Dry Muscat, the sexy two-night stand you’ve been waiting for

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!

You are forbidden from drinking this wine.

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.

You thought you knew what wine was? Hah!

April 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

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A scrumptious Minervois from Benjamin Taillandier

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.

clos lojen

The indigenous Bobal grape makes this Manchuela wine

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!

Natural Wine Foot Soldier, ready to die in battle!

March 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Jean Pierre Robinot’s “Fêtembulles”, one of a growing number of spectacular “natural” wines available in Maine.

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.

Oh, “natur-el”. Wine debate heats up.

March 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

My most recent column in the Portland Press Herald tries to untangle some of what’s at stake in the ongoing debates over…I hesitate even to use the phrase…”natural wine”. I really don’t think this is tempest-in-a-decanter stuff, despite the rolled eyes of many wine pros, sighing “here we go again” as if conversations about oak chips, sulfur, tartaric acid, and biodynamics aren’t actually what they (we) live for.

Anyway, there are all kinds of call-outs in the recent press, especially at Gambero Rosso and Intravino. Regardless of where you stand, I think it’s an exciting set of discussions, and most importantly, many wines that are in one way or another allied with the “natural wine movement” are undeniably delicious. They can be strange (or not), they can get funky or play it straight. They are usually exciting. If you care about wine, and if you care about culture and where we’re all heading at this moment in world time, you owe it to yourself to participate in the conversation.

Which, by the way, I’ll pick up again soon in future posts and articles…talk to you then…

Actual wine! From an actual place! Slovenian hill whites

February 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

Back in November I mentioned an article I’d had published in the Art of Eating, which focused on the skin-macerated Kabaj Rebula. Well, Kabaj wines are finally available in the great state of Maine, and my column in today’s Portland Press Herald celebrates that news.

In addition to the Rebula, there’s also Ravan (made from Tocai Friulano, or as the Slovenians sometimes call it, Zeleni Sauvignon), and the Wine of Wines, Amfora (made in traditional 3,500-liter qveri, Georgian clay amphorae).

This is singular wine, for real. There is nothing like it anywhere else, because there’s no land like the land of Collio/Brda — it’s the only winemaking region where the climate and soil of the Alps meets the climate and soil of the Mediterranean — and there’s no one like Jean-Michel Morel, the Bordelaise ex-French-Foreign-Legionnaire, who makes Kabaj wines.

Please enjoy these wines, made by and for true adventurers. Thanks to Blue Danube Wine Co., and Devenish Wines in Maine, for making it possible for us to do so.

Ooooh, slutty syrah!

February 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’m not trying to use a look-at-me dirty word just to get attention. The Petite Cochon Rouge really is a sex-positive new-world 21st-century life-lover. I usually like my wines held back just a touch more. This is real-deal Syrah, though, from sourced California fruit if you can believe it. But it rides like all its best friends are from the Northern Rhône. And it’s made very conscientiously, the right way, details of which I enumerate in my column.  Read it find out what I mean. Kill your idols, embrace the exciting, treat every little moment as distinct and real. You slut.

(There, did I get your attention?)

Pink Bubbles. Get over yourself, St. Valentine, it’s the best wine there is.

February 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

I mean, really. The potential from conscientiously made sparkling rosé is endless. On Earth as in heaven…the ethereal reaching into the corporeal. Spirit made flesh. All that and it might get you laid. Interested? Read on.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, wine of SURPRISE.

February 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

If I ever thought I knew anything, it was what Sauvignon Blanc tastes like, especially when it’s from New Zealand: guava, grapefruit, gooseberry, good bye. Two NZ Sauvignon Blancs I’ve drunk recently yank my ego, twist it into a tidy pretzel and toss it to the dogs.

Big lesson: You never know as much as you think you know. These are complex, enticing wines at totally doable prices. They give. And they take. They stay open. And invite — nay, force — you to do the same. Here’s the story.

Oh, you mean Sangiovese can taste good?!

February 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

That’s unfair. But still, c’mon: So much wine made from Sangiovese is uninspiring at best, insipid and sour at worst. We could buy more Brunello di Montalcino, quickly sap our kids’ college funds, and wait 15 or so years until it’s ready. Or we could buy Rosso Toscana, and be happy. No, not just happy: satisfied. NOW. That’s what Rosso Toscana is for: satisfaction, presently. Read on, here.