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03 September 2007

I do/I don't

Onnotice I do -
go for a funky, compelling glass of Rose from the Lebanese countryside with my Baba Ganooj.

I don't -
understand paying any amount of money, even 7-bucks, for wine that tastes as if it were produced by a mega-glomerate named, "ACME Wine Inc."

I do -
love to wind down the week by sipping a 9-buck bottle of Cava, eating two slices too many and watching Colbert Report reruns.

I don't -
pay $50 for a bottle of Cab/Bordeaux blend sporting 15+ percent ABV.  After 1.5 glasses, I'm too clouded to appreciate what it is I'm sipping.

I do -
appreciate alternative closures - Stelvins, Vino-Locs, etc. 

I don't -
understand why I still receive press releases linking Merlot and/or Pinot Noir to the film Sideways.  It was three years ago.  Let it go.  Please.

I do -
enjoy seeking out a new wine (Txakoli!, Santorini!, German Pinot N.!) each week at the local wine shop.

I don't -
enjoy the proceeds of the above-mentioned wine safari going into the bursting coffers of a wine-hostile regime seated in the Beehive State rotunda.

I do -
wish I had more time to sample, evaluate and wax poetic on wine.

I don't -
have any idea how many people have read this and thought, "Is this person an idiot?"

I do -
recommend revisiting (or sampling for the first time) Schramsberg's Blanc de Noirs ($30).  It is truly one of the finest domestic bubblies I have ever slurped (think: slightly overripe strawberries dipped in honey and schmeared over an oven fresh biscotti). 

I don't -
know exactly when (and if I'll have enough patience to continue waiting) I should open this bottle:  Baumard Quarts de Chaume, 2002.

03 October 2006

Food Words: Gratin

Gratin T/F: Gratin is a type of casserole, covered in cheese and baked/broiled.


If, like me, your childhood exposure to 'gratin' comes from Betty Crocker's potatoes au gratin, then you may have guessed that the above statement is true.  Actually, gratin simply refers to a covered casserole, which has been baked or broiled.  The covering doesn't have to be cheese.  It can be bread crumbs or a mixture of bread and cheese or butter/cream.

Two gratins to try:

Raspberry and fig gratin + try with an extra dry (off-dry) bubbly or a late harvest Muscat

Goat cheese gratin + try with a sahara-dry Spanish Cava or slightly funky Pinot Noir

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Wine for the Masses

Monkdrinking Religion has been referred to as, "opium of the people."  I'm certain there is much disagreement with that sentiment.  However, one thing all wine lovers can agree on is that religion was crucial in providing wine for the masses.

Justinian I, a 4th century Roman Emperor, was of the mind that his empire was best united under a single faith.  And the lucky faith winner in this imperial showdown was Christianity.  Once Christianity became the state religion, wine became more than just tasty Roman juice, it became  powerful religious accouterment.  Thus, when the Western Roman empire collapsed, winemaking did not.  It was preserved in Western Europe by clergymen in order to celebrate the Eucharist.

However, it's more than simply religion, which preserved viticulture, it was the monks.  At the time of Rome's decline, monks were practically the only literate dwellers in Europe.  Additionally, monks owned large tracts of land and had the time (that's what vows of celibacy, silence, etc. will get you) to experiment in vineyards and record their knowledge for posterity.  That isn't to say that no one else was growing or drinking wine at the time.  The Germanic tribes who enjoyed sacking Roman outposts were certainly fond of wine (Barbarian Riesling, anyone?).  However, the monks appear to have been able to hold onto and consolidate vineyards, as well as build up a body of viticultural knowledge.  Praise the monks!

As time passed, various monastic orders became winemaking experts in certain regions.  For example, the Benedictines had winemaking monasteries in the Loire, Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy.  The less famous Cistercians are believed to be the first to plant Chardonnay in Chablis.  Carthusian monks made wine in Switzerland, Germany and northeastern Spain.

Of course we can all thank the Padres for bringing wine to the Americas.  The Jesuits made wine in Peru, while later, in the 18th century, the Franciscans began pressing grapes in California.  Would there have been winemaking in the west without the monks?  Perhaps, but it would have definitely evolved much differently.  Without the clergy, was there a chance that winemaking would have died out after the fall of Rome?  Who knows.  All I can say is, "Thank Bacchus for winemaking monks!"

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21 September 2006


Pinotnoirgrapes_1 Noir - French for black.  A common suffix for dark-berried grape varietals (e.g. Pinot Noir, Grenache Noir)

Not to be confused with

Film Noir - A cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas that set their protagonists in a world perceived as inherently corrupt and unsympathetic

Nor to be confused with

Jim Noir - British singer/songwriter described thusly:

"Imagine a Wurlitzer jukebox stacked with the hits of ELO, Super Furry Animals, Pepper-era Beatles, The Beta Band, The Beach Boys, early Pink Floyd and Supertramp. Now imagine blowing that jukebox up with a cartoon-style dynamite stick and making a record from the exploded fragments of vinyl and luminescent tubing. That's a bit like what Tower Of Love [from Jim Noir] sounds like. "

Have a listen to Mr. Noir while sipping a P.Noir and watching The Stranger - a classic film noir.

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20 September 2006

Wine Served a Chambre

Chambre Billy of the Wine Cask Blog asked me about the term, Chambré.  I had heard it before - yet like many semi-familiar wine terms, I assumed I knew what it meant.  Chambré is used, in both French and English, to describe a wine warmed to ambient (room - chamber) temperature.

Obnoxious usage example:  Excuse me, dear chap.  Might I have a goblet of that claret a Chambré?

Less obnoxious usage example:  Hey, Jim.  Some assclown at the bar asked for a glass of the Meritage a Chambré!?  What does that mean?

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31 August 2006

Unartfully Worded

Pepew The vocabulary of wine is a symphony of sexy-sounding words.  If you're single, try this trick in a bar on Friday night.  Whisper these sweet nothings in an unsuspecting soul's ear.

bouteille dégustation pupitre blanc rouge blanc melon élevage

On second thought, don't.  You might get smacked.

There is also a dark, unartful side to vino vocabulary.  These are terms that most certainly do not conjure up candlelit dinners or purdy sunsets.  Rather, such terms create a rather rough, if not downright violent image.  For example..

Punching down - a winemaking step in which the cap (grapeskins and stuff sticking to said skins) is broken up and submerged in to the fermenting wine. 

"That Cabernet isn't fermenting properly, I'm gonna go punch its cap down!"

Powdery mildew - AKA oidium; a common vine fungal disease wherein all green parts on an affected plant are covered with a cobweb-like growth.  If grape clusters are infected growth is impaired an berries may not reach full size.

"This Sauvignon Blanc was afflicted with powdery mildew.  Fortunately, we treated the vines early on with fungicide and sulfur; and managed to save the crop.  Would you care for a glass?"

Rectified grape must - Processed grape juice, which has been concentrated and filtered.  Used in place of sugar for chaptalizing cool climate/not-quite-ripe wines.

"Looks like we'll have to add 20 gallons of rectified grape must to our Grande Cuvée."

Disgorgement - Removal of the pellet of junk (i.e. dead yeast cells) from the neck of a bottle of sparkling wine.  This step follows riddling in the bubbly production process.

"Eww.  This bottle wasn't properly disgorged - I just got a mouthful of dead yeast cells."

Can you name any other unartful wine words that put a damper on that whole romantic wine aura?

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05 May 2006

How To Spit in German, French & Italian

(Editor's note: This is part of the weekend series of posts by guest authors, who are fellow bloggers, wine industry folk and Basic Juice readers.  If you are interested in being a guest author on Basic Juice, contact me with a proposal, and we'll see if we can't introduce the world to your handiwork.)

Guest Author: Emily of Winemonger - an importer and online retailer of Austrian wine.

Spit How To Spit in German, French & Italian

In honor of Beau’s upcoming Live Austrian Wine Adventure, and for all of you out there who are planning your own wine tours abroad, I thought I would put together this small guide of words you may find yourself needing to say when you are in a German, French or Italian winery (in that order).

AGE: alter – age – eta

ALCOHOLIC CONTENT: alkoholgehalt - teneur en alcool - gradazione alcolica

BOUQUET, NOSE: bukett – bouquet – bouquet

CORKY TASTE: korkgeschmack – gout de bouchon – sapore di tappo

DRY: trocken - sec - secco

EARTHY: erdig – gout de terroir – terroso

FAT: fett – gras – grasso

FRESH: frisch – frais – fresco

FRUIT: frucht – fruit – fruttato

GRAPE: beere – baie – acino

GRAPE CLUSTER: traube - raisin - grappolo

GRAPE VARIETY: rebsorte – cepage - vitigno

LEES: geläger – lies – feccia

Continue reading "How To Spit in German, French & Italian" »

22 April 2006

Austrian Appellations: Carnuntum

Carnuntum is easily Austria's least known wine region.  However, whatever it may lack in familiarity, the region easily makes up for in historical intrigue, and surprisingly good wine.

Carnuntum, east of Vienna, was originally inhabited by the Celts.  Druid folk named the region, deriving its name from 'Karn' - Celtic for 'rock.'  In time (6 AD, to be exact), the Romans came to control Carnuntum.  They used it as a troop garrison and built heavy duty fortifications along the Danube.  Carnuntum's importance as a government and military center waned in the 4th century after it was sacked by the Germans.


The Heidentor (Pagan Gate) - Carnuntum's most well-known archaeological landmark

Continue reading "Austrian Appellations: Carnuntum" »

11 April 2006

Austrian Appellations: Vienna

Wienistanders One thing I recall from my brief time in Austria during the early 90s was a series of civic slogans:

"In Linz Beginnt's" - It begins in Linz
"Graz Hat's" - Graz has it
"Wien ist Anders" - Vienna is something else

With respect to wine, Vienna is indeed something else.  Even France can't boast of this much viticulture and wine-culture in its capitol city.  As the Celtic settlement called, "Vedunia," grapes were cultivated as early as 1132 AD.  During the Middle Ages, each district of the city (called 'Bezirk' in German) possessed its own vineyards.  The Heurigen (wine bar) scene was made possible, thanks to Emperor Josef II, who passed an edict in 1784, allowing growers to sell & serve food with their wine (Oh, and by the way, Joseph the Deuce was one of those enlightened despots, who pushed peasant emancipation, education and secularization of church property.  A pretty good guy - as far as despots go).

As the city grew and modernized, many of the vineyards were lost in favor of concrete, asphalt, etc.  Recently however, there has been a trend towards recultivation.  There are 630 wine producers (that's one wine producer per 2,500 people - my kind of town) working 680 hectares of vines.  White grapes dominate these urban vineyards.  Grüner Veltliner, the quintessential Austrian grape is common, along with the international travelers Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.  For those who prefer drinking to growing, there are 180 Heurigen in Vienna.  There's even a Vienna Heurigen Express, which choo-choos wine imbibers safely around town.  That settles it!  I'm going to Vienna.

For those wanting an ex situ sip of Viennese vino try tracking down some of the few exported wines:

Weingut Wieninger - imported to the U.S. by Vin DiVino

Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplatz - imported to Canada by HHD Imports

Of course, beginning next month, I will bring you a first-slurp accounting of the wines & Heurigen of Vienna.  Stay tuned.

You can subscribe to the Live Austrian Wine Adventure XML feed with this link.

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03 April 2006

Least Palatable Wine Words

Unappetizing_1I've begun to work up a list of what I consider to be the least palatable wine words

Gyropalette - A mechanical metal crate, which holds dozens of 'traditionally made' sparkling wine bottles.  It is the automated answer to riddling.  Commonly used in the production of Spanish sparkling wine, or Cava as it's called.  This makes bubbly seem much less romantic.  However, I loves me some $10 sparkly

Bung - It sounds so..Beavis & Butthead (heh ehh ehh).  But the bung serves a vital function in the ageing/maturation process:  It is inserted into the bung-hole..  The definition from the Oxford Companion is priceless:

"..If a barrel is stored so that the bung is at its highest point, this position is called bung-up and the bung may be left so that gas can escape from the bung-hole." 

Flabby - It is my understanding that this word is used to describe wine that is lacking in acidity, and thus feels heavy & lazy in the mouth.  This term is indeed apt for superfruity, high-alcohol wines.  Yet the visual that the term 'flabby' creates is certainly unappetizing.

What wine words do you consider unpalatable?

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