October 19, 2010 § Leave a Comment
The New York Times calls this here thing “charmingly passionate”, and who’m I to disagree? Charm and passion in balance ain’t a bad way to go…
My name’s Joe Appel, and I started this blog as a way to continue the conversation that starts with my wine column in the Portland Press Herald. I intend this space to include not only reprints of those columns, but all kinds of additional stuff: mention of interesting wines I couldn’t fit into a column, more in-depth comment from the illustrious importers and other wine-world luminaries/visionaries I interview, and so on. In general, there’ll be a looser feel than the column, so I can express more of the feelings of the wine experiences I have.
Check out “Welcome to the Soul of Wine”, to your left, for a preview of where I’m heading with this. And: stay tuned. Thanks!
May 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Dependable. Kind. Interesting, with a subtle edgy streak mostly kept under wraps. I usually want adventuresome wines that set me off kilter. Sometimes I don’t. That’s what Dry Creek Vineyard wines are for: when you want something very good but very consistent.
Ruffle feathers tomorrow. Today, settle in and settle down. Here’s my take on a benchmark-y, stable, classic line-up of wines from California that will break few-to-no balls, bones, habits, relationships or banks.
May 1, 2013 § 1 Comment
The other possible quotation to have put in that headline is “Ask not what your wine can do for you, but what you can do for your wine.” Kennedy’s birthday is coming up later this month, but today is International Workers Day, so Marx trumps JFK.
Both lines are relevant to my column in today’s Portland Press Herald, wherein I try to loosen the grip of what’s-in-the-glass fetish, and open up the conversation about the true juiciness of wine residing in process. That’s it: Wine is a process, not a product. A living thing, not a lump of money or sense-satisfaction in a convenient tasty-liquid format.
The column is kind of long-winded (big surprise) with perhaps too little payoff, but I felt I needed to write it to set up how I’m going to shift the perspective of future columns somewhat.
Most of it came out of my recent trip to Slovenia and Italy, and several moments of revelation therein. Visiting different winemakers in Vipava, Karst, Trentino, Friuli, and the Veneto, I heard different perspectives and arguments on viticulture and vinification each time: simultaneously, everyone was disagreeing with each other and everyone was right. I wanted them to get together and discuss. I wanted the truth!
But they won’t all get together. So it’s up to me, you, and other interested drinkers to connect the strands. To approach each taste of wine (and/or of life) as if the only important matter is the story, the entire sequence of events and methodologies that led to the wine’s birth, and its ongoing development in bottle, in glass, in mouth, in soul.
April 24, 2013 § Leave a Comment
That’s a pretty snotty headline. But there’s something to it, as I hope my most recent column in the Portland Press Herald makes clear: the testy dance of tannin, mineral and plump fruit; the not-entirely-settled question of whether brains or brawn or beauty is to emerge triumphant. Sagrantino, the indigenous grape of Umbria in central Italy, offers so much hard-n-old along with amazingly yummy fruit.
Any good Sagrantino di Montefalco is rare, expensive, and requires many years in bottle before its two sides come together. But Montefalco Rosso is the (cheaper) first step: Umbria’s famous grape, blended with Sangiovese and some other stuff. Easier to love, but still emotionally intoxicating. Read all about it…
April 13, 2013 § 1 Comment
Latest Portland Press Herald entreaty is to enter the strange, sometimes wacked but usually fascinating and often elegant world of dry Muscat. Make that worlds, not world, since there’s so much variety. And the wines are made all over the world, rarely if ever oaked and therefore-ish exceptional windows into terroir. In the article I mention Alois Lageder’s beauty from Alto Adige, plus a surprising Malaga Muscat, Botani, from Spain. And Bonny Doon’s Ca’ Del Solo Muscat is Adige-esque but does its own thang.
Fruit, flowers, and spices galore: there’s no better way to welcome spring
I do pull out a “two-night stand” metaphor because for me Muscat drinks like sex, lusty and sweaty with someone new, but you wake up in the morning and still want to hang. Yeah!
April 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Luxury-hounds and bean-counters, alert: Wine is not rich Corinthian leather. Damn, right? No, it’s not a lifestyle gimmick. Wine is truth and therefore beauty (thanks, John Keats), and we ought to have unfettered access to beauty and truth.
We don’t fetter said access (much, at least, anymore) when it comes to non-alcohol arts (literature, film, music) and crafts (hello, Etsy), but with wine and spirits you gotta do what the man says.
In a “control” state such as Maine, with four tiers of legal administration necessary to get a wine to market, you are restricted in what you can drink. A combination of Puritanism (all drinking is bad) and consumerism (one wine is as good as another; it’s all “product”) conspire.
Read on, here, for more. And then, let’s all commit to a little good ol’ pressure-on-our-legislature to democratize the market.
April 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
My most recent Portland Press Herald wine column is the third in a series on “natural” wine. Regardless of your feelings on this category of sorts, it’s growing in importance, and the debates are worthwhile. They signal where wine drinking is going in this country, in this world.
This week I try to focus on what to expect from the tastes of natural wine. What to expect is…the unexpected! That’s the point. Some of the wines taste just delicious, some are…interesting. Which can be great, and still delicious, or not good at all. Just like other wine! Either way, familiarize yourselves with them. Your world will open.
I’ve met a bunch of people lately who are ordering cases, because they’ve found something in wines fermented with natural (“wild”) yeasts and bottled with either no sulfur or a tiny amount, that tastes like life — like a more vivid, lifelike version of life!
March 25, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I’m undergoing a touch of the ol’ identity crisis, friends. Comes from wearing a hat or two too many. I work in retail, helping to sell wine in a group of stores that focus on local produce, meat, dairy and other products. We work on a small scale, nurturing relationships with many local producers.
In a store in New England, you can’t really do that for wine, but you can try to sell wine whose producers reflect similar values: small-scale, relationship-based, earth-respecting. The thing is, I also write about wine, hoping to discover more fascinating and true wines, explore what they say about the real world, and try to share these experiences in a spirit of ardent love.
Anyway, the crisis: In retail, any good merchant is out to help the customer, and to do that well you need to be catholic in your tastes, empathic, selfless, non-judgmental. Some wine writers might try to do this as well, but I think it’s a con. I’d rather clearly state my biases up front: less Willy Loman, more the opinionated Jack Black character from “High Fidelity”.
I’ve recently gotten consciously turned on to “natural wines”, and I can’t turn off, or back. I don’t right now know the way to go on selling (or writing about) conventionally made wines, even if they “taste good”, because I’m a foot soldier in some sort of revolution, and I’ve crossed the Rubicon.
(Whether something “tastes good” is actually a lot more complicated than whether it tastes good, if you get me…)
The debates continue about what even constitutes a “natural wine”, but my most recent column in the Portland Press Herald is a continuation of my attempt to discuss it. Call it Part Un of my interview with prominent natural-wine importer Zev Rovine. No matter where you draw your lines, we’re talking about wines that are grown organically (and usually biodynamically), ferment exclusively with their own indigenous (or “wild”) yeasts, and receive either no sulfur at all or a very small amount just before the wine is put in the bottle.
Part Deux is coming soon. As to what the hell I write about after that, since the number of natural wines available in Maine, where most of my readership resides, is on the slim side, I have no idea.