Below is one of the more-interesting articles I have ever read on wine, shared for anyone interested in more than snobbery.
I learned some new aspects of the history of wine-making (I had not known that the earliest known finds were in Georgia.) And, I learned about biodynamic cultivation, a term I knew but did not understand.
I knew what a jeraboam was: a big bottle. Until yesterday, I had never seen one outside a wine shop and had never tasted wine from one. Now, I have tasted wine from three. Checking the spelling and definition in Wikipedia, I confirmed my suspicion that the bottle is twice the size of a magnum...and takes its name--for some strange reason--from the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel.
I’ll stick with wine and forget the history lesson. But, it’s best to have plenty of people around, when a jeraboam is opened. This is not the size for two people to open to have with cheese and crackers.
Having friends with vineyards, especially ones that are very hospitable and generous is not all bad. One tends to drink too much wine and the well never runs dry.
I can concur with findings in the following New Yorker article. The only surprise was to learn about wine being produced in New Jersey. One of the best white wines I have tasted was from New York, but climate in upstate New York is rather different to that of the Garden State (name of a state one associates with industrial waste!).
I have enjoyed the world’s best/most expensive wines, more so because others paid for the privilege. I have also enjoyed some very cheap wine, although not all. I am happy with the 2.49 euro bottle of pinot grigio from the super market or the 4 euro Bordeaux from a wine warehouse. For special occasions, I tap into my cache of good wine bought on subscription.
As we learned in the above article, more than taste goes into the enjoyment of wine. A bottle, which has been aging in the cellar for ten years, is more enjoyable because I know what it would cost in a restaurant: a price I would not pay.
_ Some might have noticed that I failed to write anything (or even cut and paste) yesterday. I travelled to a friend’s birthday celebration. Fortunately, that friend owns one of Germany’s better wine estates and is a generous host.
The event started with a historical tour of the town. Despite being bitterly cold, it was interesting. I have been visiting this town for forty years, but knew little of the history. One could begin the tale when the region was covered by ocean, because their is a rich fossil record (even a famous UNESCO protected site, that spits up rare and unique look at the earth’s distant past). Our tour did not even trace the Roman roots of the village, when the first vines were planted to grow wine to pay troops (each soldier was paid 5 liters of wine per day, which was reasonable considering that he had walked all the way from Rome over the Alps and was stuck in the empire’s most distant outpost!). Anyways, we heard about the history of existing buildings and churches, which trace their origins to the 1400. My main conclusion is that residents of this area have suffered throughout history from various groups disagreeing and fighting one another, starting with the Romans killing “savages” eking out an existence in the wilds, to French invading from the west and Prussians from the east, to Catholics and Protestant squabbling over who could best exploit people (Martin Luther hammered his demands on a church door not far away), to Allied troops pushing the Nazis back towards Berlin into the maw of the Russian killing machine. Lately, it has been peaceful, with only the current government extracting taxes and European bureaucrats demanding reams of information from farmers/vintners.
To thaw out from the tour and to commence the evening’s alcohol consumption, we were offered Gluhwein (hot mulled wine) in the estates lavish tasting room. Dinner started Carpaccio of beet with goat cheese accompanied by red sparkling wine. The main course was goulash of wild boar and venison from the family hunting estate in eastern Germany. This was washed down with 2008 Grüner Silvaner (green Silvanner), followed by a tasting of 1959 Riesling Spätlese. Dessert was Rumtopf (fruit and berries marinated in rum and wine) and ice cream, accompanied by 1964 Beernenauslese. To the meal, we got to try a 1949 Riesling Spätlese from my friend’s parents’ historical collection of family wines. I learned that the Nazis used French prisoners of war to work the vineyards during the war, ensuring unbroken wine production. (I’m sure that much was enjoyed by American GI’s, when the occupied the area.) To follow another tradition, we were offered distilled spirits (pear, raspberry, plum) to help digestion, in case the previous ingestion of alcohol was not doing a proper job. Of course, there was plenty of wine left over in case anyone needed to keep sampling the wares.
As always, a good time was had by all and everyone surely looks forward to the next celebration of fine wine. That’s what friends are for...to have birthdays...
I wrote some time back about being about to enjoy inexpensive wine...if it tastes good. That is not the same thing as saying that all cheap wine is better than expensive wine. It’s all about the taste, stupid.
Now, a real writer has written about the same subject in Slate.
People in Europe, having better prejudices and delusions about wine, do not ask for a particular price range. If they do not have their own experience (rare, but can happen), they grab for a name that sounds familiar.
For all those that think that they know something about wine, marketing, or research...
I like wine (and I know that unsnob is not a word, but...).
I do not like to talk about wine or read about the opinions of others (usually wine snobs—provide your own definition). Despite the posturing that one must endure with wine freaks, there is only one criterion and that can come only after a bottle has been opened. I judge a wine only by how it tastes. I have two levels of rating: Mmmm and Bah. I utter a sound only for wines falling in the former category. Occasionally, I am forced to finish a glass of the latter, because I have been served and want to be polite.
I do not keep track of wines (although I did receive a wine journal as a present—sorry!)) that I have enjoyed (or not) and have a poor memory. I have enjoyed some to the most famous and most expensive wines...and a whole bunch of really cheap wine. The top wines are enjoyable (especially when someone else pays), but not so much more to merit the cost. I understand supply and demand, but that does not add to the flavor. In general, I have found that cheap white wine is less bad than cheap red wine. Paradoxically, I prefer red wine vinegar to white wine vinegar...
I do not talk about wine, because I have not bothered to learn much and cannot remember most of what I should have learned. I have a good friend, who is one of Germany’s leading winemakers. He has tried over the years to impart wisdom and failed (good teacher; bad pupil). Besides being able to produce good wine, year in and year out, he has a lot of patience with my repeated posing of stupid questions.
In red wines, I tend to prefer those from the Bordeaux region. I do not notice red grape varieties, but do not like Shiraz or merlot. In whites, I tend to notice grape varieties and not regions. I enjoy pinot grigio/pinot gris/graue Burgunder, white merlot, Grüner Veltiner, and some obscure varieties available only in Switzerland. I have had excellent wines from Alsace and, occasionally, had a decent Riesling.
I would never try to impose my taste on another person, so go try some wine on your own and discover what you like. Don’t bother reading anything, especially this...
My wife brought something valuable into the relationship: friends. But, not only good friends, but ones with a wine estate that has been in their families for centuries. They own some of the best sites along the Rhine, an area first cultivated by the Romans to supply soldiers with their 5 liter per diem. They have passed on most daily work to their children, but it remains a family operation.
Today, we spent another pleasant day in their company and enjoyed a few of their fine wines. It is one of our favorite journeys. Fortunately, it is not a long drive to reach the Rhine. We could even take a boat down the Main, but have never tried. That might come when gasoline runs out or becomes prohibitively expensive. We will still want to make the journey.
They export their wines to many countries, which makes them available at better outlets and restaurants. If you notice the name, you could do worse than to order a bottle. It goes without saying that many of their wines have won prizes, which is an achievement in a field with so much competition and one which depends upon finicky palettes.
Caused by a surprising discovery…
I am not a fan of American wine, probably because I have not had the pleasure of tasting many good ones. One of the best white wines I have tasted was, believe it or not, from Upstate New York. I have known from a young age that grapes grow in the region, but that they were used for juice and jelly. It should not be surprising that a talented winemaker could produce magic. I have had one Californian wine that I liked during a meal at a Chinese restaurant in Pasadena. I do not recall the names. There must be more good wines, because many people (whose judgment I cannot judge) seem to rave about them and films (Bottle Shock) have touted a certain greatness. I am not willing sample countless bottles to discover the good ones, when I can drink plenty of decent wine from France and Italy…as well as the occasional good German one.
That said, Lufthansa surprised me with a good American wine on the flight from Frankfurt to Miami. It was a chardonnay, produced by a winery name Columbia Crest. I was even more surprised to read on the label that it comes from Washington State. I sampled a different type at a restaurant and found it just as pleasing. On the return trip, Lufthansa offered another variety, which was just as good. It seems like there is a talented winemaker at work in the rainy northwest.
It took a German company to introduce me to American wine that I liked…
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.