Wednesday, September 09, 2009

My personal wine manifesto

My 12 Commandments of Wine and Beverages.

1. Do not purchase your wine in a grocery store, if you want service, high quality wines and something out of the ordinary. If you are the kind of person who always buys the same wine every-time, fine purchase from the grocery store. But if you want to try something new, different, unique find a wine shop, any wine shop (see commandment #2) and purchase from them, get to know them and let them get to know you and your wine preferences. This will alter your wine consumption in a pleasurable and innumerable manner. Life is too short to always drink the same wine!

2. In selecting a wine shop, find one that will not talk down to you or treat you like an idiot, they are supposed to be the experts not you, that is why you went there in the first place. Never purchase from a wine shop that does not have at least one person on staff (preferably more) who have tasted the wine they are selling, it makes all the difference when you are selecting a certain flavor. If the staff reads the back of the label when describing the wine, run, run, run - you deserve so much more! Never purchase from a shop that can only sell wine based off of what points that wine scored in whatever wine publication they prefer to quote. Never purchase wine from someone who over simplifies wine flavors with such vague descriptors as "fruity and fun". What does that mean? fun for you or fun for me? fruity like tart green apples or fruity like a perfectly ripe pear? You get the point. Finally when you find a wine shop that you are comfortable with develop a monogamous relationship with them. I cannot emphasize what a difference this will make. They will discover what you like and will watch for wines they think you would enjoy, they can also alert you to special or bargain wines that come in.

3. Never order wine by the glass in a restaurant or bar! OK I say never, I guess I don't really mean never, never, there are a few select places that I will order wine by the glass, the rest of the places I avoid it like the plague it is. I cringe every time I hear about this new place or that new place that just opened up and they have over 30 wines by the glass! Yikes, do you know what that means? Odds are the next wine by the glass you order will have been open for days, possibly weeks, before it is brought to your table. That is not a wine I want to drink no matter what high tech preservation system, they profess to use, that wine should not even be used for cooking. Serving wine to customers when the wine has been opened far to long is wrong, a disservice to the consumer and an insult to the winemaker and we as consumers should demand better. Instead we are overcharged for the wine, possibly paying the cost of the whole bottle with that one glass. Just don't do it, I beg of you.

4. Liquors keep forever, well almost forever, once opened. Vodka, rum, gin (oh my) no matter what your preference is, will keep once you open it, as long as you securely close them. They will not spoil, separate, or experience any loss in flavor.

5. Wine does not keep once opened (see commandment#3), it is a living, breathing, organism and therefore will spoil when kept open, that is life and there is no way around it. There are ways to slow it down, slightly, but it cannot be stopped. A bottle (750ml) contains 4 glasses of wine, if that is more than can be consumed when opened you may want to consider purchasing splits (1/2 bottles 375ml). Splits contain.....2 glasses of wine. Always remember oxygen (air, if you are not chemically inclined) is the enemy of wine, so as a result the less oxygen that comes in contact with your wine the longer it will keep, also exposing the wine to cooler temperatures slows down the reaction. So wine preservation items that remove or displace oxygen will help, but not stop, the death of your wine. Also using those preservation items and then placing the wine in the refrigerator, even red wines, will help. You will only gain another 24 hours on red wines and 48 hours on white wines, in general.

6. Never cook with wine you would not drink! I know you have all heard this a million times before but clearly some of you do not believe it or are not paying attention. What difference does it make you ask? Simple, if you would not drink the wine, why would you want to eat the food you put the wine in? If you have leftover wine that you can not finish drinking, freeze for later use in cooking. Yes I said freeze it! Put small quantities in Ziploc bags or ice cube trays and freeze them for use when a recipe calls for wine.

7. Is there a difference between $6 wine and $60 wine? Put simply, yes! This question is similar to asking, "is there a difference between a Yugo and a Mercedes?" Of course there is, putting aside the obvious statements that people are more likely to point and laugh when seeing you drive a Yugo, but I digress. The real issue is, do they both serve a specific purpose? yes of course much in the same way that a $6 or $60 bottle of wine does. Please understand that I am not saying that you should always drink $60 bottles of wine, that would be ridiculous! There is a time and place for all types of wine, setting in front of the TV eating a frozen lasagna on a Tuesday night (not that I condone engaging in either of those risky pursuits) is definitely a $6 bottle of wine night. However when carefully prepping and preparing a dinner utilizing farmer market fresh fruits and vegetables and cooking organic, free range steaks on a Saturday evening definitely calls for the $60 bottle of wine. Why? Again besides the obvious answer, the Tuesday night frozen dinner eaten in front of the TV means that you are not really paying much attention to what you are eating (otherwise it would not be a frozen dinner) or what you are drinking. So a $60 bottle of wine would be a waste, but that spectacular menu you are planning for Saturday for which you purchased expensive, high quality ingredients to prepare, demands to have as much thought put into the wine served to accompany it. Here is what you will get in a $60 bottle, more complex flavors, more intense flavors, an all around better crafted wine that was made utilizing the best grapes that estate had to offer, the time necessary for the wine to develop before the winemaker releases it, and in most cases carefully monitored time spent in really expensive oak barrels. If you regularly drink wine that costs under $10 a bottle I challenge you to, when your budget allows, purchase a well made $40 (if you need help with a well made wine see commandment #2) bottle of wine and take the time to taste and savor it make it an event, I promise that you will notice the difference!

8. Yes white Zinfandel and red Zinfandel wine are made from the same grapes but they are not, I repeat, THEY ARE NOT the same wine. In fact these wines share absolutely no similarities except in their name. People who like white Zinfandel do not, generally, like red Zinfandel, and guess what? that also works in the inverse. White Zinfandel is, well first of all not white but pale pink, sweet, and created specifically to get candy eating, soda/pop drinking, Americans to drink wine. Red Zinfandel is well, as you may have been able to guess, red, it is a full bodied wine that ranges in flavor from jammy (grape jelly) to spicy (black pepper, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spices) and is an extremely versatile wine that does not have to be expensive to be fantastic. All you wine snobs out there reading this may look down their nose at white Zinfandel drinkers, but here is what I have to say on the issue, if you like white Zinfandel, drink white Zinfandel at least you are drinking wine. I also have a secret to share with white Zin drinkers (stop reading if the bumper sticker on your car does not read "I would rather be drinking a frosty glass of white Zin", I mean it, this does not apply to you). Ok white Zin drinkers, here is something that you must know but don't tell anyone where you heard it, most of us wine drinkers started out drinking white Zin, I know it is shocking but believe me it is true, you are not alone.

9. If you make mixed drinks with crappy alcohol or ingredients, you will make crappy mixed drinks! Remember a simple equation, crap in = crap out, this simple equation will get you through many a tough spot, and is applicable to so many areas of your life, if you will commit it to memory! Don't expect your double chocolate, cherry, cheesecake martini to taste like the one you love and order all the time from "Frou Frou" bar to taste just like the ones you make at home, even with the recipe, if you do not use the same liquors and ingredients they use. It is impossible unless that cheap bottle of plonk also contains a genie and if it by chance it does, you are required to share it!

10. When throwing a "wine dinner" or "wine and food" party, pay attention to both the wine and food you are serving. To many times I help people throwing aforementioned themed party who have purchased expensive, water buffalo skin (Eww - I know), hand painted, wine themed invites, cleaned their home from top to bottom (some individuals even clean their cars!!!), bought new dishes, candles, invited 200 people and we are the last stop. They stroll or more likely crawl in; exhausted, overwhelmed and with $20 left in their budget looking to purchase enough wine to serve the entire 200 people for 4 hours and want suggestions on what type of food they can do that would be easy and inexpensive. Once I stop laughing and snorting at them - Oh like you have ever seen me do that! I am always shocked as they explain to me their planning involved in this said party and how they thought that the wine and food would be "no big deal" and that I would be able to help. Usually the conversation goes in one of two directions; "Well I don't really care what type (varietal) of wine it is, as long as it fits my budget" and then they will generally never inquire about the flavor of that particular bottle of wine and respond with "the label does/does not go with my decor". My personal favorite statement is "Well I was thinking since most people attending know wine that we could do some great Oregon Pinot's and some really highly rated, big, bold Napa Cabernet's", these statements are always uttered with such optimism and hope. So here is my advice, if you are planning a wine themed dinner or party, please, please, I beg you start your planning with the wine and food. Great wine can be poured for very little money, however it does take money and we can help your dinner/party be a success if you start with a reasonable budget for what should be the star of your night. If you choose not to take my advice on this, well then I suggest that you look for the genie in the cheap bottle of plonk (see commandment #9) and hope that genie has a sense of humor!

Well this was supposed to be the 12 Commandments of Beverages and Wine, but moments ago someone just came screeching though in a blandly, generic white, no grey, well maybe a silver car and ran over my soap box and flattened it. The odd thing was the driver was wearing the ubiquitous branded polo shirt with crisply pleated khakis and was hurling insults while spouting things like, "Parker gave this wine 90 points", "this wine is flirty and light", "this is a great wine because I said so", all the while hurling bottles out the car window. Oh well I guess since Moses could convey such weighty info in 10 commandments I can be happy with stopping at 10, also. Besides some of the bottles that were thrown did not break and they look pretty good, so I think I may crack one open and have a glass of wine, while I contemplate the bizarreness that I just witnessed. Cheers!

- This posting was written with tongue firmly in cheek (mostly) and if you are in any way offended, than you should pour yourself a glass of wine and find another blog to read.