Archive for January, 2010

Bad wine – what to say (or not say)?

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

We live at a time when there is lots of good wine on the market.  Modern technology and competition have respectively both enabled and forced wineries to make wines of high quality.  Even the cheap (budget) wines out there are drinkable.  But what about those are just plain bad?  As a wine writer and aspiring wine V-logger how do I handle the issue of reviewing a bad wine?  How do the PAID wine critics face themselves after announcing to their readers that someone’s hard work is crap?

For the most part, I have tried to follow the old adage; “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.  If I thought a wine was bad, I would simply say NOTHING.  Don’t write about it.  And even if I thought a wine was mediocre, I might write the positives about the wine, and skip the mediocre parts.  But does this hurt my credibility?  Can I be taken seriously if I only have nice things to say?  What of the controversial wine panning?  Dare I potentially burn bridges out there?  Will I piss people off if I say that I think their wine sucks?

An argument can be made for both sides.  But I think the reality is that I can not play both sides of the fence.  And things have gotten even murkier…I am now working within the industry for an importer/manufacturer/producer of wine.  Even if I managed to somehow remain unbiased, I think my employer would be pretty pissed if I had anything bad to say about their wines.  And they would have every right to feel the way they did.

Moving forward, as I figure out how to VLOG (uploading & editing video can’t be THAT hard, can it?), I will start regularly popping corks (twisting caps) on bottles that have been sent to me over the past few months.  Though I am sure these people aren’t gonna thank me if I have less than complimentary things to say, it will be hard to hide my expression on video.  So I guess that will keep things REAL.

And as to the wines I work with, well, I’ll try to include a disclosure of sorts as the industry is attempting to move to greater transparency & I believe I must play by the rules if I want to maintain professional credibility.

On an only somewhat related note, I would be remiss if I did not mention a big event taking place tomorrow night.  I have helped out a bit in the planning of this event.  It is the big KOSHER RESTAURANT & WINE EXPERIENCE.  This is the 4th year this annual event is taking place.  This year there will be about 20 food purveyors to go along with the 40+ wineries.  The response has been tremendous.  Looks like another sellout.  Shoot me a message and introduce yourself if you will be there.  We’ll have a drink…on me;)

Happy Wine Critic free wine tasting!


Confessions of a wine blogger

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

I’m preparing to fly to KC to lead a wine tasting in a few days.  But not before I head to Boston to do a wine training.  I was recently asked my opinion about a wine by the CEO of a multi-million dollar wine importer.  And today I was asked to be a contributing writer to a well regarded wine website.  SO WHO THE HECK AM I???… (more…)

Wintertime soup wines…

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

This article was originally written for…ENJOY!


Winter/Soup wines

It has been a cold winter of late in the Northeast and given the option I’d like to spend every evening curled up in front of the fireplace with a steaming hot bowl of rich hearty soup.  Give me an “everything soup” – start with the chicken & herbs and simply throw everything you can imagine in – ahh, the best.  Now you want to have a nice glass of wine in front of your fireplace with the aforementioned bowl of soup, but which wine to choose?

Pairing wine with soup can be a challenge for wine lovers; with the overpowering nature of a rich soup and the similar liquidy texture between the two.  The first rule, as always, is to drink whatever wine you like.   But if you want to work a little outside the box you can turn to some underappreciated wines; sparkling & fortified.

When considering sparkling wine the associations are automatically champagne & celebratory events.  I’d encourage you to consider trying a sparkling wine any time and turning to those made outside of the Champagne region of France (similar to champagne but legally not allowed to be called “Champagne”), such as Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, or simply sparkling wine made in places such as Israel or California.  When done right, the texture of the little bubbles in a sparkling wine combined with its bracing dry acidity make sparkling wines “food neutral” – as in they compliment ANYTHING.  Looking to the “old world” you can seek out the French Blanc de Blanc by Herzog, the slightly sweet Bartenura Brut Prosecco from Italy or the bone dry ELVI “Adar” Brut Cava from Spain.

Another option for fireplace sipping, also unheralded, is “Port”, a fortified wine from Portugal.  Often sweet and generally fortified with a neutral grape spirit such as grappa or brandy, this wine screams warm slippers & fireplace sipper.  The fortification of the wine leads to a higher alcohol level than regular table wines.  And said heavier alcohol makes for a similar textural contrast as the aforementioned sparkling wines – making for a heart warming combination with soup.  Try the Porto Cordovero from Portugal or Israel’s Vintage Port made by Carmel.

It’s cold outside but these underappreciated wine styles paired with that steamy bowl of soup and a crackling fireplace can ensure that you are nice and warm inside.

Happy Cold weather soup sipping and alternative wine tasting!


A healthy vine is a …frozen vine???

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Wine people may often be heard saying that wine starts in the vineyard.  While this may seem obvious, what is less obvious is the feeling many wine folks say – that a bad winemaker can still make good wine with good grapes although a good winemaker generally can not make a great wine with bad grapes.

Vines must stay alive from year to year as they only give off fruit once a year, in the late summer & fall – harvest time.  The vines do not give much fruit the first 3 years and many winemakers don’t bother using the fruit from the first 3 years anyway.  And as vines age they tend to produce better grapes for winemaking.  The fruit becomes richer as an aging vine produces less fruit.  And as the roots go deeper the fruit is said to gain complexities.  But how is one to keep a vine alive when the elements take hold and frost sets in?

Well, pre-freeze the vines of course…

…OK, so this was something I had trouble wrapping my head around when I first heard it.  But the theory (or I guess science) is quite interesting.  The vines are sprayed with water just before a frost.  This water then freezes, and encapsulates the vines in a protective ICE shell – keeping it safe and protecting it from the harsh environment.

I bring this up today NOT because I’m looking to play Mr. Wizard, not because it is FREEZING in NYC and not because I have ice-wine on my mind.  But rather because I read an article about a problem Russian River (Sonoma, CA) growers may be facing.  The water used to spray the vines and create that protective ice shell comes from local streams.  These streams are home to salmon.  And there is a concern that the salmon numbers are dropping as a result of lower water levels.  This has led to the possibility that farmers may lose the ability to spray their vines and vineyards may be severely damaged.

Not sure how this is all going to play out, but I do hope that the vines & salmon are all saved.  Hey, can’t we all get along…

Happy Salmon & wine tasting!