CHAPTER 7: HOW TO CHOOSE A RED WINE
It’s gotten a lot harder when it comes to choosing red wine. It used to be there were only a few kinds of red wine. There was Cabernet and Merlot and Italian wine, a couple of French red wines from hard to spell places, and that was it. Those were the good old days for Americans. Now there’s all kinds of stupid red wines from places you wish would just go away, like Germany. Why do we need German red wines? Nobody wants German red wines. If you see an article about German red wines, you can be pretty sure you’re reading the wrong publications, and you should cancel your subscription. German red wines. What next? British sparkling wines? First you make shitty cars, then you make shitty bubbly. Are you trying to make France look good? Next thing you know we’ll be drinking wines from Uruguay. What the hell! Because jackasses think they can make wine wherever they live, we have to import it and serve it in creepy wine bars that specialize in unusual wines and an air of superiority? Know why they serve these screwy wines from all over the world, Freisa for fuck’s sake, who the hell wants that, or Abouriou, which sounds like some kind of dung beetle, at those trendy wine bars? Because you know when a $12 glass of Cabernet sucks, but what the hell do you know about Tannat? Drink it and shut up.
Let’s take a quick look at the major red grapes that you need to know something about so you don’t look like a total wine ignorant ignoramus.
: OK, so here’s the thing. You’ll start off loving Cabernet Sauvignon, drinking a lot of it, collecting it, boring the crap out of everyone talking about the difference between Cabernet from Howell Mountain and Cabernet from Mt. Veeder, which is that one has a buttload of tannin and the other one has a shitload, and then one day you’ll grow tired of it. Cabernet Sauvignon is the FaceBook of grapes—you look at it all the time, but, frankly, you’re sick of it and wish you’d never wasted your time. Plus, when you’re talking about Cabernet, all you’re really talking about is money. Money and Cabernet go together like poverty and beer. When you think about Napa Valley Cabernet, and Bordeaux, and the Cabernets from Bolgheri, the first thing you think of isn’t elegance and refinement and longevity, the first thing you think of is money. Got change for a Mouton? So do yourself a favor and start out sick of Cabernet. But if you have to order it, order the ones with castles.
: Of all the red wines, Pinot Noir is the prettiest. It’s basically red wine in drag. You take home a bottle, finally get it where you want it, and, bang, you realize it’s sportin’ a little Beaune in its barnyard. It’s just full of surprises. Winemakers often say that Pinot Noir is the grape that most vividly reflects its terroir. No one knows what this means. It sort of means that it tastes like where it comes from, which is good, I guess, unless you’re talking bodily fluids. The best Pinot Noirs have an ethereal grandeur to them, like RuPaul. Pinot Noir is most famously the grape of Burgundy, where the best vineyards are called Grand Cru, followed by vineyards nearly as great called Premier Cru, and all the rest of the crap is grown all over the place and is thus referred to as Motley Cru. When speaking knowledgeably about Pinot Noir, it is best to dismiss Oregon Pinot Noir while talking up Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Remember, people in Oregon hate you, while Kiwis are unfailingly nice.
: Syrah is also known by its rap name, Shiraz. DNA profiling has shown Syrah to be the offspring of Mondeuse Blanche and Mondeuse Stanley, which is why it’s a grape that has always depended upon the kindness of strangers. Which isn’t really working out. Syrah is the grape of the great Northern Rhône appellations, so they’re stuck with it. For many years, wine pundits (yes, there are wine pundits, though they are often referred to in the trade as “buffoons”) predicted that Syrah would be the next Merlot. For once, they were right. No one buys either one any more. Except when they buy cheap Pinot Noir. As for me, I’ve always said that Syrah would be my desert island grape—basically, like Australia.
: Just don’t ever make a stupid pun with the word “Zin.” They’ve all been done by Randall Grahm, doon what comes naturally. So resist the urge, you’ll just sound like an idiot. A few years ago, Carole Meredith of UC Davis tracked down the origin of Zinfandel to Croatia, where it’s called Tribidrag. Carole is the Tribidrag Queen. Women hate Zinfandel, making it the Three Stooges of grapes, which is Fine by Larry. I have no idea why women hate Zinfandel, but it’s true. Oh, some pretend to like it, but they really don’t, like oral sex. So Zin is like oral sex with the Three Stooges. I think that sums it up. Drinking Zin is like a Nyuk-el sandwich to the mouth. See, puns make you sound like an idiot.
Oh, let’s just talk about a few more red grapes that don’t matter as much:
: Pape music to my ears. Also, Cannonau fodder for cheap red wine.
: The Audacity of Hope for Southern Italy
: A happy grape, needs a lot of sun. Bet your bottom dollar, the sun’ll come out Mataro.
: A little brain damaged after Ali was through with him.
: Cot Wine?
: Oh, Baby, Monica goes down easy.
: Fucking Bastardo
: The epitome of Boering.
... you could give randall grahm a fun for his punny anytime!
"Syrah is also known by its rap name, Shiraz." LOL
"Mourvédre: A happy grape, needs a lot of sun. Bet your bottom dollar, the sun’ll come out Mataro."....got my head shaking with that one, and my shoulders and my bowl-full-o-jelly. You, well I just love you so!
Let's raise a glass and toast with Motley Cru!
Oh, my! Those rimshots came fast and furious at the end (with an echo of groaners on each accent)!
Mourvedre "happy"? Always seemed barnyard-y to me... But love the Motley Cru. :-)
"...the sun’ll come out Mataro."
You have pretty much nailed the grapes. Now, we need tasting notes the nail the wines.
A bellyful of laughs. Sometimes it is fun to have fun.
Ron, you nailed it with "Cabernet Sauvignon is the FaceBook of grapes—you look at it all the time, but, frankly, you’re sick of it and wish you’d never wasted your time."
Speaking of Croatia, how about a little Crljenak Kaštelanski with your Tribidag? And you left out the wonderful German red, Spätburgunder,which the Krauts insist is Pinot Noir.
The Spätburgunder is the stuff all my reps are suddenly pushing on me. One reeked of peat smoke like it was aged in used Laphroig barrels, and the next made me check to see if it came in a fiasco. Speaking of which, yes, I spät.
Hey Common Taters,
There's something liberating and silly about stringing a bunch of stupid jokes together, making some seriously horrible puns, and also finding a way to have fun at the expense of grapes, instead of humans. The Comprehensive Guide is meant to be a lampoon of all the really insipid and simpleminded Guides to Wine, new versions of which appear on a regular basis. Even when I was a beginner, I loathed most of them. Just buy "The World Atlas of Wine," Charlie's "Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine & Wineries," and "The Oxford Companion to Wine," and you're fine. That's all any beginner needs.
But Thank God for all those "Wine for Meatheads, Dummies, Douchebags, Idiots, and Monorchids" books. Without them, I've got nothing to make fun of here. Part 6 is already in the can, as we say, and I'll publish it when I damn well feel like it.
My Gorgeous Samantha,
Yeah, that is one stupid joke. Not my favorite in the piece, but I keep my favorites secret. Unless you know the handshake...
I love you, too!
Randall is a great comic writer. His style if far different than the HoseMaster. He's more of an S.J. Perelman with his incredibly sophisticated puns and wit, and I mean that as a gigantic compliment. The HoseMaster is a loose cannon of a satirical voice--I'll leave it to others where that voice falls.
I'll show you where it falls...so long as you know the secret handshake.
I think I saw Shiraz in concert once!
My Gorgeous Samantha,
Oh, boy, do I ever know the secret handshake. The secret is where my hand is.
Lucky you! Though most folks in the biz think Shiraz is a pretty lousy performer these days.
Thanks for being a common tater!
WISH wish wish you were on my (not sorry to admit to this folks English) tasting panel. "Why does prosecco taste like (a) cream soda? (b) this has more fizz than I am used to. (c) can you have a slightly sweet Brut style?
Yes shoot snottiness wherever you can find it dripping.
Yes, us English dream of upstaging the french on spk - but then we have always dreamt of upstaging the frogs. Trouble is, most people gave up kissing frogs a long time ago and now look at our Princes!
You sound like my type. Thanks for the encouragement. Who knows, perhaps we will end up on a tasting panel together one day. Wouldn't that be lovely?
I've had some lovely Prosecco, but not on the low end of the price scale. The cheap stuff smells to me like hair spray. Or that could be coming off the people who drink that stuff, hard to tell.
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