Monday, February 8, 2016

Larry Anosmia MS, Wine Advice Columnist


My wife and I decided to try the newest restaurant in town. When I read the wine list, I didn’t recognize a single wine. There was some category called “Pet Nat,” which I thought was odd. I’d heard they don’t make good pets, though you can train them, I think, and have a Flying Flea Circus. LOL! And there were a whole bunch of orange wines, which, I don’t know, I thought must have been made by Green and Red winery. Green and Red makes orange. Get it? HA! Anyhow, I was frustrated that I couldn’t find a bottle I even recognized, and when I asked for the sommelier’s help, he just looked at me like I was a dolt, and then sold me some bottle of Pecorino, which I only bought because that was my nickname in high school. Why do so many new restaurants carry wines most people don’t know?—Brett in SF

Dear Brett,
This is a complaint I’m pretty much sick to death of. First of all, it’s the sommelier’s job to look at you like you’re a dolt. During the practical exams for becoming a Master Sommelier, one is required to perform an exemplary condescending face. Many wear it almost constantly. Though too many actually look constipated. But, more importantly, Brett, how is it the restaurant’s responsibility that you know something about wine? Maybe your new restaurant should have some kind of remedial wine list for cretins like you who think you’re entitled to understand the wine menu. All you idiots just want Pinot Noir anyway, or maybe some Silver Oak—the missionary position of wines. You know, Bretthole, why can’t you, and all the other restaurant customers, understand that it’s the sommelier’s job to educate you, not make sure you enjoy your evening? And how can the sommelier educate you with a list full of the stupid kinds of wines you think you like and want to drink? It sounds to me like you ran into a very professional sommelier at that new restaurant. And, truthfully, sommeliers create wine lists to impress other sommeliers, which makes sense when you realize how important we are. And then all the customers do is bitch and moan. It’s the worst part of the job.


I ordered a bottle of wine. When the sommelier poured me a taste, I smelled it, and it smelled worse than a Trump polygraph test. I complained to the sommelier, and she told me that it was supposed to smell like that, and she refused to take it back. She claimed it was a “natural wine.” I asked her what the hell a “natural wine” was, and she told me it was a wine that was made with “minimal intervention,” I guess like our strategy in Syria. So utter bullshit. Shouldn’t she have taken the wine back and offered to replace it with a different wine?—Joe in PA

Dear Joe,
What kind of an idiot are you? Actually, I know what kind of idiot you are. You’re the kind who thinks that wines have to smell clean and pretty in order to be palatable. Well, listen, Joe, there’s a whole category of wines that just don’t need to be judged by the likes of you and the establishment. If a sommelier tells you that’s how a wine is supposed to smell, then you may as well drink it and enjoy it, brother, you own it. Sommeliers and wine writers and winemakers don’t answer to you, Joe. Who are you? We answer to a higher cause. We answer to terroir. A wine is supposed to smell of a place, Joe, and, honestly, some places just don’t smell that good. Think a cat lady’s sofa, or the motel after the Wine Bloggers Conference. When you know a lot about wine, which seems like about Super Bowl 86, you’ll understand that. Have you ever been to the place where that natural wine was made? What you smell is the wine’s terroir if the sommelier, or the wine writer, or the winemaker, says it’s the terroir. It wouldn’t kill you to keep an open mind, Joe. Once again, a sommelier’s job is to impress you with her encyclopedic wine knowledge and recommend the wine she’s convinced you haven’t a clue about in order to help you understand your own wine ignorance. Is that so hard to understand? If your doctor prescribes medicine for you, you don’t actually research the side effects, idiot, you just take it and hope you don’t die. Give your sommelier the same respect.


My husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary recently at a very nice local restaurant, and we ordered a bottle of Caymus Cabernet with our dinner. It was $200 on the wine list for a current vintage. A few days later, my husband saw it at a local wine merchant for $70. Why are restaurant markups so high on wine? It seems to me that a restaurant would attract more customers, and make more money, if they priced their wine list at more sensible markups. I’m guessing the restaurant only paid about $50 for that bottle. Does $150 profit seem reasonable to you?—Jessica in NY

Dear Jessica,
First of all, congratulations on your 20th wedding anniversary. My condolences to your husband. What a nag. You already kissed that 200 bucks goodbye when you ordered a Caymus Cabernet. Did you think it was even worth the 50 bucks you think it cost the restaurant? So, right there, you’re just talking out your ass. For $200 you could have had two bottles of Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc! But, OK, let’s take your question seriously, as if it were a good question. Though it’s not, it’s more like a “Is it pronounced ‘mare-a-tidge’ or ‘mare-a-taj?’” kind of stupid question. (It’s “mare-a-tidge.” An easy way to remember? It rhymes with “frottage.” Like what your husband does on the subway every morning.) That $150 “profit” goes toward paying the sommelier, who gets paid whether you see him on the floor or not, he could be at a tasting, or recording his weekly podcast that eight people listen to. That $150 “profit” goes to paying for the fancy stemware your wine was served in. You can’t drink Cabernet out of a Zinfandel glass, Jessica, for fuck’s sake, that’s basically a wine drinking cameltoe—just asking for inappropriate cracks. That $150 “profit” goes for proper wine storage. Some day. When we sell enough wine. So when you break it all down, that $150 profit is actually only $125 profit. And don’t forget it cost money to get that Wine Spectator “Almost a Best of Runnerup Award of Excellence,” too. Plus, you want familiar? You want Caymus? Not a Pecorino? You gotta pay the freight. Sommeliers don’t put wines like that on a wine list because we like them, we don’t. We do it because we know you’ll pay to make yourself comfortable, and because we need guest houses when we visit Napa Valley. So it’s a win-win, Jessica. Sheesh, what do you people want?


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Aging Wine Critics--I Wouldn't


It’s a question from wine novices that comes up repeatedly. Just how do we know how long to age our wine critics? Furthermore, how can we tell which wine critics will age well, and which will fall apart? Are there any guidelines? I believe there are, and the best way to understand them is to look at wine critics of various ages we have now for clues as to how wine critics age.  However, there is no exact measure, and certainly no guarantee. Many promising wine critics will mysteriously become dull and lifeless with age, though, in most cases, they were duller than Spätburgunder to begin with, and you were simply fooled by their slick packaging.

To better understand aging wine critics, you'll have to follow the monthly HoseMaster link to Tim Atkin's site. Tell him I said hello. Nice guy. Funny accent, but friendly. And while you're there, leave something witty behind. A choice comment, or something you stole from an internet site. Or, if you must, leave a choice little gift for me, all wrapped in a brown paper bag and set on fire.

TIM ATKIN MW
 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Puckette's Charge: Wine Folly


Are you new to wine? Do you want to learn about wine from someone who knows only the teeniest bit more than you? Isn’t that the way you prefer to learn, from someone just a little bit smarter than you? What if you wanted to become a surgeon? Medical school is so expensive, and the teachers there talk way over your head! Surgery doesn’t have to be just for brainiacs! Why not just learn from the local butcher? Surgery is just knives and meat. Start there. But you don’t want to be a surgeon, you want to learn about wine. That’s why Wine Folly is here! No brainiacs allowed! We’re Wine Folly. We’re the knives, and you’re the meat! Let’s get started.

I’m Madeline Puckette, and I’m just like you. I like to get drunk and make videos! And I figured out how to create a wine empire for people just like us, people who want our wine knowledge to be shallow, but good enough to make our craft beer drinking friends think we’re cool. I make wine simple because I know you’re simple. I even use a really large typeface for Wine Folly so that it’s easier to use your fingers to read it. I never take the intelligence of my fans for granted. I just assume you’re reading Wine Folly because you don’t have much. And, dammit, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying and understanding wine! Other wine websites use all these big words that are confusing. Not here. I make wine simple. And I never forget that my fans are like privileged white kids with powerful attorneys—I always give you really short sentences.

You’ll find lots of neat graphics on Wine Folly, too! At first, they might not make sense. But stay with it, maybe read along with a friend who has a high school diploma. The graphics are a way to make wine easier to understand. For example, you might read in one of those hard wine books with hardly any pictures that wine is about 85% water, 14% alcohol, and 1% minerals and acids and stuff like that. I know, that’s not easy to understand for me either. What exactly does that mean, 85% and 14% and all that? So I made a pie chart! Don’t you love pie charts? I like them almost as much as I like real pie (oh, yes, I forgot to mention that I’m really funny, too). If you don’t know what a pie chart is, you will! I’m all about pie charts. A pie chart is a chart in the shape of a pie. We call it “round.” A wine can be “round,” too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves! That’s advanced wine talk. On my “round” pie chart I divide the circle into three parts. The biggest part is the 85% part, and it’s labeled “water.” This would be the part of the pie Robert Parker eats! Another part, a lot smaller, says “alcohol.” This is the little part of the pie that I might eat, and maybe throw it up later when no one’s looking. Finally, a little sliver is the “minerals, acids and other junk” part. Give that little piece to the wino downtown. See! That’s so much easier to understand. Simple, right? Wine is mostly water like Wine Folly is mostly empty space.

Now hop on over to Amazon and buy my new book, “Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine.” Don’t be scared that it’s 240 pages! You can read the whole book in about 20 minutes. Well, maybe not you. It’s jampacked with pie charts, and graphs, and the sorts of illustrations you find on absolutely the finest cocktail napkins! Many of them took several minutes on the internet to research. Look, you can buy 50 different beginner wine books on Amazon, and they all say the same things. There’s absolutely nothing new here. Not in those books, and sure as hell not in mine. But “Wine Folly” has all my pie charts and graphs! They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Oh, don’t let that intimidate you. My pictures are only worth five or six!

You’re going to learn so much about wine from my books and videos! For example, I help you understand how to taste a wine. First, you need to smell it. This is from my book:

“Hold your glass just under your nose and sniff once to ‘prime’ your nose. Then swirl your wine once and smell again. This time, smell the wine longer and slower but just as delicately. Switch between sniffing and thinking.”
 

This is how even MWs and MSs smell wine. You can’t be expected to sniff and think at the same time! No one can do that. It’s why we hold our breath when we’re trying to figure out the crossword puzzles in “Highlights for Children.” And it’s important you just swirl the wine once. Wine can get dizzy, and then it gets all confused. Hey, you haven’t even bought my book yet and already you’re a lot smarter about wine!

I don’t like to brag, but what sets me apart from the other people writing about wine is that I don’t feel the need to be right all the time. Wine isn’t about facts. You get that. The whole reason to have a wine blog and to write a wine book is to show people that none of that stuff really matters. Facts, in fact (oh, I can’t help it, I’m just pixieish and funny), are just like wine. Pick the ones you like and just ignore the other ones. I try to make it into a game. See if you can figure out what facts are actually facts, and which ones I’m ignoring. Smart people get bogged down in details, which is just so stupid. But when you read Wine Folly, don’t worry, there’s no smart people here!

I think close enough is good enough. Like I’m close enough to a wine expert that you should buy my book. Like in one of my informative videos I compare an Oregon Pinot Noir to a California Pinot Noir. Which was fun because I had no idea what I was talking about. So the California Pinot Noir was a William Hill Pinot Noir from the Central Coast. I don’t know what that means. Central Coast? That’s vague. A Coast is really long, and a Central is really small. WTF?  So I mentioned that when a wine label says Central Coast the grapes could come from anywhere from all the way up in Mendocino to all the way down to Santa Barbara. See there! Close enough! If you don’t know that’s way off, then your stupid Millennial friends won’t know either. And, come on, Mendocino is only a few hundred miles off! And it’s not like I didn’t know Oregon was near Canada somewhere.

My book is the top-selling wine book on Amazon! Suck it Jancis and Karen! You spend years and years writing your books and I write mine over the weekend. I guess we know who the best wine writer in the world is now. Ask Geoff Kruth MS, or“The Washington Post,” or all the other really smart people who put my book in their Best Wine Books of the Year lists. Those hypocrites. They know. Facts just don’t really matter.