Wine Labels Are Bullshit

20090927 petaluma - 04Wine packing the shelves at Petaluma Market – Buzz Bishop

If wine tasting is bullshit, then it follows the naming of wines has to be full of it too.

Marketing. It’s all about marketing. I’ve said before how the design of a wine label will influence our eyes before our tongues even get a taste. Now the naming of wines is messing with our brains as we walk the aisles.

Check out the names of a few wines I spotted on the shelves of wine retailers in Napa and Sonoma, you’d think TS Elliot was involved in the creation of some of these Rum Tum Tuggers. While some of the best wines in the world graced the shelves, sitting alongside the likes of Monogamy, Promisqous, Purple Cowboy, Middle Sister, Wandering Grape, Evil, Poizon and Merlot Over And Play Dead.

None of them carry the prestige or elegance of the grand houses of Bordeaux or the stars of Napa, but they do carry that microbrew counter culture cache that has become popular.

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It’s a tiny little middle finger at the wine industry proving what’s on the outside matters just as much as what’s on the inside.

Yes, the naming of wines, like wine tasting, is bullshit.

The Blog According to Buzz. Spread the word, ya heard?

Wine Tasting Is Bullshit

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St Clement Tasting Room – by Buzz Bishop on Flickr

With apologies to Penn and Teller, it is – it really is.

Just as with galleries that hang fingerpaintings from 4 year olds that have critics wagging, wine is all about ritual, mystique and a whole bunch of nonsense.

The swirling. The sniffing. The tasting. The spitting.

Wine tasting is like poetry class. Back in high school you’d take a few dozen words on a page and craft imagery, and deep meaning from just a few scattered syllables.

The same happens with wine. But let’s be honest – it either tastes good, or it doesnt. You either like it, or you don’t.

Sure it’s a fun puzzle to find the leather and clove and cherry and citrus that the tasting notes so boldly declare are hidden somewhere in your glass, but does it matter?

Wine tasting, is bullshit – and I’m loving every single sip of it!

The Blog According to Buzz. Spread the word, ya heard?

Bodegas Lustau Sherry Tasting with Christopher Cannan

Cannan presents Bodegas Lustau

“In North America, sherry needs an education.  In the UK, sherry is a birthright,” remarked one of the attendees of a recent Bodegas Lustau tasting.

Not being from the UK, I needed the education and Europvin‘s Christopher Cannan was a great choice to give it.

Mr. Cannan is one of the wine world’s most recognized wine exporters.  His regions range from Spain to Portugal to Hungary to, of course, Bordeaux.  His portfolio features more than 300 labels and with more than 30 years in the industry, his humility is only superceded by his experience.

Bodegas Lustau is from the southwest of Spain, almost in North Africa.  The region is very warm and is buffeted by 2 winds; one from the Sahara, the other from the Atlantic.  The soil of the region is mostly chalky and that’s where you’ll find the sherry vines, struggling in the white dusty earth.

Sherry grapes are picked in August and on their own make a very boring and insipid white wine. So they are fortified to add some depth along a scale that ranges from very dry to very sweet.  Sherry doesnt typically have a vintage.  Fractional blending, where portions from various casks are blended for each bottling, insures the product has a consistent taste from year to year to year.

For the sweeter sherries, the grapes are picked and left in the sun for 3 weeks to dry.  What’s left is more sugar than juice, but they are pressed nonetheless.

Surprisingly, sherry is very affordable considering the age, effort and quality required to produce each bottle.  The Bodegas Lustau flight presented by Mr Cannan wholesales from $9 – $24.

Bodegas Lustau

Lustau Manzanilla “Papirusa” Solera Reserva – $9

Bone dry, light, fresh, very tangy.  Pairs wonderfully with tapas, shellfish, seafood and sushi.

Lustau Palo Cortado “Peninsula” Solera Reserva – $24

Given 92 points by Wine Advocate, Robert Parker writes “Great balance, intensity and acidity as well as a scorched earth / roasted nut character.”  Pairs well with meats, poultry, game and consomme.

Lustau East India Solera – $13

With 94 points from Wine Advocate, Parker calls it “weighty, sweet and provocative. It boasts a dark amber color as well as a huge nose of melted toffee, caramel, figs and prunes.”  This was given the name “East India” after sailors found the sherry tasted better after the long trek between England and India.  Whether it was the motion of the ocean, or the humidity of India, the sherry tasted better in the colony.

In the end, my palate couldn’t stand up to the sherry challenge. The high alcohol of the wine makes it a sipper, I’m a slugger.  My favorite grapes are chardonnay and mourvedre – not exactly the most sophisticated grapes in the vineyard.  I’m fine with that, sherry wasn’t.

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