Thursday, September 29, 2011

Airport Amusement

I know, I know, those two words do not go together. Bemusement perhaps, but not amusement. It will get harder to believe before it gets easier.
While waiting for a delayed flight some of the employees had clearly gotten a bit punchy in addition to the passengers. I guess we really weren't passengers yet, but passengers-in-waiting but even worse than the Seinfeld restaurant episode.
This story also identifies how to tell when a particular variety of grape is all the rage.
One of the women paged in as throaty and sultry a voice as loudspeakers allow, "Passenger moscato, passenger moscato, please report to the desk at gate 31." Even frustrated would-be-travelers at least chortled.
From gate 30 came a tongue-in-cheek response, "Can you please get your mind right down there ma'am."
The rest of the night turned out to be purely dismal and ended with an overnight in Boston's Logan airport followed by a three hour van ride to our actual destination city.
Passenger moscato was noticeably absent.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Bit More Vine Talk - All Amusement This Time

The same episode railed about in my last post gets kudos this time. Jennifer Coolidge hosted instead of Stanley Tucci. You know her, even if you don't think you do. Stanley's dry, somewhat acerbic wit fits the show well but Jennifer provided a welcome breath of fresh air.
She brought up merkins, not once but twice. Wondering aloud about the color of someone's merkin made me laugh. The second reference, "nipples to merkin," made me wonder why The Boy Wonder never uttered that fantastically memorable phrase...I know I intend to make it part of my repertoire.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Vine Talk Errs

Deep breath. One more. Few things in the wine world rile me more than supposed authorities misinforming the public either through lack of knowledge or outright lying to disguise their inadequacies. Clearly, the latter is more egregious than the former but both are inexcusable in the context of a taped television program.
Please, "Vine Talk", "take wine snobbery and pour it right down the drain," as you have claimed to do but you must seek to educate and demystify properly. Stephanie Caraway, I'm talking to you. She appears in more than half of the episodes (often not where French or Italian wines are tasted - pronunciation issues?) as Ray Isle's assistant. She stays on camera while he goes to get the next wine.
During a recent malbec tasting you missed an opportunity to define malbec when one of the guests asked if the word, in French, meant "bad nose." Stephanie laughed, the normal reaction of someone who does not realize. The guest was close, "mal" means bad or even evil and "bec" means beak or mouth. The wine offers lots of tannin and it can be rough on the palate in its youth. Argentina's climate tames the grape and produces wines with plenty of color, reasonable structures and good values.
That was merely a missed opportunity, no harm done. However, she offered a potentially confusing note about Mendoza, the heart of viticulture in Argentina, observing that it is "very cool at night, so it brings up the acid levels."
"Why does the coolness make them [the grapes] more acid," poet Paul Mills inquired.
Her response? A quick bit of blather that reminded me of the unfortunate Miss South Carolina from a few years back. You remember her, "that our education like, such as South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as..."
Sorry Stephanie, it wasn't that bad. It really went like this: "Brings up pH levels in, in fruit, anything that's grown is an agricultural product that, that pH level just comes up." Oh. Maybe it was that bad. For someone billed as a "wine expert" that answer sucks. It's also wrong.
First, let's have a quick science tutorial. High acidity means lower pH levels. If pH levels are going up, as Stephanie says, acidity would actually decrease.
Second, even if we excuse the pH confusion it's still wrong. Acidity reaches a peak before verasion, where the grapes begin to develop color and more flavor, then continue to decrease as ripeness approaches. Sugars increase and acids lessen.
Cool nights act to preserve acidity in the grapes longer than in warmer regions. The grapes take the night off in the cooler weather, meaning sugars accumulate slower and acids remain longer.
Regardless of Ms. Caraway's error, or anyone else's for that matter, someone should catch it in editing and delete it entirely or offer clarification.
My irritation with Stephanie stems from the show calling her a "wine expert" when she clearly is more of a spokesmodel. I guess her blond tresses and pleasing countenance trump wine knowledge for the program.
Come on "Vine Talk," you claim to demystify, don't re-mystify.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Preposterous Pundit Pontification of the Month (Silly Wine Review of the Month)

As I have been reading a lot of the Wine Spectator lately the honors continue to feature their writers. The verbiage about whites managed to avoid ruffling my feathers at all, with a minor exception. One reviewer, A.N., did use "a touch of wax" to describe a wine. I have never understood this descriptor and it appears regularly, if infrequently, in reviews. Wax candy lips spring to my mind, leaving a bad taste behind.
The red winner received a landslide victory. J.M. not only jumbles a bizarre melange of food references but also repels and anthropomophizes the wine.
TriVento Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo Eolo 2008 - "An ambitious wine, with ripe linzer torte, plum preserves and berry coulis fruit that's well integrated with toasty notes of apple wood and tarry mineral, leading to the long, fruit-filled finish..."
Wine can not be ambitious. If it were, we should be interviewing it and sending it on tour, not drinking it. Have you ever had unripe linzer torte...scratch that, have you ever had linzer torte? Not being a fan of most fruit pies perhaps my lack of knowledge is my own fault. But, who would take the time to make a pastry with unripe fruit? "Tarry mineral" reminds me of nothing I want in my glass. Again, personal reference comes into play it being a mere year removed from BP's debacle of tar in the Gulf. Tropical storm Lee dredged up fresh tar balls last week, exacerbating my issue with the description.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Vine Talk TV Show

A new style of wine program, for better or for worse. Each show offers a themed tasting with various celebrities. Some truly famous people appear as well as a number more likely to generate "Who?" from the audience. Often a restaurateur joins in the fun. Stanley Tucci hosts and looks for comedic opportunities while Ray Isle (from Food & Wine) accurately offers tidbits about the region, grape, etc.
Successful episodes have engaging characters. I just watched a Finger Lakes riesling tasting that had little to offer except Nathan Lane who was out of control and thoroughly amusing, if completely distracting. Tune in to see people who interest you get interviewed by Tucci while they occasionally discuss wine. If no one on the panel hooks you, skip it. Don't expect to be able to discern what wine you might like based on celebrities' comments.
Do not tune in to learn much about wine but there are occasional nuggets if you pay attention. The celebrities range from collectors and oenologic geeks to neophytes. In other words, this tasting resembles so many I have attended but with "fancier" guests. Some interrupt any serious discussion, some revel in guzzling and putting on a show, some remain mostly quiet, some exhibit classic misunderstandings.
A group of people taste the same wines blind and the finale unveils the favorite wine of the crowd and panel. With a half-hour show, time flies but I find the lack of more consistent expert guidance frustrating. It would be great to offer a few more insights to guide consumers.
The producers stress that this is a new style of wine program emphasizing "a welcoming environment for viewers." I question how many complete novices are tuning in and therefore believe they would be better served to offer a few more in-depth observations/explanations.