Welcome to your Black Winer Newsletter for Friday, October 12, 2012

Table of Contents

Happy Fall everyone

Okay, it's been awhile since I wrote a newsletter, but a lot happened this summer.  I lost my last surving grandmother on July 4th and right before that I ended a relationship to someone I thought that I would marry.  Hey, such is life and you get up and move on.

I did take quite a rest from writing, but I was tired and uninspired.  A lot of thought, effort and planning has gone into not only forming a creative agency focused on the wine and spirits industry, but several of my own television shows.  We did a taping in May, but it did not come out like a wanted because of many different reasons.  The good thing is that now I connected up with a person who I trust to both act as the director of photography and editor.  I have also started working with some of the photos that we took earlier in this year.

Right now, it's all about looking at ways to raise money to produce the show concepts, which also include finding the right place for our own sets.  I have reached out to DuPont Surfaces and some other places, and will continually be working on that.  However, I might look at doing some YouTube stuff first.

I do need some people, that is people to be in some of our photo shoots.  You will as usual taste some good wine and get some food.  The flip side is that the photos taken will be used in some of our concepts, which will be on the web.  However, unlike our standard video shoots, everything will be quicker, and will be done either in Mike's studio or with a group of not more than ten people inside a restaurant.  Best times for us to shoot will be early mornings on Saturday and Monday or after four during the week.

Oh, over the past two months, I attended the annual wine portfolio tastings for Winebow and Wildman & Sons in New York, and Capital Wine and Spirits and Southern Wine and Spirits in Philadelphia.  

I hope that everyone is having a great time.

Latest Articles

On styles, regions, grades and varietals

Monday, October 08, 2012

The past several months have been interesting, and one of the most interesting comments or admissions that I have heard from different people is what they don’t like in a wine, or what type of wine that they don’t like.  While talking to one woman, she said that she hates Chardonnay, so then I asked her several questions which would ultimately enlighten her.  The first one was “do you like Chablis,” which was followed by “do you like Pouilley Fuisse,” and “do you like champagne?”  Well, when she answered yes to the last one, I explained that the bulk of champagne, as well as a lot of other sparkling wines, have a backbone of Chardonnay.

The funny thing is that almost everyone is wine-ignorant, though the levels of which vary from person to person, no matter how many years someone has been consuming wine, producing wine, selling wine, or studying wine.  There is simply too much to know for one, or even a small group of people, to know.  That said, let me get down to some basics. 

The first thing that a wine drinker should start to understand would be designations, or designated regions, of wine and what they mean.  Designations are structured by laws within a country which basically state what can be produced in certain parts of a country.  Now, there is one loophole here, and that is that a wine can still be produced in a certain designated area, but not carry that regions designation on the label.  Let me explain this a little bit further.  Designations usually oversee what can be grown within a certain region, as well as the amount of vineyards allotted and the amount of wine that can be produced carrying that designation.  Bordeaux is both a region, a designation and a style.  The red style is made from five grape varietals; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Mabec.  Others can imitate this style around the world using the same varietals and utilize the term “Bordeaux style” but their wines could never have Bordeaux AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee – regulated origin name) on the label.  Most designations are based on where they are grown, and the laws overseeing such designations state which grape varietals can be grown there.

In Europe, these designations deal with region and varietal, whereas in other places like the United States, the designations tell you where the grapes were grown.  An example of this would be Napa.  In the states, the laws apply to where the grapes are grown and the minimum of what varietal has to be on the label.  In California, for a wine to only say Chardonnay on the label, then it must be 75% Chardonnay; in Oregon, a Pinot Noir has to be 85% Pinot Noir.

Now, there are also what are called grades of wine, which you can more commonly see in Reisling wines produced in Germany.  Marnie Old, a wine educator extraordinaire who resides in the Greater Philadelphia region, gave one group that I was part of a serious understanding of the grades of wine produced in Germany that you can easily translate off of the bottle labels.  In many places, there are terms such as vin de pays and vino da tavola, which translates to “country wine” and ”table wine” respectively.  “Kabinett” in Germany deals with wine that is normally stored in the cabinet, and which is a step up from what you give to just about anyone.  In Italy, there is IGT, or Indicazione geografica tipica, which is used to denote a superior wine which doesn’t fall under the highest two classifications for wine in that country.  See, this was done to protect vaunted wine styles such as Barolo and Chianti (look up Chianti Classico) when some winemakers figured that they’d reversed the wine formula for Chianti, and put Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon as the main varietals used, and make the minor part Sangiovese, instead of the other way around. 

And when you hear about people visiting France and Italy and that the plain wines that they had there were better than some of the more expensive wines here in the United States, it is because those common wines are still made with great grapes and good winemaking knowledge, and aren’t based on the pursuit of profits that accounts from mass production, a cute label and advertising aimed at luring the gullible in (Yellowtail and Barefoot are examples of mass production). 

The last aspect of all of this is actually varietal, which stands for the grape used.  Grapes are like people, having DNA and everything.  Every Chardonnay isn’t the same, nor is every Bordeaux; within the latter, the grapes used by two great houses might have different DNA, and the actual percentages of each varietal used can be different.  Then, we can get into the issues of the soil and when each grape was planted, harvested and the amount of time used in each step of the winemaking process.  Oh, and let’s not even get into the issue of what type of containers for each phase of the process is used. 

The thing with varietals is that not only are they unique within the name, but there also exists the differences in winemaking styles which also affect the final product.  Two different winemakers could use the exact same grapes but wind up with totally different tasting wines! 

In summation, I have presented you with three or four points of better understanding wine, and if you start to research this for yourself, you will definitely expand on what I have just revealed.  On key thing to realize is that it will take several years to even begin to have a good appreciation for wine.  And at that same time, just because some people rate a wine highly, doesn’t mean that you have to rate it the same; we don’t all have the same tastes and there has been a ton of lies in advertising when it comes to wine(s).  Like what you like, but don’t be afraid to actually open up and try something new.  And in trying something new, sometimes you don’t really get to appreciate it until you try it with something that totally compliments it, be it raw food, cooked food, desserts, the setting or being amongst great friends.

In vino veritas

Latest Reviews

A wondrous gem at a very affordable price

Brand NameGrayson Cellars
Wine NameCabernet Sauvignon
CountryUnited States
Wine ClassRed
Wine TypeCabernet Sauvignon
Alcohol Percentage13.9%
Price$10 and Unders
Site Rating9 (on a scale of 1-10)

If you noticed, I just reviewed the current vintage of Chardonnay from this producer, and now, it's the Cab Sauv that I am doing.  This wine is nice, with a great nose of tobacco and leather that I can smell even through this stuffy nose of mine.  The mouth/weight of this wine is middle of the road, but there is a lot of blackberry and currant comprising the flavor with just the faintest aspect of cocoa.  The finish rounds out with the immediate distinct flavor of dark cherries and then mellows out for another twenty seconds.

A newly classic pairing, but this is drawn down too much

Brand NameLaurent Miquel
Wine NameChardonnay Viognier
Wine ClassWhite
Wine TypeChardonnay, Viognier
Alcohol Percentage13%
Price$10 and Unders
Site Rating7 (on a scale of 1-10)

Viognier I consider a wild and gamey grape and I have only had one wine made completely from it that I flipped over.  However, I have experienced it in a number of blends, most notably Pine Ridge's Chenin Blanc-Viognier mix.

This wine is decidingly delicate, with overtones of grass and minerality atop some very subdued acidity.  It would go perfect with a chicken dish focused on herbs or poached fish.  Probably a tuna casserole would complement this well.  The color is a very pale yellow and the finish quick; the flavor builds in the first few seconds -- actually, the acidity -- and then lets off to something more demure and muted with a lingering taste of green apples.

Same as it ever was

Brand NameGrayson Cellars
Wine NameChardonnay
AVANapa Valley
CountryUnited States
Wine ClassWhite
Wine TypeChardonnay
Alcohol Percentage13.1%
Price$10 and Unders
Site Rating8 (on a scale of 1-10)

This is the second time that I have had this wine, but this time I am two vintages ahead of the last one (2008).  I am still suffering from a cold, but I do detect some floral aromas from this wine.  Otherwise, you get more clean minerality with this wine versus citrus, and very little oak.  I get some green apple mixed in as well.  Not bad, but not stellar.

Another wine from Puglia

Brand NameCastello Monaci
Wine NameSalice Salentino
AVASalice Salentino
Wine ClassRed
Wine TypeMalvasia Nero, Negro Amaro
Alcohol Percentage13%
Price$10 and Unders
Site Rating9 (on a scale of 1-10)

Okay, so years ago I had a Salice Salentino and loved it, but did learn that it wasn't a grape, but a style of wine based on the denomination (I will be writing an article on this tomorrow).  So, while over at Canal's in Pennsauken, I decided to try another bottle.

This one is 80% Negro Amaro and the rest Malvasia Nero; thanks to Al's birthday gift to me, I have really been learning a lot about Italian wines.  The taste is heavy on tobacco, with a dash of cocoa and blackberry.  The finish is pretty quick and this wine has just a little bit of tartness.  It is not the juiciest, but it is good and I had it with a nicely spiced sirloin steak.  The color is medium to dark purple and because of this damned cold, I can't even comment on the aroma.

Extremely fruity but too thin in depth

Brand NameBig House
Wine NameBeastly Old Vines
CountryUnited States
Wine ClassRed
Wine TypeZinfandel
Alcohol Percentage13.5%
Price$10 and Unders
Site Rating9 (on a scale of 1-10)

I tend to love most of the wines from Big House, and am upset because when I had to change webhosts I lost a bunch of reviews, including the ones that I did of all of their wines.  I chose to grab a bottle of this zinfandel of theirs and unfortunately for them, I have grown accustomed to robust wines made from this grape.

This wine is very fruit forward, from which you get blackberries and/or cherries.  The aroma instantly brings to mind old leather and the mouth is very light.  Now, that is my one problem with this wine; I am used to something that is more complex and packs a punch in regards to both weight and feel/texture.  However, this might be an asset in that you never notice what's happening until after several glasses.  And with the second glass, you will start to think of this wine as juicy. 

This wine would have ordinarily gotten a seven, but this time, I am boosting it to a nine.  For the price, it does yield some nice payback.  I am sorry for doubting you Big House!


Our Mission: The Black Winer strives to expose African Americans [and others] to wines, without the flair, stuffiness, and airs of elitism and snobbery that you get from sommeliers and high level wine enthusiasts. We believe in finding something that you like the taste of, outside of the basic brands that you have been force-fed over the years through a combination of ethnically targeted advertising, and what people in your family have historically been drinking.

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