Wine, Food, And The Pursuit Of Happiness

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gris With Envy

Words explain everything
You don't have to speak a dozen different languages to find your way around wine, but if you did, it sure would come in handy.

Start counting the different languages represented in the typical wine shop: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Flemish, Czech, Lebanese, Georgian, and more.  Let's stop before we even got to the Celtic / Gaelic labels in the whiskey section or start debating whether American English is even the same thing as Australian English.

Take last night's favorite Italian white, 2011 Colterenzio "Schreckbichl" Pinot Grigio (about $15), with its Italian / German front label and Italian / English back label, for instance.

Colterenzio -- col means hill, and Terenzio / Terrence is someone's name -- would be called Terrence Hill Winery in the USA.  And Schreckbichl -- the name of the vineyard that provides the grapes -- translates roughly Shrieking Point, a tribute to the treacherous steep valleys and twisting roads in northern Alpine Italy.  We might call a vineyard like this Dangerville or Geronimo Drop.  On the back label, one sentence in English explains the wine, mentioning sun-blessed hills, the Ice Age, and great finesse.

In spite of themselves, wine labels are giving us a lot of information -- so much sometimes they have to use three languages at once -- if only we can find some way to understand them.

SPECIAL OFFER: Register for Fifty Shades Of Gris (Class + Small Plates) Wed. Jan. 23 6:30-8:30pm with promo code alltiedup and take $25 off.

We'll taste a range of wines in this class derived from the soft-core soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture trilogy, from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume - tart and tangy Sauvignon Blanc-based whites from northern France - to Pinot Gris from Oregon and finally Barossa Shiraz.  Somewhere in the line-up, I'm going to work in a "vin gris" which we call rose; in the wine world, grey wine is actually pink.

Teacher: Jonathon Alsop

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Fine Print - Q.P.R. - Quality Price Ratio

Last night's Q.P.R. class - essentially an opportunity for me to spend the evening with all my favorite wines around $10 - confirmed something we've known for a long time: you have to read the fine print. On the front of the bottle, this tasty 2011 Cocobon "Red" (about $8 at Trader Joe's) doesn't really give you too much.  The "coco" part of the name promises yummy chocolate, and "bon" must mean it's good, so the label marketing message is tight, if a little general.

But flip the bottle around, and that's where you learn what makes this smooth rich red so fragrant and flavorful.  Beneath a wine maker's message in teeny tiny type is the signature of Georgetta Dane, former perfumist, now Big House wine maker, and the taste and talent behind a couple of my favorite reds from Concannon Vineyard.

WINE SHOPPING TIP: You've got a smart phone, so let it do the work.  Download a UPC / QR code scanner app to get instant info, but remember to Google the wine maker's name, if available.