Archive for ‘wine’

December 10, 2012

confessions of a winetard

01.12.12 – Saturday, Piacenza wine market

A brief history of my relationship with wine

1982, I’m 18, travelling around Italy with my boyfriend and no money. We’re somewhere in the mountains around Rome, and we decide that on our budget we can live on crusty bread, fresh tomatoes and fiaschi of local red wine in squat bottles in woven straw baskets, which all costs about 50p a meal and is nutritious, traditional peasant fare. This seems like a marvellous idea during our first meal, after which we pass out on our beach mats in a field under the shade of a tree. When I wake up I feel dreadful, headachy, nauseous, depressed. I won’t touch red wine again for the next 15 years.

What influences my wine buying behaviour:

  1. Is it white?

Mid-late 1990’s and I’m in my mid-late thirties, burning out from taking myself and my career far too seriously, and suffering from insomnia, which seems to be exacerbated when I drink white wine. Red wine is healthier and has all of those anti-oxidant thingies in it. I won’t touch white wine for the next 10 plus years.

What influences my wine buying behaviour:

  1. Is it red?
  2. Does it have a pretty label?
  3. Price range ITL.3,000 – ITL.5,000 (for a really good bottle)

End 2010, M. is selling insurance and one of his clients owns a local wine shop and bar. Within a few months of meeting him we are spending what we normally spend on a bottle of wine on a single glass. Buying a bottle of wine has become as complicated as choosing a new phone or computer.

What influences my wine buying behaviour:

  1. Does the vintner tell a good story? + €10–€15
  2. Is the vintner a woman? + €5–€10
  3. Will the vintner treat me like an alcoholic if I don’t spit it out? – €5–€10
  4. Will they be pleased if I don’t? + €5–€10
  5. Do they personally introduce us to their vines? Do they carry around a picture of their vines in their wallet? + €10–€15
  6. Will they want me to try the whole range of their wines? + €10–€15
  7. Do they talk like sommeliers and wear that ridiculous spittoon thing round their necks? – €10–€15
  8. Does he have irritating facial hair and suggest things like if you swirl the wine in one direction it tastes one way, whereas if you swirl it in the other you get something different? – €3
  9. Does the vintner act like a mad scientist? + €10–€15
  10. Does it have a pretty label? + €3
December 3, 2012

what I think about when I think about wine

Thursday 29 November 2012

I don’t like this wine, but it’s a Barolo, and costs a fortune. Saying I don’t like it would just sound ignorant. And invite comments about how I’m English and can’t possibly have any kind of taste in wine. I suppose I’ve learned that it’s bad manners to be dismissive about well-made wine, it doesn’t show the correct appreciation of all the challenges wine-makers face, all the choices they have to make, to follow the phases of the moon, whether to use pesticides or sexually confuse the butterflies [honestly, they spray a hormone into the air that makes the butterflies that attack grapes forget what their sexual preferences are re. gender, and makes them horny all the time, not just when the female is ready to mate],  to let the must ferment with or without the skins, to age the wine in oak, stainless steel, cement & fibreglass, in terracotta amphorae seven leagues under the sea … But, fuck, I don’t like this wine, and I’m paying a fortune for it. It’s a bit sour, very tanniny, it’s not giving me a good buzz. When I was a teenager hanging out with a biker gang –the ex-public school boy bikers – experimenting with drugs, drugs were evaluated on the quality of their buzz. Why isn’t wine? Why can’t I ask Antonio for something with a “mellow buzz” rather than elegant or full-bodied, which basically means less or more alcohol? I’m sure the producer decided to gently squeeze rather than crush the grapes, to use old rather than new oak casks to retain the genuine flavours and aromas of the wine, I don’t care, to me it tastes like it will curdle in my stomach. It smells of fruit, of jam. Big deal. I like surprises, like when wine smells of something completely different to wine, but tastes delicious, like those German wines that smell of petrol, or the biodynamic ones that smell of shit, honestly, not even shit and something else, just shit. They try to dress it up a bit, saying it smells of stable, or even horseshit, which is less scary than human shit, but the last one I tried smelled of nothing less than dirty nappy. So what do I have to do to get a decent glass of wine around here, without having to pay homage to well-made wines I don’t like? And for the record, Antonio, it’s not true that I am a sucker for oak-aged wine, all that vanilla, all the difficult stuff rubbed out by the wood. I do realise that they put actual wood shavings into tetra pak wine to make it drinkable. I don’t want a wine that tastes of the rocks on the sides of the mountains the grapes were perilously grown on. I want to float away, to get pleasantly squiffy, savouring a lovely, gentle, tantalising wine that reminds me of random things, of the smell of new tennis shoes, of shitaki mushrooms, of condoms, of chlorine, of freezers, of burned leaves, of mothballs, of M.’s deodorant.

October 18, 2012

wine doodles























October 18, 2012

wine doodles

October 17, 2012

elements for wine-tasting bingo

24.03.10 Wine Exhibition, Villa Favorita, Verona

  • is the wine aged in: a cask, an old cask, a barrel, (extra points for using local wood varieties in the production of the barrels) in steel containers, in terracotta amphorae, in terracotta amphorae underwater
  • how long the wine is left to macerate on the grape skins. And why did you decide to do that anyway?
  • treatments: how much sulfate? copper? did you sexually confuse the butterflies?
  • are the grapes grown on terraces, on steep slopes, at high altitudes, in a microclimate
  • are the grapes indigenous?
  • fancy schmancy stuff: have you used red wine production methods with white grapes? Have you decided not to filter your wine?
  • does it have “natural” smells? (horse shit, chicken shit, etc.)
  • Is it “natural”? Is it organic? Are the grapes grown using biodynamic methods?
  • are the grapes allowed to shrivel on the vine, or in crates?
  • the bottle: is your bottle a cool shape? Does it have a big dimple? Do you have a nice label?
  • How old is the wine? Does it have a good nose? Finish? Good legs?
  • Colour: transparency, lightness, rim or meniscus …
  • elegant or complex? Alcohol levels…
  • Are the grapes used grown by the producer? How old are the vines? Is there a cru?
  • Once you’ve opened the bottle, do you want to finish drinking it?
  • Big or small producer? Do they tell good stories? Are they a slave to market forces or rugged individualists and pioneers? Do they use easy or difficult grapes? Are they dressed as sommeliers? Is that annoying? Do they like drinking? Do they spit the wine out? I will judge you…