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The VinoRadio Blog


'Wine From Here' in L.A. 9/22

The Natural Wine revolution will be televised, er, screened in Los Angeles on Thursday, 9/22, at 7pm, as the new film Wine From Here makes its second public appearance.

Drop everything, especially that glass of chemical-laden, spoofulated wine, and head on down to the Downtown Independent Theater (251 S. Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012) for this fascinating documentary about how some California winemakers out there are actually healing their land, letting their vineyards speak, and creating authentic wines that actually say something about where they're from. 

Check out the trailer:

Oh! Almost forgot! Click on over to our friends CorkZilla for a ticket discount...



Bottle Variation

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other
Unfortunately, bottle variation doesn’t mean you drink a different bottle of wine every night. Although if you every run into bottle variation, you probably would wish it did. Instead, bottle variation describes the phenomena when two bottles of the same wine deliver two different experiences. One experience would be the wine as the winemaker intended it to be while the other would be an inferior experience, as something has caused the wine to taste and smell different.

So what insidious forces are plotting to ruin what should be a perfectly good bottle of wine? Turns out there are several. During bottling, perhaps one of the bottles was contaminated permitting yeast cell growth as the wine ages, or perhaps during the shipment or storage of the wine, it was exposed to light and/or heat causing the wine to chemically change and age improperly.

Then there is the cork whose purpose is to keep air out of the bottle and prevent premature oxidation. Well, perhaps your wine was stored standing up for a long period of time in a low humidity environment and the cork dried out a little letting oxygen into the bottle, or even if the bottle was stored in a manner that kept the cork moist, the cork could have been inferior and let air into your bottle.  

As you are getting the picture, there can be many diabolical forces at play here. Whatever the true reason your bottle has gone south, there is little consolation any explanation can offer when a wine just doesn't live up to its potential.

Case in point, several weeks ago, I opened a bottle of 2001 Cuvee Du Vatican Chateauneuf Du Pape Reserve Sixtine, which I had cellared since purchase. Despite the 95 points of glory Robert Parker promised me, I was denied by bottle variation. How do I know bottle variation was to blame here? Well, several weeks later a friend opened another bottle of the 2001 Cuvee Sixtine with me and did it ever deliver!

The wine required several hours of decanting before we were treated to aromas of blackberries, plums, spice, and black pepper wafting from the glass. The nose carried on to the palate and was joined by the minerality, which is Chateauneuf, along with a full bodied rich fruit profile followed by an acidity which brought the long finish into focus. This wine was a completely different experience than the last time.

Unfortunately, given the reviews of the 01 Cuvee Sixtine on Cellartracker, it seems anything goes with the remaining bottle in my cellar, as bottle variation is a common theme across the reviews. Oh well, one day I’ll pull the cork and hope for the best.


Wineaux 101: Talk it Out

[Editor's note: this is the first of an ongoing VinoRadio series about how to buy wines. Please feel free to let us know about any specific topics you'd like us to cover in future articles!]

Enjoying wine is about buying wines you enjoy…

As an IT program manager, I talk to people from coast to coast on a daily basis. Granted, we don’t talk about wine 99.9% of the time, but somehow the topic always seems to come up. Inevitably, when the voice of the other end finds out I spend Saturdays working in a wine shop, they ask me to recommend wines they should buy.

Now, I could rattle off several wines I’ve enjoyed recently and send them on their merry way, but this does them little good for several reasons. First and foremost, sending them out to find one of these wines in their local wine shop is sending them searching for the needle in the haystack. Secondly, what I am enjoying these days may not be even close to what they enjoy about wine, and even if I did recommend a wine that they manage to find, and they happened to enjoy it, all they’re going to do is ask me for another needle for which to search. So instead, here is what I do…

First, we Google their zip code and the words “wine shop”. Together we chat about the results trying to find several options close to their home, because convenience matters. Once we have a few options, I recommend shops whose primary source of income is wine sales. Why does this matter? If these establishments are able to remain in business, they are keeping their customers happy by selecting quality wines and maintaining customer relationships.

Then I scare the hell out of them when I say, "Now go to the wine shop and talk to the people in the shop." That's whent I hear, “I can’t describe the wines I like”, “I don’t know enough about wine to do that”, and countless variations of the same. To each of them I offer this: all they ever need to know about any wine is “Did YOU like it?” Period. To enjoy it, they need not know who made it, where the grapes are grown, or how it was made, and if they walk into any wine shop that makes them feel uncomfortable about their level of wine knowledge, the wine shop doesn’t deserve your hard earned money. Plain and simple, don’t shop there.
Before they head over to the wine shop, I suggest they write down the name of one of the wines they have enjoyed. If they’re really ambitious, I suggest the next time they drink a wine they like, write down any three words which describe the wine to them. If they do one of these two things, they have vastly improved their chance of leaving the wine shop with a wine they like on their first visit.

I then remind them that every person selling wine was once a wine newbie. No wine salesperson was born knowing Burgundy from Barolo. They learned about their palate just as you will, by buying and drinking wines, and if the salesperson is worth anything, they’ll make you feel welcome in exploring the wine shop together.
When they head over to the wine shop, even if they haven’t done either of my suggestions, they still have to provide some direction to help the salesperson. First, let the salesperson know how much you want to spend per bottle, and be able to answer these two simple questions: Do you want a red or white? Do you like wines from California or from Europe? Even answering these simple questions will help narrow the selections in the shop for the salesperson.

I then recommend that they buy several bottles which the wine salesperson selects, and later, when they drink the wines, to remember which ones they liked. If possible, I suggest they try to find a few words that describe why they liked the wine…fruity, lush, spicy, dry, earthy… whatever they taste, in their own words.
Here is the key part, I tell them to go back to the same wine shop, and even if it is a different salesperson, tell them about the wines you enjoyed. They can then opt to purchase the same wines again or try other wines similar to them in the shop. The goal here is for you, and the wine salesperson, to learn about your palate and the wines you enjoy.

As people become more comfortable with their wine salesperson, and perhaps adventurous with their wine drinking, they can ask the salesperson what wines he or she enjoys. Once again, purchase several of the wines and on your next visit, let the staff know about your experience with those bottles.

Notice I am focusing on two aspects - one is talking to the salesperson about the wines you enjoy. The salesperson is going to miss your palate with some of the recommendations. It is the nature of wine; not every wine will fit your palate. Focus on the positives and make the salesperson feel good about helping you. Second, and most important, is YOU. Wine buying is all about your palate and your money. You should enjoy spending your money on it along with drinking it. Now, go uncork one for me... and please let me know how it goes!