‘There’s Always a Ton More To Know’

I know that no matter how much I know, there’s always a ton more to know and the second I know it, it’s  probably going to change. And so there’s always something  to keep you engaged and excited about that, and when you realize that, that is the most powerful part of all of it. … Wine is ever changing, it’s expanding, it’s growing, it’s getting bigger, deeper, it’s just a very dynamic industry and to me that’s the piece that keeps it exciting and keeps it so interesting.

That’s Andrew McNamara, director of Fine Wine for Premier Beverage in Florida and the Chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas, as told to Levi Dalton in “I’ll Drink To That! Episode 317.”

I can’t stress enough how much wine is an intellectual pursuit for me, more than anything else. One of my wine mantras from day one has always been: The more you learn about wine, the less you actually know.

I know I’m not alone in that thinking as many of my wine friends say the same thing.

But it’s still comforting to hear that a leader of one of the premier wine education institutions is also passionate about wine for that very reason.

‘The Last True Thing’

I think of wine as sort of the last true thing. It’s so utterly simple, and anyone who loves wine knows how transformative it is. I’ve always been attracted by that almost archetypal pull of wine. I like that idea philosophically and emotionally, and I like the mystery of it.

 – Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible

Forbes contributor Cathy Huyghe interviewed MacNeil about how she wrote and now revised her 14-year-old book, which is an impressive encyclopedia of the wine world. It’s an interesting look into

MacNeil’s process, and I was pleasantly surprised to see her dedication to words was just as emphatic as she was to the wine. Read the full story here: How To Write The Bible Of Wine: Karen MacNeil On The Craft Of Writing .

Is Objectivity in Wine Writing Possible?

I feel sometimes like a proselytizer as well as a journalist because I do love wine and I try to get more people invested in it.

Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor of  Food & Wine magazine. Seen here moderating an IPOB panel on Feb. 23, 2015. | Photo by itswinebyme

I often wonder how to rectify my ability to be an objective journalist and my absolute love for wine as I explore wine writing, think about the direction of this tumblr (dare I start to call this a blog?), and wonder if my wine geekdom and career will ever intersect.

It’s encouraging to know that an editor at a top publication also deals with this issue. Isle made this comment during the first few minutes into this week’s episode of Levi Dalton’s I’ll Drink To That podcast. If you’re interested in a behind the scenes look at what it’s like to be a wine editor, take a listen.

Video Preview: Somm Into the Bottle

Can there be any other business where there’s so much bull shit?

– Carole Meredith (@LagierMeredith)

The winemaker has a quick cameo (but I assume a much larger role) in this preview for the new documentary: SOMM: Into The Bottle (a follow-up to Somm). I’ll let the trailer speak for itself, but let’s put it this way, Summer 2015 can’t come fast enough! Both  Eater and Wine Folly have details!

Inside the Barrel

It’s not just about the flavors that Oak imparts, a barrel has its sort of ‘Ecology’ that adds a lot more to a wine than merely Oak flavorings.

Over on the Wine Berserkers  message boards, a new member asked about the difference between mass-produced and boutique wines. Among the discussion, Eric Hall, of Roadhouse Winery in Healdsburg, wrote this simple statement to help the poster understand how barrels provide a different experience than the cheaper oak chips that can often be used in inexpensive or bulk wines.

(photo by Sanjay Acharya via Wikipedia)

But you know me and my affinity for words and ways to communicate about wine. So the use of ecology stood out to me. While I always like to talk about how wine is a living, breathing entity, I rarely think of that during its production phase (after the grapes have left their natural ecology in the vineyard). There’s probably more of an argument to be made that it’s doing most of its living and breathing during this stage, but in my mind, the human manipulation of yeasts, oxygen, carbon dioxide and other chemicals or compounds don’t quite feel very natural.

Eric, however, makes a very good observation and is exactly right to call it an ecology. The barrel, which becomes a wine’s home for days, weeks or for many years, usually goes untouched. The wine, lives, breathes and matures in the vessel. Unlike when bottles or stainless steel vats are used for aging, the wood allows for some oxygen to enter. The wood can also age with the wine, sometimes losing many of the flavors it imparts. Depending on the barrel, it may even soften the wine.

It’s in that barrel where the wine can really do its thing — become more complex, develop new flavors, balance its acids and astringency. And it’s the ecology inside the barrel — where molecules and chemicals dance inside the liquid — that helps wine become wine.

While this may just be an “oh, duh,” moment for me, Eric’s response while helping a newbie understand the mysteries of wine struck me as very poetic, and a reminder of how fragile making wine can be.

Wine on a Pedestal?

The successful wine writer always puts wine on a pedestal, speaks of it in mystical tones. Naturally, one also has to be on that pedestal in order to know about wine, to understand it. Don’t write stupid things like ‘Please join me on my journey to discover wine!’ You don’t want any company on the pedestal. On the pedestal is where the wine writer belongs all alone, gazing down at all those beneath him trying to clamber up the pedestal. From up there, your arms firmly around the mystery and majesty of wine, with your reputation and false humility, you can cast judgments and ratings and scores down upon the masses, as the Greek gods tossed lightning and fate down at mere mortals. And they have to accept it, they don’t have to like it.

Very funny advice this morning from Ron Washman (aka TheHoseMaster of Wine) published on Tim Atkin’s website. The entire column is worth a read, especially for those who appreciate good writing and are trying to understand how the wine community communicates with each other, and to newer audiences.

Money may win auctions, but it can’t buy the palate required to differentiate between a 1947 Chateau Petrus and a lesser Bordeaux dosed with California cabernet to mimic the age and roundness of a legendary vintage. Put another way: If an imposter bottle is poured and enjoyed while still conferring all the attendant status on its owner, who’s in a position to complain?

Bloomberg has a good story today about counterfeit wine. For those who have been following the issues since the Rudy K. case, or even before, this won’t be new to you. But for those coming fresh to the story or only know a few of the headlines, it’s nicely done. The piece, written by journalist Mark Ellwood, explains Bill Koch’s crusade, the increasing demand from China, and a nice bit of science and technology on how the experts can flush out the fakes. There’s even a look at what wineries are doing to tamper proof their bottles.

It’s crazy how much people care about Prosecco and Sancerre. If you opened a wine distribution company and called it SanSecco you could retire to an island and just have them send you the checks.

Katell Plevin, former actress, turned successful wine importer, gives Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague an interesting interview on switching careers, handling rejection in both fields, and balancing the wines she loves with what will actually sell.