Thursday, September 27, 2012


My 100 Point Babevril

Chapter 8  My 100 Point Babe

I’ve been a dick for a long time. I passed my test to be a dick a long time ago. Yeah, that’s right, I passed the WSET. I met Avril Cadavril on my first murder case. I’d been hired to find out who had killed a famous local winemaker, not that he hadn’t deserved it. He’d produced a series of wines that had received 100 point scores from critics, so everyone hated him. 100 point wines are supposed to be perfect, like priests, or all you can eat shrimp, if there’s a difference. Only problem is, the palookas who judge these wines are famously old, their olfactory skills needing a walker while their taste buds wonder where everybody went. Someone had stabbed the guy 100 times, one puncture for every point. He’d have been better off with the Davis scale. Which would be a first. Those critics had killed him just as surely as they’d killed the pleasure in drinking wine with their hypocritical scores and limited vocabularies. They’d gotten away with it, but their time was coming to a close. Soon they would be replaced; most of them now at the Old Wine Critics’ Home, alone and unwashed, reeking of alcohol and fecal matter (“Must be Brett,” wink, wink), babbling on and on about Brix and yields and clones. So business as usual for them.

It was Avril who had showed me the winemaker’s corpse. He had more holes than an M.S. meeting. He was a meat piñata, a 100 point voodoo doll, and it was Avril who laughed when I lost my lunch. I hadn’t liked her that first day. She’d expressed a butcher’s admiration for the carving job done on the winemaker. “He deserved it,” she said. “He made twenty different single-vineyard Pinot Noirs.” She had a point.

But my dislike for Avril turned into a grudging respect. She could handle meat like a Congressional page. Whether at her day job as butcher, or as coroner, Avril was a wonder. Is a wonder. Wherever she was.

It was when she dropped a lot of weight that I fell for her. Yeah, the HoseMaster, jaded and broken, a tired old dick trying to clean up the miserable wine business he so desperately loved, his heart open to no one, like a cult wine mailing list, only one that no one cared about any more, Bryant Family or Merus—the HoseMaster had fallen in love with Avril Cadavril. The way she smelled like a great vintage of Côte-Rôtie—all I wanted to do was Landonne her meatiness. The way she kissed me the first time we kissed, her mouth opening up like a great white Burgundy, giving me a raging Corton. The way she looked in the morning, fragile and transparent, like Riedel’s planned obsolescence. She was perfect--my 100 point babe.

Avril wouldn’t marry me, I knew that. No one marries wine connoisseurs, not knowingly--they're pale and marinated, and they only screw clockwise. Those who do marry a connoisseur live to regret it, like joining a Wine-of-the-Month Club. You keep expecting to be turned on, but it’s the same old tired crap month after month until you wake up and cancel your membership. So I bought her a bracelet. I thought it was a choker, but the neck on a butcher/coroner is impressive. So it’s a bracelet. And there it was, right in front of me, on Mallory O’Lactic’s arm. Not Avril’s. I had to find out how it had gotten there. And where was Avril? I didn’t care about who’d killed Larry Anosmia, or Crystal Geyser. I didn’t care how many more M.W. candidates would die. The world has too many idiot Masters of Wine, like it has too many political pundits and cable channels and wine blogs. It’s the noise I hate, the ignorant, unfeeling noise, the sound of too many people talking about crap that doesn’t matter while the crap that does slips away. I wasn’t going to let Avril slip away.

“Crystal’s dead? No. NO! Tell me you’re making that up.” Mallory was awake and slowly putting her clothes back on. I’d been forced to search her while she was passed out. I thought I’d lost my lunch again. She didn’t have it.

“I wish I were making it up. Damned bloody, heartless wine business. I’m tired of all the death, of all the lies, of all the know-it-alls and experts with letters after their names, of winemaker dinners and tasting rooms that look like whorehouses, even if they are whorehouses. I’m just tired, dammit, and I want Avril back.”

“Avril?” Mallory whispered. “Do you know Avril Cadavril?”

She looked scared. I didn’t think Avril had frightened her. Maybe it was my little rant, but, dammit, I was tired. Tired like ten-year-old Santa Barbara Merlot; tired like a Blinky Gray opinion; tired like another pulp fiction parody. But I was about to get a long rest. Mallory wasn’t scared of me. Nope. She was scared of the guy standing behind me.

The guy who pistol whipped me into next Tuesday.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Yet More Cure For Dull Wine Descriptions

Let’s face it, no one reads wine descriptions. The folks who publish them don’t even want you to read them. Oh, they go on and on about how you shouldn’t just rely on the ratings when deciding what wines to purchase, you should also carefully read the descriptions—the descriptions, they say, are more important than the ratings! But they’re so transparently full of crap. The numbers are in this size typeface, and the descriptions are like this. It’s obvious which genuinely matters more to them. However, we should also keep in mind that these reviews are published by men who actually think this is the same size as this.  But the real problem is how universally boring wine reviews are. The turgid prose can’t compete with the excitement that numbers generate. I like to imagine how wine descriptions would read if they were written by great writers instead of guys with thesauruses. So, OK, here we go again…

Ayn Rand on Raveneau Chablis

There are great wines and there are horrid wines, but it is everything in between that is evil. To drink wines that are great is a duty, but the man who drinks crap at least knows it is crap. It is the man who drinks wines in between, he is the banal knave who ignores the truth, who pretends that there are no standards, no absolutes in wine, who believes that 89 Point wines have a right to exist, the uneducated Neanderthal, and it is he who destroys himself and the wine business. He is evil. I drink wine for myself, and I drink wine for you, but I would never ask that you drink wine for me. I live only for my own pleasure, and I have the batteries to prove it. And what is a man but a vessel for pleasure? A Love Boat cruising the wine-dark sea, a nightly party in his pants, his tiny Gopher in charge? There is only existence and non-existence, First Class and Coach, original and extra crispy, First Growth Bordeaux and Argentinean Malbec, which is for suckers, for the tasteless, for the Gaucho Marks. Go, drink the great wines, they were made for you! I liked the zesty acidity of this lovely white.

J. D. Salinger on Cakebread Cabernet

You probably want me to tell you all about this wine, how it smells and such. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t really matter. Knowing how this wine smells won’t make you happy, and it won’t make you know more about wine either. It’ll just make you wish you were dead and a lot of people were drinking the wine and talking about you, saying nice things like, “Oh, he could sure describe a wine,” or “I’ll bet his mother was the reason he wet the bed until he was forty.” I could say that this wine smells like cassis and tobacco, and you’d believe me. But you should know that I’m a liar, I’m a big liar, I lie more than winery marketing directors. I don’t even know what cassis is, and I don’t think anyone else does either. It’s just a word they say to make you feel like you’re not as smart as they are. I want to puke every time I read that word. It’s like terroir, which is another stupid word that wine writers use. I mean, this wine has terroir and cassis, and when I was tasting it that was all I could think about. I like a wine that when it’s really good you want to call up the winemaker, tell him how much you like the terroir and cassis in his wine, and then you could meet him for dinner and he’d talk about how he got the terroir in there. But this never happens. Mostly you just call them and they wish you’d shut the fuck up and die. Like it’s your fault they made 85 point wine.

Richard Pryor on Burgundy

I don’ unnerstand people who drink wine that costs more than the clothes they're wearin’. Who spends more money on a bottle of wine than on your damn underwear? Like, “I got to have that new fuckin’ Pinot Noir so I’ll just keep wearin’ these old skanky ass, skidmarked Jockey shorts until I can feel the Mistral up my butt.” You take off the pants of any damn wine connoisseur and now you got some bouquet. “Ooh, man, what is that damned ester I’m smellin’? That your ugly Aunt Esther, wears the Depends? Or is your hundred-dollar Pinot all barnyard and shit?” You don’ see no winos doin’ that. No, man, winos, they got some self-respect, don’ go drinkin’ no wine that costs more than the ratty clothes they’re wearin’. They get expensive wine like that they gonna sell it and get somethin’ really good—like heroin. Some ’88 Clos de Smack. This Burgundy shit ain’t that good. Ain’t never going to set your ass on fire!

Lewis Carroll

“The time has come,” the Wall Street said,
“to talk of many things:
“Of screws--and cork--and sealing wax--
“of all that money brings--
“Of why the Zin is boiling hot--
“and all the crap Jay slings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Losers cried,
            “Before we go to school;
“For some of us are clearly dupes,
            “And each of us a fool.
“We drink our wines from Riedel glass
            “So morons think we’re cool.”

“It seems a shame,” the Wall Street said,
            “To play you such a trick.
“To taunt you with the wines we drink,
            “And lay it on so thick.”
But this was scarcely true,
            Because they’d hired such a prick.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Somebody in The Wine Business

Oh, I used to be a Somebody in the wine business. Courted, wined and dined, praised, free mani-pedi’s from Heidi Barrett, tickets to Michael Vick winery dog fights, personalized Veuve Clicquot Segway, Jagermeister Girls’ panties delivered fresh daily, Jay Miller autographed winery bribes, Nicolas Joly manure in a limited edition cow horn…all the perqs. The wine business is good to those who have influence. It’s an endless parade of free lunches, free dinners, free trips, free rooms, and endless sex. Yes, I said sex. It’s the dirty little secret of the wine business. Scores for Sex. Oh, I’ve been there. I’m too much of a gentleman to discuss specifics, but let’s just say that when I was Somebody, I scored more tail than a sushi chef. And I wasn’t that much of a Somebody, not compared to a Marvin Shanken. That guy’s a machine. Jim Laube? Oh, man, he’s an animal. Harvey Steiman? OK, well, mostly talk. Go ahead, believe that the score inflation lately in wine publications is coincidence. Then ask yourself why all the want ads for Marketing Director on include “Must like tub-o’s” under qualifications.

Yeah, I was Somebody. I was a Gatekeeper. Wineries just love Gatekeepers. If you’re a Gatekeeper you can tell a winemaker, “I’m going to bend over so you can kiss my latch.” And they will. So who’s a Gatekeeper? A Gatekeeper is a person who has influence over wine buyers, particularly affluent wine buyers. Gatekeepers are a big pain in the ass for wineries. They have to court them, they have to pretend to respect them, they have to nod their head when they say something unbearably stupid about their wines, they have to swear allegiance to Truman Capote and talk with a lisp, they have to dress their horses in designer pants, they have to put corks up their nose and pretend they’re from the Watusi tribe, they have to buy vowels and give them to the Gatekeepers. It’s all about humiliation. And in return, the Gatekeepers promote their wines and leave wet spots.

Sommeliers are the worst Somebodies. They work for restaurants that never pay on time, but act like putting your wine on their wine list at four times its cost is an act deserving of hand-kissing, feet-washing and flea and tick-removing. They don’t return phone calls or affection. They leak. They think their palates are wondrous, like the Taj Mahal or Michelangelo’s David, or Diet Coke. They “love”  your wine, but they buy the trendiest, least familiar wines available to show their superior knowledge and taste. A humble little red from the Canary Islands, a precocious white from Harvard, a little something pink from a Russian matchmaking website, something sparkling from Liberace’s crypt. Looking for something familiar? Unzip your pants and sext your volleyball team.

I was one of those Somebodies. I treated winery reps like the cattle they were. I superheated my corkscrew and branded them; I tied them up, got them pregnant and used their milk to make sales cheese; I never talked to them directly but had Temple Grandin tell me what they were thinking; I took them to Tijuana and introduced them to Manolete. I wielded arrogance like Luke Skywalker wielded a Light Saber, like Juan Marichal wielded a bat, like The Prisoner wields MegaPurple. I expected deference and respect, not to mention free shipping. I got tired of all the sex, especially at Family Winemakers. But I knew that an air of entitlement was the most important part of being a Gatekeeper. So I asked for free samples, I asked for hair care products, I expected to have the snot wiped from my runny nose with hundred dollar bills. I only reached for a check if it was made out to “Cash.” I only showed up on time for appointments if they brought me cookies or drugs or lingerie with my initials on it. I laughed at their measly little scores, their piddly Gold Medals, their tech sheets, their tech blankets, their tech laundry hampers. I lied to them because I could, I drew fake moustaches on their breasts, I made them confess to crimes they’d never committed by waterboarding them with the spit bucket, I kissed them like they’d only dreamed about being kissed, I left them voicemails with my sphincter.

It’s a dream to be Somebody in the wine business. I loved it. The taste of power is addicting, like starting small brush fires on playgrounds. I never paid for a wine tasting, I never paid for flu shots or extra cheese on that. I always walked away with swag, with free hats and logo shirts, with fancy lawn furniture and celebrity Q-Tips. I took my full allocation and sold the rest gray market, investing the extra money in my Twitter habit and saving for my date with Lettie Teague. I misspelled wineries on my wine list. “I’ll have a bottle of Geyser Pork,” still makes me laugh. I’d go on European junkets and never zip my fly the whole week, instead stuffing Serrano ham in it every chance I got. I phoned wineries and asked to speak to their dead founder in a Georgie Jessel voice.

I loved it.

Now I’m Nobody. I have a blog. Somebodies have power, Nobodies have blogs. Somebodies are Gatekeepers, Nobodies are on journeys. Somebodies have access to wealthy buyers, Nobodies have access to Blogger. Somebodies walk the Earth and the oceans part, the skies are always sunny and the tap water always clear and smelling of Oregon Pinot Gris. Nobodies sit here, and we type.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Splooge Estate: The Fall Release Newsletter

Is there anything more satisfying than a new release of Splooge? Not as far as we can tell. We know how eagerly our Ejaculate™ members await their Fall releases. Don’t hold back! Your Splooge is on its way! You’ll find out more about the new wines below, but first we have a Harvest Report and News!

2012 Harvest

This looks to be a near perfect Harvest for the natural wines of Splooge Estate. Many wineries make false or disingenuous claims concerning how naturally their wines are made, utilizing marketing doublespeak like “sustainable,” “green,” or “LonelyAliceBait.” But no winery anywhere makes wines as naturally as Splooge Estate. We take extraordinary steps to insure that our wines taste and smell as though they made themselves right in the vineyard without any unnatural acts taking place at the property. Except for the sheep, but they were asking for it. And what goes better with Splooge than mutton?

We believe 2012 is our finest vintage to date. But we don’t really know, we just believe that. At Splooge Estate we allow our vines to do as they please, trusting that they know best, part of our philosophy that stems from admiration of Mother Nature’s wisdom as well as our being incapable of actually farming or making wine. Most wineries ruin their wines in late winter, before the new vintage even begins, with the cruelty of pruning. Authentic Natural Wines are made from grapevines that are never touched by man. Pruning is barbaric. At Splooge Estate, we don’t Lorena Bobbitt our vines any more than we carve our initials into them, a practice common at Harlan Estate. The same for goes for suckering, which makes the vines feel unattractive, as if you were popping their zits. No “ne pus ultra” wines at Splooge Estate.

Harvest began on September 7th, or thereabouts. Time is yet another of man’s constructs that harms wine. Why is it always about when? When to Harvest, When to Drink, When to Suspend Disbelief? We don’t care about When. Or How. Or Why. We make Natural Wines, we don’t need to care. At Splooge Estate, we also don’t believe in the silly notion of Fruit, Root, Flower and Seed Days, or that the Moon influences our wines. The Moon is 240,000 miles away! Our bank is seven miles away. It has far more influence. And is equally lifeless.

The first grapes we harvested in 2012 are Cabernet Sauvignon. We expect to begin harvesting our Pinot Noir in a few weeks. The Cabernet vines are closest to the winery and, therefore, are always picked first. There is some thought among the Splooge Estate brain trust that we should be picking the Pinot Noir before the Cabernet, but, it remains financially unviable to move the winery. The Cabernet was brought in very gently. Our Nigerian crew was hired specifically to carry the baskets of Cabernet into the winery balanced on their heads, virtually undisturbed by any of the sort of damaging back and forth motion an ATV might deliver. The Nigerians are also a very tall people, which gives our wines higher acidity.

The grapes were destemmed, an exhausting process involving tweezers. Modern, environmentally destructive wineries use a mechanical device called, cleverly, a destemmer, which places the grapes in a cage and beats them with a paddle. Not only does this damage the grapes, it’s against the Geneva Convention, or it was until Obama took office. Once liberated from their stems, the grapes are gently placed into our Splooge Estate cement eggs to ferment. Our cement eggs are purely natural, and are actually fossilized dinosaur eggs. The Cabernet egg for the 2012 was harvested from Joan Rivers’.

Splooge Estate News

As you know, Splooge Estate does not submit its wines for review in major wine publications. We only submit to Wine Enthusiast. But we are happy to announce that our 2009 Splooge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon “The Wet Spot” won a Double Gold at the Esalen International Natural Wine Competition! Judges at this prestigious competition are nude when judging, which only adds to their objectivity, endurance and ability to detect off-aromas. If you don’t personally know any wine judges, we respectfully beg you to NEVER LOOK AT THE COMPETITION PHOTOS. Only the Chardonnays entered are flabbier. And the judges apparently never talk about length.

Splooge Estate was honored by a visit from wine writer Alice Feiring. Alice is publishing a brand new newsletter devoted to natural wines. Her first article, which focuses on white wines, is entitled “Feiring Blancs.” Appropriately, she spends a lot of time on Splooge. We think it’s about time. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How I Taste

STEVE! recently wrote a post with this title, which, frankly, scared the crap out of me. But it turned out not to be about how he tastes, but about how he tastes wine. Phew, that was a close one. But STEVE!’s post did get me thinking about how I taste wine, which is the correct way. There are many ways to taste wine, but only one correct way. Mine. Just get over it, and either admit your way is stupid and carry on, or learn to taste like I do.

The first, and maybe most important, step is to put on my tasting clothes. You cannot produce consistent tasting notes wearing different clothes all the time. Duh. The best critics know this, which explains why Steve Tanzer is always in a ball gown. You just can’t underdress for the finest wineries. Wearing a different set of clothing for different varieties is acceptable, however. For example, if you want to wear a track suit every time you taste Merlot, that’s fine. Merlot is old man wine anyway, so a track suit makes sense. A pee stain is a nice touch. The only thing one shouldn’t wear is a muumuu. They’re for tasting milk. Oh man, that’s a good one! No, actually, it’s fine to wear a muumuu for tasting wine—IF YOU’RE 350 POUNDS. So Parker and Shanken. I wear Spanx under a pale blue leisure suit. It’s both comfortable and stylish.

Next I make sure that the wines I’m tasting are covered in tin foil. This is not to hide the labels, but, rather, to match the tin foil hat I’m wearing, which protects me from the evil, mind-controlling thoughts of aliens, most notably Antonio Galloni and Michael Bettane. They transmit powerful rays that can penetrate your skull and make you not only give the wines higher scores than they deserve, which has happened to many notable critics, but also make you crave the flesh of kittens. When’s the last time you saw a kitten with a noted wine critic? Laube has a house account at the local shelter. See.

The stemware is also important. First off, I prefer clean. After every sip. No double-dipping, that’s for idiots, amateurs and contributors to Palate Press, if there's a difference. If I need to retaste a wine, I request a fresh, clean glass. This is very important, particularly because my lipstick often leaves a stain and it’s not fair to the wine to taste it with lipstick. I just love my bubblegum lipstick, but find it’s only compatible with Chilean Chardonnay. Finally, I exclusively use Riedel Pompous Ass™ Stemware, the all-purpose Douchebag model, named for James Suckling.

Now I’m ready to taste. First I judge color. Does my lipstick go with my tin foil hat? Then I look at the wine. With my years of experience, I can often tell if the wine is red or white. Beginners are often fooled. Once I know the color of the wine, I can begin to formulate a score. A red wine automatically receives five more points than a white wine simply because it’s better. The same reasoning has been applied to the earning power of men versus women, and hasn’t that worked out? I know if I want a raise, I just have to lower my Spanx and wave my credentials. References available upon request.

Next it’s time to smell the wine. Initially, I check for off-aromas. Unless it’s German wine, and then I check for Pfalz. Oh, man, another good one! I’m hotter than Lodi Zin today. My tin foil hat must be picking up the Comedy Channel. Perhaps the wine is corked. A wine that is corked is often described as having the aroma of wet dog, though I find the aroma reminiscent of Harvey Steiman’s laundry hamper. (Long story.) If the aromatics of the wine are fault-free, I begin to analyze its components. I’m looking for beauty, complexity, interest, purity and every other thing I can think of that is vague and doesn’t make me have to come up with more specific adjectives. Mostly, I ask myself, “Do it smell good?” I ask out loud, most of the time, which usually really ticks off the other judges on my panel.

It’s important to remember that wine engages all of your senses, like drowning. If you’re short on senses, you just shouldn’t drink wine. Blind people should drink beer. It’s good for what ales ya. Man, I’m a Buddhist monk today—on fire! True wine appreciation requires sight, smell, taste, feel and hearing. Hearing? Yes, hearing. I can tell you for a fact that the best and most important wine critics hear lots of voices in their heads. Something a simple tin foil hat can prevent. Tim Fish, at least, knows this.

Finally, it’s time to taste the wine. I like to take a nice healthy sip. I’d guess about four or five ounces at a time. I know that seems like a lot, but, really, you need that much to gargle. What is it I’m looking for in a wine’s taste? First of all, balance. What does balance taste like? For a good reference point, toss down a shot of Jim Beam. Come on, who doesn’t love the balance Beam? Sometimes I’ll go to two different places and order the same shot of balance Beam. Yup, those are parallel bars. Whooeee, I’m cooking with gas now. I then look for the intensity of the fruit. This tells you a lot about yield. It’s like women—the more intense ones are the ones that will lower their yield. But it’s texture that means the most in tasting wine. Something in a nice corduroy is great. Wines can also be velvety, satiny or a nice taffeta. So I look for wines that most closely resemble bridesmaids’ dresses.

And, finally, the finish.  

*Thanks to Samantha for the Photo

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Wizard of Flaws


One of the most difficult aspects of wine evaluation for a beginner to learn is wine flaws. But, luckily, I’m the Wizard of Flaws, and, in this edition of The Basics of Wine Appreciation, we’ll visit the hush-hush world of wine faults. Once you come to understand wine faults, you’ll understand why that bottle of wine you just opened smells funny, and in no way resembles the review you read in The Wine Advocate, which proclaimed it smells of “rambutan, cat foie gras, strawberry edible panties and pus,” when you only get “berry.” We’ll focus on the most common wine flaws, the wine equivalents of harelips, birthmarks and basketball fever. 

What is the most common flaw found in wine?

Most people would say that the most common flaw in wine is when it’s white. Being white is not a flaw in wine. It’s a flaw in Tea Party Republicans. There isn’t one flaw in particular that beleaguers wine. Rather, there are a whole host of flaws, ranging from Brettanomyces and corkiness to stupid labels with pictures of animals and individually numbered bottles. (Really, I have bottle #1273. Wow, get me a SuperLotto ticket, I’m hot, baby!)  The list isn’t endless, not like listening to an Andrew Lloyd Webber score or Michel Chapoutier speak, but it’s long.

How do I know if a wine is “corked?”

Most beginners are confused about cork taint. Cork taint does not smell like human taint. There are many wines that do smell like human taint, which is caused by either sulfur issues or your sommelier failing to wash his hands. Sommelier taint is distinctive for its aroma of mendacity. A wine that is corked has been contaminated with a compound commonly referred to as TCA (which stands for “Tainted Cork, A-Hole!”), which gives the wine an aroma reminiscent of wet dog, though I think it smells more like porn star moustache. Don’t ask. TCA also mutes the flavors of the wine, so it is actually preferable in orange wines. But only natural TCA, not the synthetic TCA used by so many orange wine producers to enhance their aromatics. There are people who think you can tell a wine is corked if the cork breaks when you remove it from the bottle. This is not true with corks, though it does apply to condoms. (And, oddly, pouring a corked wine through a condom can often remove much of the cork taint, as well as lighten the mood.) “Corked” is a very specific aroma, and not a catchall term for a wine you just don’t happen to like. If it doesn’t smell of wet dog, or musty basement, or your homeless uncle, it’s not corked. Just shut up and pay for it.

What does it mean when someone says a wine is “reduced?”

“Reduction” occurs when a wine is released at a stupidly high price point and then ends up on a flash site for 40% off. This happens a Lot18. The wine is then said to be “reduced.” Varieties that are prone to reduction are, most notably, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. Their reduction can often be remedied with more exposure to oxygen, best achieved by pouring them down the drain. In extreme cases, reduced wines can smell of hydrogen sulfide, or rotten eggs. An old trick is to drop a copper coin into a reduced wine. The copper binds with the hydrogen sulfide resulting in a more pleasant smelling wine. It’s often best to simply drink those rotten wines out of a Salvation Army kettle and save yourself the penny. Many experts believe that screwcaps facilitate reduction. Actually, they simply facilitate winos, the only people who drink crap in screwtops.

What is Brett?

Brettanomyces Dekkera (nicknamed “Brett,” after the Hall of Fame Kansas City Royals star George Brett, though no one knows why, maybe because he spoiled no-hitters) is a yeast than can grow in wine and create a whole bunch of stinky off-aromas. A little hint of Brett in wine is often thought of as adding complexity, a lot of Brett in wine is referred to as “Parker 98 points.” The off-aromas characteristic of Brett problems are described variously as barnyard, mousy and Band-Aid. So a lot like your high school prom date. Brett is symptomatic of sloppy winemaking because it is easily avoided. Competent winemakers avoid Brett by not returning its text messages, hiding behind the nearest planter, and wearing funny masks. However, wearing a funny mask isn't neccessarily about avoiding Brett; many winemakers simply like to wear masks, and for the same reasons bank robbers do.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What We're Reading

Compiled by the editors of HoseMaster of Wine

WINE SPECTATOR:  Matt Kramer insightfully equates what he does for Wine Spectator with blogging in a column entitled, “Phoning It In.” “I, basically, rehash thoughts I’ve expressed over the years, make sure and format it for a lot of paragraphs to fill my allotted space, and, BANG, hit Publish. Only I get paid! And I have the next four years of columns already recycled. Truth be known, I invented blogging.”  James Laube writes a touching confessional about his secret addiction to sulfites. “I knew I was in trouble,” he writes, “when I snorted them from Helen Turley’s navel.” Tim Fish ponders how twelve bottles became a case.

JAMIE GOODE:  On being notified that his blog had won the essentially worthless Wine Blog Award for Best Overall Wine Blog, Jamie’s reaction is clear. “I’m not a bloody blogger.” Goode asserts that he is, in fact, an “authentic” wine blogger. “The only bloggers worth reading are authentic bloggers. Too many people waste their time on bloggers who are clearly manipulated and unnatural, and many of whom seem to be at the keyboard manipulating themselves.” Now there’s an idea.

WALL STREET JOURNAL:  A fascinating article by Jay McInerney about the current fad among very wealthy people to compete for who has the biggest collection of fraudulent wines. “Ever since the Dr. Conti scandal revealed that many very wealthy collectors had cellars full of counterfeit bottles, there’s been a competition to see who has the most. You have to remember, these are people who celebrate hair plugs and fake tits.” At a recent vertical tasting of every vintage of Chateau Petrus at Warren Buffett’s house, McInerney tastes the “greatest wine of my life”—the ’47 Petrus, which turns out to be ’78 Silver Oak blended with Red Bull. “It embarrassed the ’37 La Landonne.” Lettie Teague waxes poetic about whole cluster press. “They published my first book.”

FERMENTATION:  Tom Wark writes a long, improvised, vaguely factual post about what the wine industry needs to turn itself around in a sluggish economy. “1. Don’t look back, look forward. Or, at the very least, walk backwards and look over your shoulder. 2. Be a visionary. The greatest names in wine were visionaries You should be one. Where are the new visionaries coming from? I’d say the new visionaries are already here, but we can’t see them. Unless you focus just to the right of one and then you can see one, like he’s a star, or something dead on your windshield. 3. Mount a campaign against the Three Tier System and then sell wine by advertising on my blog. It’s only by implementing these three points that the wine business will recover.”  

WINE ENTHUSIAST: Steve Heimoff has a long piece about “Where Winemakers Get Their Haircuts.” “At least in St. Helena,” he writes, “it’s all about Jim Barbour.” He also observes, “If you swept up all the clippings from a single month from the Sonoma barbers most often patronized by our finest winemakers, why, you could have a shirt just like the one I’m wearing now.” Paul Gregutt interviews Washington winemakers about the latest craze—winery ferrets. One winemaker remarks, “They’re small and furry, like Jon Bonné.” Paul wanders out of his territory to visit the furry critter at Buehler Vineyards in Napa Valley, only, as it turns out, it’s Buehler’s Ferret’s Day Off. Roger Voss travels to the Jura and forgets why he went there.

ON THE WINE TRAIL IN ITALY:  Alfonso Cevola chides young sommeliers who “only buy wines that will sell, a shortsighted strategy that foolishly leaves out most of my portfolio.” He remembers a time, early in his career, when he was asked if he wanted Vietti. “Only alla Bolognese,” he responds. And somehow Dante is involved, it’s pretty hard to figure out how.

BON APPETIT: The annual Thanksgiving issue focuses on the wines of Turkey. “What could be more engaging than serving a bottle of vintage Öküzgözü? Though, in a pinch, you could substitute Robitussin. We’re pretty sure the Pilgrims drank Musket-det.” Also, a stunning seven-page pictorial on how to open a wine bottle with simple household objects—a plunger, a spatula or your grandparent with dementia. Finally, a Q and A with Angela Lansbury, as hip as Bon Appetit gets, on how to win a Tony award pissed on Cribari.

CONNOISSEURS’ GUIDE:  Charlie Olken writes about how much he likes Steve Heimoff’s new winemaker hair shirt. “Do they make one where the sleeves have Puffs?” Stephen Eliot explains blind tasting and why they use Connoisseurs’ Guide Dogs.