacy. Did you see some of the questions I was asked?

--Pastis or Almond Flavored Sparkling wine? Boxers or Briefs? Would I drink French wine with Sam?

Now that would not have been so bad, but I know she is just teasing me. She really does not exist. Just one of Washam's nom de plumes.

Nom de plume--in Ron's case, he does it with feathers. He thinks he lives in Marin, but we know that he has been sent north to Sonoma.

Samantha Dugan said...

I've been an idiot for over two years now...sigh, but the upside is I don't really exist.

Charlie you are correct, Ron just made me up but you can put me on your lap and when you hank my bra straps my lips move....

Ron Washam, HMW said...


I'm afraid I think of all my contributors as, in the phrase of the great MAD magazine, "the usual gang of idiots." I see this as a compliment. I still see wine bloggers as lonely poodles.


I know everyone has been encouraging you to start a blog, but I'm beginning to think you're better off being World's Most Famous Commenter. I just finished my fifteen minutes after the Chronicle article, and, frankly, it wasn't worth it. However, in my case, it was my fifteen minutes of intelligence. I'm back to full-time stupid now.

My Gorgeous Samantha does exist, and if she didn't, we would find a way to invent her.

My Gorgeous Samantha,

What do you say we both shut down our blogs and run away to Chinon? Well, after I win a Wine Blog Award. Which is a slam dunk, don't you think?

And, hey Charlie, after you pull on Samantha's bra straps, I've got a finger you can pull...

Samantha Dugan said...

I'm a real girl?! Hot damn, now kindly remove your hand from my backside Sir...well, on second thought...

If you don't win the Wine Blog Awards then I know the whole thing is rigged. If they give it to that tree feller again I will conclude that the award is just a placebo to the masses that cannot take a little pain in their ass.

Won't take your windfall to convince me to quit blogging...getting that itch to hang it up anyway. Growing tired of the groaning of my own voice and I get to visit with you adorable people here anyway!

K.Mahoney said...

hilarious! Now I know why my Pellegrino tasted a little watered down the other day.
PS- was in the Healdsburg Square yesterday and couldn't help but think of Veronica and HoseMaster

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

OK, but if you quit your blog I'm going to Tish your ass around here.

I adore you!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey K.

I'm so flattered you remembered my little tale when you were in Healdsburg. Hey, you should have let me know you were going to be in town, we could have hoisted a few Pellegrinos together. Next time.

Did you see Tiny or the midget?

Marcia Macomber said...

“There is some dispute about how to pronounce Viognier. In France, it's vee-own-yay; in Texas, vee-og-near.“ -- not to be confused (in Texas, at least…and sometimes Wisconsin) with the great 19th century operatic composer of Das Rheingold, Richard Wagner (also sometimes pronounced “Reech-urd Waag-near”). And given the bloodshed involved in the Ring Cycle, he doesn’t really go with a bright, white wine…especially considering the never-ending finish – much more appropriate with a red with endless tannins.

Chenin Blanc – Is she related to Mel? (They were all in What’s Opera, Doc?, right? [See how I tied that all Kevin Bacon-y together?!])

Charlie Olken said...


Pull on your finger? I doubt I want to see any part of you quiver. Thanks anyhow, but I think I will stick with Sam. You know how I feel about blondes and you, sir, are no blonde--not even a Chenin Blonde.

Samantha Dugan said...

Yay! I win over the "Pull my finger" and people say blogging doesn't get you anywhere.

winebookgirl said...

I've always liked vie-own-yay!

More rhone grapes?

Alfonso Cevola said...

Dear Ron,
Has Steve Heimoff been teaching y'all how to "talk Texan"?

For the record, and seeing as I am saying it here, that would make it a dubious recording at best, the proper Texas pronunciation of Viognier is:
Vee-ohg-neee-yay y'all

[no Oscar for you]

Thomas said...

Does anyone know how to pronounce Vignoles?

That's a French-American hybrid grown in New York.

I once had a guy in my tasting room read it aloud from the tasting board:
vigina-ols, he said, and I kid you not.

Oh, it's pronounced vin-yole.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Marcia Love,

Wow, you're starting to sound like me, and, of course, no one means that as a compliment. And, funny coincidence, I was drinking a Das Rheingold at John and Zeke's with K. Mahoney and Kevin Bacon last night.

And when are we meeting? Spring is almost here...


Look for my scathing review of Picpoul in another edition, soon to be published by UC Davis Press.


I bow to your Texas expertise. But not in front of Heimoff. However, I do know that in Texas they pronounce Mourvedre as "more-vair-day." And congratulations on your Wine Blog Award! Oh, you didn't know. Never mind. Sorry I spoiled the surprise.


Vignoles is a hybrid grape and is also called "Prius 51," right?

When I was in the wine steward trade I once walked up to a table, wine list in hand, and the Southern gentleman at the table looked up at me and said, "You must be the Semillon." I told him that I was actually a Master Semillon.

Thomas said...

...a Master Semillon who was looking for his Sovereign to bend down to or blend with, whomever comes first...

Prius 51; a good one. Think anyone of your regular 9 know what you referred to, Mr. Semillon?

Can't wait to see what you do with Picpoul--stick Pinets into it?

wild walla walla wine woman said...

Hey Mr. Hose,

Are you sure about Chenin Blanc being known as Frankenstein in Germany? Dr. Frederick Frankenstein from the movie Young Frankenstein will tell you, "I am not a Frankenstein. I'm a Fronkensteen!"

(Just another attention-seeking bark from a lonely poodle. Yap-Yap! Grrrr ...)