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Flattery in Wine?

30 Apr

When people make fun of your passions, or when personal and professional interests crossover, it must be a sign your blog is doing something right. Right? A friend of mine texted me today with this gem:


It was funny, in a laughing-at-Sideways kind of moment.
But now I’m suddenly feeling like a glass of merlot!

The above brevity and humor was a welcome guffaw to my work day, and an added bonus after having friends alert me to another year of being listed in the top 100 wine blogs. 

I’m honored, truly. I just want to help people find wines they will love. 

But this makes me think about flattery in general, and the number of winemakers who set out to ride the coattails of a certain wine’s success, or to make the opposite of a style of wine.

I’m thrilled in the trends I’ve been seeing- watching new world winemakers move away from overly-oaked chardonnays and red fruit bombs– although there are some brands that are the epitome of those styles, and are best doing what they do best. But when a grape can show its best, I’d much rather taste the nature of the fruit from the grower and the cultivation mixed with the terroir- this is the purest expression of a great wine to me, and why I am such a fan of single vineyard, single barrel wines. Once you have walked through a vineyard with the grower and winemaker, and understood the choices made from how the land is cared for, how the vines are grafted and trellised, how the canopy is cared for, what the water source is, what the local soil and minerals the roots are feeding from- all these are elements you can appreciate in a fine wine.

But that’s also why I like to drink regional wines with regional food, like the Georgian wines my friend Anatoli Levine, aka Talk-A-Vino, has gotten me interested in. The indigenous Georgian grape, Saperavi, creates an aromatic, full-bodied, high-alcohol wine with powerful tannin and great acidity, that is delicious by itself and really wonderful with Khachapuri, a Georgian cheese bread with an egg baked on top. Look for my review upcoming, on “JvB Hates Merlot”. Just kidding. How could anyone who knows me think I hate merlot? How could any Bordeaux fan hate merlot?

Sorry, let’s save that rant for another time…

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

What You Learn When Pouring for Others

8 Apr

I love pouring wine for others.

I recently donated several cases of wine to a fundraiser, and in addition to the wine, I poured glasses to the attendees.

They walked up to a wine bar, I asked them what they liked to drink, and then poured them a taste. Sometimes I poured them tastes from a few different bottles until they found something they really liked and wanted to enjoy.

 

I’ve done this on several occasions, and every time I learn more about people and how they respond to wine.

 

An invitation opens the door. If you ask “what do you like to drink” or “what would you like to drink” you get a very different response than “Would you like to taste one of my favorite winemaker’s wines?”, or “How about a quick sip of something delicious?”. That raises and eyebrow and it’s rare that someone turns down a taste of a quality wine.

How People Respond Tells You What they Know. If you ask a guest “What do you like to drink?” you will notice in a flash whether they are comfortable or uncomfortable in answering. They might have to think about the answer. Some people are deft in what they normally drink, others are embarrassed about their comfort wines, or not having one. Others are adventurous. But who doesn’t want a free adventure? Hence the taste. The taste, in my opinion, is key to helping people trust YOUR wine knowledge and learn about theirs.

Offer the taste as they approach. Once someone appreciates what is in their glass, be it an inexpensive, mass-produced bottle that shines or a small-batch, handpicked rarity, you are in the game. My last pouring session I’d say I had 70% of customers locked in on the first taste. A few asked for a second taste and then either went for what tasted best to them, or what was most comfortable. A very small number asked for a third or more tastes, some simply exploring my wares, and a few really not knowing their own palate. At this point, my questions are: “What do you normally like to drink”, and “Do you want to pair this with food, or just enjoy on its own?”

Only about 15% of my customers were real wine lovers who wanted to taste across my bottle selection, enjoying four or more glasses each, both reds, whites, rosé and sparkling. Many of my customers stuck with the same wine all night, the wines I selected for them based on pairing with the menu; with the next largest group started with white and progressed to red with the meal, again asking for my selected wines, and often returning for another glass, telling me how well the wine paired with their food.

Offer what you would drink yourself. It’s not a sales pitch, I really want to help people find wines they will fall in love with, and I want them to taste wines they will really enjoy. So even if I donate the wine, I never skimp on quality.

 

By far, most of the people who tasted the wines I suggested (and poured them a taste) simply loved them. Granted, I poured beautifully made, smaller-batch wines in ideal condition that were chosen to pair with the selected menu. But some folks wanted what they knew or liked- such as a fruit bomb, or a sweet white. But these were the exceptions to the rule. In general, when guests tasted a beautifully aged, decanted Barbaresco that sang on the palate and left it clean and refreshed, or matched both the passed appetizers and the meals, or the perfect Mediterranean style whites from France and Italy that left the palate refreshed, they asked for a glass and came back for more, time and time again.

I love to share wine and help educate consumers. I hope I get to share some wine with you. #WhatsInYourGlass?

à votre santé!

 

 

What To Drink Next? JvB’s WineBucket List, 2018

21 Oct

As a person who lives a near-insane existence at breakneck speed, it has become quite rare for me to have a moment to contemplate. Even when things should slow down, I find myself trying to catch up. But everyone seems to know about my passion for wine, and it is an endless source of discussion. So the underlying question is inevitably popping up in conversation: “What do you want to drink next?” And the answer is usually (perhaps disappointingly) easy: “What is next in the tasting queue for review?”
Sadly, it’s true. Most of the time I just go reach for the next bottle and start taking notes during dinner… “Oh, how romantic,” you’re thinking,  “JvB’s composing his next social media jaunt.” Sometimes I get to hit my cellar for a special meal or an opportunity, but there are times that I find myself contemplating and daydreaming, “What do I REALLY want to drink next?”

 

 

Well ok, that may not be everyone’s big question and certainly shows a narrow focus, but as opposed to the questions about the universe, politics, or the future of mankind, this is a question I am WILLING to ask. It’s one of MY big questions. 

There are things, quite simply, that I want to drink. Here are a few tidbits from my Wine Bucket List of things I want to drink:

-the finest pinot noir you can get in the United States. I’m still trying to taste enough to come up with a top ten list, to arrange a tasting and have a collaborate effort.

– one of my favorite chardonnays directly from the barrel/vessel. I want to taste the youthful, unfiltered beauty.

-Vin Jaune while in the Jura. You know that the best things in life grow together/go together. I need to be IN the Jura.

-a vertical of Chateau Margaux in their famed cellar.

-a consummate Barolo at the perfect age.

– hundred-point Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners, as well as 50+ year old Riesling.

But what about the things I want to share? More bucket-list items, but not sure if they will be harder or easier to accomplish, because I want to do them with oenophile friends, or perhaps host at my own modest table:  

-I want to share with friends, a vertical of a tiny property near Chateau Margaux that I have collected for years, but have no idea how it fares.

-I want to do a blind group comparison of a world-renowned Champagne vs a rare-and-highly-rated-but-hard-to-obtain tiny brand Champagne.

-I want to share unicorn wines from Jacques Puffeney and Serge Hochar.

-I want to compare Beaune pinot noir with German Spätburgunder, Piedmont’ Nebbilo, and Burgundian pinot.

-I want to compare a highly aged Italian red to both a French Bordeaux blend and a Napa Valley classic (yes, that’s  comparing cassis to red plum and strawberries, essentially), but simply to do a direct comparison of what similarities and differences there are in reds that have 20-40 years of cellar age.

-I want to do a blind tasting of my favorite Premiere Cru Chablis, and top-rated Chardonnays from the USA, Australia’s Margaret River, and Montrachet.

 

What do you think of my list?  What items are on YOUR wine bucket list?

Maybe we will find a time to cross off a few items together! 

 

à votre santé!

Five Reasons To Drink the Wines of Bourgogne

1 May

Maybe you already know to drink the wines of Burgundy, but maybe you don’t know WHY. While I was writing reviews of my recent tasting of wines from Bourgogne, I sat and wondered about the huge cross-section of my readers- from those who are wildly knowledgeable, to those just exploring about the wonderful world of wine for the first time. And I thought, “This is a good reminder we could all use from time to time!”

So here are your top 5 reasons (if you ever need them) to drink the wines of Burgundy/Bourgogne:

 

5. Chablis.  Maybe I need not say any more, but if you’re sadly unaware: Chablis is the Audrey Hepburn of white wine. Chablis is alluring, surprising, endearing, romantic, focused, yet wildly expressive! And the kiss of Premier Cru Chablis on your lips and crossing your palate is one you will never forget.

 

 

4. Simple grapes with the loftiest goals: There are only two main grape varieties grown in Bourgogne that account for over 90% of the wine from the area. If you don’t know already, they are Chardonnay (51%) and Pinot Noir (40%). But these AOCs produce some of the finest expressions found in wine and demonstrate some of the world’s best winemaking with just these two grapes.

 

 

3. Crémant. Just because there are two main grapes doesn’t mean the winemakers stop there. Their Crémant de Bourgogne is gorgeous. Effervescent, bone dry, delightful, elegant, and believe it or not, affordable! Blanc and Blanc de Blanc demonstrate beautiful floral, white fleshy fruit and toasted notes, while Rosé and Blanc de Noir show delicate red fruit and tiny hints of spice.

 

2. Terroir, Terroir, Terroir. Pinot Noir from Bourgogne tastes ethereal and mystical, while being grounded with notes that range from earthy to floral, tannins that range from silky to velvety. These wines can show the perfect balance of ripe red fruit, mouth-watering acidity, luscious tannins with oak influence and soil minerality on the finish.

 

 

1. Bourgogne IS “Burgundy”. Burgundy is simply the name for Bourgogne translated to English. And while you can find the world’s finest and most expensive wines here, you can also find tremendous value- be it Premiere or Grand Cru, Villages, or Regional AOC. Don’t be lost in translation on the label!

 

 

Before you goif you just learned something, then you’ll want to know this, too!

The five wine-producing regions of Bourgogne (and a few of they famed appellations) are:

1) Côte de Nuits (there are 81 Premiere Crus from Nuits-St-George, Vosne-Romanée, Gevrey-Chambertin alone!)

2) Côte de Beaune (including Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet)

3) Côte Chalonnaise (including Givry, Montagny, and Rully)

4) Mâconnais (including Mâcon, Saint-Véran, Puilly-Fuisse)

5) Chablis (including Irancy, Chablis, Auxerre, among others. Chablis is the source of Crémant de Bourgogne!)

 

Keep an eye out for my forthcoming reviews of the wines of Bourgogne I tasted last week- all in a practical & affordable price range! 

For more information, click on https://www.bourgogne-wines.com

 

à votre santé!

Won’t You Be Mine? My Valentine is Yarden Rosé 2011 Sparkling Wine

30 Jan

Yarden 2011 Brut Rosé; Golan Heights Winery, Galilee, Israel. 12% ABV; SRP $39.

 

Color is pale salmon, while the nose offers rosebuds and cherry blossom. On the palate, strawberries, tart pear and a hint of tangerine dominate the palate with secondary notes of baking yeast, almond paste, sour raspberry and a hint of chalky limestone. Excellent mouthfeel with medium sized bubbles in solid proportion and moderate effervescence. A delightful finish of balanced fruit, acidity, and tannin. This bottle lasted 2 days with re-closure and  maintained the same balance, flavor profile, and freshness over 28 hours. All in all, a delightful bottle of sparkling rosé.

Don’t let the name or the region catch you by surprise, this is a serious, world-class sparkling wine. Made of 72% Chardonnay and 28% Pinot Noir in the traditional Champagne method. Whole cluster pressed with secondary fermentation in the bottle; disgorged after five years of bottle aging. Cellar up to a decade from harvest for maximum enjoyment. I paired this with roast turkey on the first day, and grilled steak on the second- it held up beautifully to the salads, grilled and roasts meats and the vegetables, potatoes and even cranberry sauce- but this wine is simply gorgeous on its own, and needs no excuse to be enjoyed whether it is by itself or with food. Either way, you win.

This is an excellent Valentine’s Day bottle to share with a loved one, but even more, just to have on hand. A solid value in the Under-$50 range that will make your special night that much more romantic, or spice up a quiet dinner for two… or four! With the vintage rosé being Kosher for Passover, you can buy several bottles and keep something in reserve for that event as well, whether you serve this as the host, or bring it as a housewarming present.

Whether you ask “Will You Be Mine?” or “Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights”, you will be well prepared with a world-class wine that will impress whomever you serve it to: 2011 Yarden Rosé. 

 

If you want to know more about the winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, I previously wrote about him here

à votre santé!

 

 

 

End of Year Gift Guide: Vacanti’s Spirale, ArT Wine Preserver, Wine Nots & Capabungas!

25 Dec

Hello my wine-loving friends!

As the USA’s antiquated wine laws and three-tiered sales system have shaken up wine shipping in the USA, I’m suggesting wine-related PRODUCTS instead of actual bottles for your friends & loved ones! So, here are your stocking stuffers, end of year & start of year wine-related gifts for your family, friends, or yourselves- anyone who loves wine. Legal Disclaimer: Some of these were free samples provided for review, others I paid cash for. Each of these does what it is advertised to do! The opinions expressed about them are purely my own, and you should be glad I’m not posting my “didn’t make the cut” items.

Spirale Wine Glasses by Vacanti, $50/pair

These 24-oz Bordeaux-style glasses are dishwasher-safe, large and in charge. More importantly, they have a corkscrew design in the bottom of the glass that catches sediment so it doesn’t reach your mouth and you don’t have to strain or decant unfiltered wines, older wines, or wines that are heavy in sediment- you know what I’m talking about! What wine lover hasn’t had a mouthful of “yech” when trying to get the last dribs of a beloved bottle? Check out the (thankfully short) video I made about these:

 

 

Here’s a comparison shot of a 12Oz. Burgundy glass on the left, with the 24Oz Spirale design on the right, which reaches up to the top of the photo.

 

A close-up of the corkscrew design in the bottom of the glass.

 

Wine Nots, $10/box of 12 online

A Wine Not is an effervescing tablet that removes red wine stains from your tongue and teeth. I first saw them at the Wine Bloggers Conference, where I jumped at the opportunity to try one after a day of tasting red wines -my mouth was a deep purple and my teeth looked frightening! One lemon-lime tablet on my tongue and you can feel it working, like an alka-seltzer for wine stains. And yes, it DOES remove the wine stains! Here, check out my video:

 

I don’t suggest trying to talk with a Wine Not in your mouth. As you see, talking  doesn’t work well, but the Wine Not will!

 

ArT Wine Preserver, $15/bottle (approx 130 uses)

Developed by an engineer whose research led him to determine that in the USA alone, $1.5 BILLION dollars of wine is wasted annually. This product is actually argon, which, being heaver then air, allows you to easily replace the air in your opened wine bottle with a layer of protective argon against the wine in the bottle, which helps it to remain fresh longer! I’ve been using this for over a month with stellar results; it works beautifully!  Again, I have a silly short video below:

 

And last but not least,

Capabunga Wine Sealers, $10-13/package online

Capabunga Wine Sealers are wine bottle sealers made specifically for both still and sparkling wines , with the latter being called the CapaBubbles! Instead of re-corking your bottle, after opening this is a great little sealer that allows you to put the wine bottle in the rack upright OR back on its side after being opened. Broken cork? No worries! I love these little re-closure devices- and they work well in conjunction with the ArT wine preserver, above (wink, wink!) I first saw these at #WBC17 thanks to the Luscious Lush Thea Dwelle and I have adored the ones I purchased. And yes, as I stated above, when you turn the bottle on its side, the seal stays firm and wine doesn’t leak out! The cap is easy to remove and doesn’t break off in your hand, and they are reusable. What’s not to love?

 

 

Sure I’m suggesting these during the Holiday Season, but they’re excellent gifts any time of year, with many of them available direct and/or via Amazon.

If you try these products out, please let us know how you liked them by commenting below!

 

à votre santé!

Going, Going, Gone! Prosecco Superiore DOCG

16 Oct

Prosecco Superiore 4Prosecco Superiore DOCG.

There’s only one question to ask: Why aren’t you drinking more of it? 

OK, I have to admit it: every year I get emails from various garagiste-wine vendors with deals on Prosecco Superiore DOCG. And I always buy them. Why? Because they are consistent in being crowd-pleasers and excellent value. They don’t last long in my cellar. And when I open them for friends, the bottles are empty almost quickly as they started: Going, Going, Gone! 

Prosecco 101: It’s Italian. It’s from mostly glera, an ancient Roman grape that classically exhibits both floral and fruit notes.  There is less yeast flavor in prosecco than champagne, due to the fact that it’s usually made in the charmat method of secondary fermentation in steel tanks, which helps in focusing those floral and fruit notes. And a good bottle of prosecco is a bargain, a bottle will usually run you from one-third to one-half the cost of a good bottle of champagne. DOCG refers to Italian regulations, confirming the highest quality terroir and strictest regulations, which is a promise of quality- DOCG is the top level, above both DOC and IGT regulations. Unlike serious champagne which should only ever be consumed singularly, it is considered acceptable, event cool to drink cocktails made with prosecco. The Bellini started it all, but any good bartender has a few recipes up their sleeves, including yours truly (see mine below) or find several hundred ‘easy to make at home’ with a quick internet search!

Here are four DOCG proseccos that are ‘any day celebration’ bottles with SRP’s from $15-$21 that will improve your day significantly! Click the blue links for the manufacturer’s winemaking notes (you can also see how we differ or agree on flavor profiles), or you can just read mine!

 

 

Frassinelli Rive di Manzana Extra Dry 2015 

Frassinelli Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG 2015; – (ABV 11.5%; SRP: $15)

Gentle floral nose with hint of orchid. Pale straw in color with gentle, tiny bubbles. On the palate: white peaches, a hint of baked apple, fresh croissant, grilled pineapple, and clay. Highly agreeable. I offered this to friends and in moments, we had devoured the entire bottle and were ready for more!

 

 

 

 

Bortolomiol Prior Brut 2015

Bortolomiol Prior Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG – (ABV 12%; SRP $15)

Off-gold color with a tinge of green and a neutral, lemon citrus nose. On the palate: green apple, lemon verbena, &  sandstone. I enjoyed this by itself, but with a crazy whim and the help of some flowers and a mortal & pestle, I made a hibiscus & prosecco cocktail (prosecco with a dash of the juice of a hibiscus flower), and was in seventh heaven. This prosecco is absolutely delicious by itself and almost a crime to tweak, but in adding the touch of hibiscus flavor, I found a new favorite floral sparkling cocktail and I killed the bottle quickly with this tasty spritz!

 

 

La Farra Rive di Farra di Soligo Extra Dry 2015

La Farra Rive fi Farra di Soligo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – (11% ABV; SRP $20)

Pale yellow with the slightest hint of pink. Extra dry, this prosecco features a more forward floral nose, with a much heavier concentration of bubbles from the charmat fermentation method. The expansive mouthfeel features a white flesh fruit profile of yellow apple, peach, and lime zest.

 

 

 

Mongarda Brut NV 

Mongarda Brut NV Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore– (SRP: $21), 11%ABV

Pale straw in color, gentle nose of minerals and yeast. Beautiful effervescence, a touch more acidity to balance the lime, peach, and lemon citrus flavor profile. Elegant; ideal to drink by itself or to pair with a meal. This bottle also went far too quickly for me.

 

 

 

What do we learn from these bottles? They are quite tasty,  superbly fun, with gentler bubbles making them easy to imbibe, so they finish quicker. They are delicious by themselves, and  provide a party atmosphere when mixed with a tiny bit of flavor, or paired with food. They are affordable, and a touch on the lower side in alcohol by volume.

And remember, they are just as easy to pick up at your local retailer as anything else you might find.

Share your comments and your favorite sparkling with us, below!

 

à votre santé!

 

Not Every Glass Is A Win.

5 Jun

Remember the old adage, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince”?  Some days, that is SO TRUE.  We had better accept it: some days just aren’t going to be successful, so the best thing we can do it learn from them, and move forward. You’re not always going to win that race, beat your opponent, or make your quota. On some days, you might try your damnedest just to continue- to live and fight another day.

#MWWC33 

 

We have a lot of sayings backstage in the entertainment business. “Once Upon A Time”, is one of them. Others are more self-evident: “early is on time/on time is late”, “make hay while the sun shines”, “just do it again”, “nobody died”, “All the world’s a stage”, “break a leg”,”we’re burning daylight”,  “It isn’t rocket surgery”, “back to one”  just to name a few.

One quote I particularly like is: “We can do this one of two ways. Either My Way, or  My Way Angry.” This statement is also known as “my way or the highway”, if you prefer. That really has no application to this story whatsoever, but the black and white of the statement is darn true that it makes me smile, so I wanted to share it. Sometimes, you have to choose and commit to one side of the coin, and see how your luck fares.

Fortunately, wine is rarely such a black and white world.

Everyone can have their own opinion about wine. And we all do! Not everyone is going to want the 1892 Haut Brion, the Screaming Eagle, the Romanee-Conti Grand Cru…but those are some of my fairy tale wines, my “Once Upon A Time” bottle dreams. Feel free to send me one! The JvB Make-A-Wine-Wish Foundation…well, it has a certain je ne sais quoi, doesn’t it?  But I digress.

 

Likewise, we are going to have disappointments. Not every bottle is going to be good.

 

Today was a great reminder of that lesson. I met with a winemaker and we had a lovely lunch and conversation. But something went wrong with the shipping, and to no fault of the winemaker,  his wine (the whole point of our meeting) just didn’t make it.  So when the waiter came by and asked what we’d like to drink, I said something that often reaps killer rewards. “What are the unusual or weird wines on your list?” I asked. Usually a sommelier or wine director has some unusual picks on (or off their list) that have personal meaning, maybe at a great value. Trying their “insider” wines can be like being handed a gift- a killer pairing, a great value, or a rare wine. He pointed, I nodded. Let’s give it a try!

 

Not today. Oh, no, not a chance.

 

Today was the first time that the “unusual” wine on the list was truly sub-par. It showed brett, showed far too much alcohol, and I felt, accurately or not, that it was a major blunder on my part. The winemaker and I laughed it off- but I really wished that his wines had arrived, or that I’d had my own cellar handy so we could have enjoyed and tried a few different things.

 

It’s important to remember, that whether it is a glass or bottle of wine, business, politics, or marriage:
Not Every Day Is Going To Be A Win.

I’m going to take that one step further: Not every glass is doing to be a win.
“Yes, JvB,” you’re thinking, “That’s obvious.” Sometimes it is obvious. Other times, not so much.

I am constantly telling people that the old wine rules no longer matters and that we should all “Drink What They Like” but at the same time, I also want everyone to try something new, to step out of their habits and taste a different grape, region, or winemaker. And for every few people who thank me for turning them on to a great wine that increases their love of wine, there is someone who hated it.

 

Learn and move forward. Not Every Day Is Going To Be A Win.

 

A cool thing did happen at my meeting today. This winemaker said a lot of things that made a lot of sense to me. I was secretly thrilled to hear him talk about making room in the vineyards and planting grapes specifically to make a great rosé wine. Why? Because I’ve heard other winemakers tell me how much of a drag it can be to make rosé for their customers, and when someone is passionate about making great wine, you can see their determination, understand their struggle, and taste the results, win or lose.

 

If every glass was a win, we would not appreciate the path, the struggle, or the passion that goes into the glass. 

 

Accept that it takes hard work, it takes grit, determination, and often several failures, to finally achieve success.

 

When we finally drink that wine, it tastes better than we can imagine. 

 

Not every glass can be a win. But when you find one, I hope that you will appreciate it that much more, because of what it takes to make the jump from ordinary to extraordinary.

Here’s to you finding, and loving, your fairytale wine.

And then, you can tell us: “Once Upon A Time…”

à votre santé!

Wine Fraud/WineRant: When Drinking What You Like Is Impossible

15 May

Usually, I like receiving money.  Today just isn’t one of those days.

Allow me to explain…

 

I’m looking at a cheque that sits in front of me, untouched on my table, and it makes me seethe. Yes, the mere existence of this piece of paper angers me. For if I deposit the check, it means I legally accept that a debt owed to me has been paid, albeit horridly underpaid. And this paltry cheque is nothing compared to what I purchased and the seller confirmed, then failed to deliver. I can not emotionally absolve the seller for not only failing to complete the transaction, but actually cheating me, because this was done with intent. And wine is more to me than a commodity. It represents so much: happiness, community, decadence, serenity, -and certain special wines mean even more. You know what I mean, if you’ve had one of those rare, gorgeous, transcendent wines, and you ache to find more. And eventually you find some, and you pay for it and believe that it’s yours, until it’s taken away.

Just looking at this cheque reminds me of an awful thing. It reminds me that I am a member of a horrid club, the group of more than 2,300 customers who purchased wines from Premiere Cru in California and didn’t receive their wines.

just kidding

I was smart in that my first purchase was for only two bottles, which I received in a timely manner. The second purchase, for six bottles, took longer to receive, but the wines were well-packed, exactly what I ordered, and were a delight to drink. It was more than a year later, at a time I was flush from completing a huge project when I was searching to order a few more bottles of a specific white burgundy that is very special to me, in essence my personal equivalent of crack cocaine- I saw the name on a list and all I could do was say “yes, please!”  I picked up the phone, confirmed they were available, gave my payment information, and waited. And waited. And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

This is not the first time I have lost on a deal in the wine world. Oh yes, I’ve failed before. I trusted sellers to hold up their end of business, and was shocked when they didn’t.    
-I went through a period in which I followed and participated in a number of wine auctions with (mostly) pleasant experiences, until I purchased a lot at auction in which _all_ the bottles had cooked. I specifically use the word “purchased” where the auction house would use “won”. I don’t say “won” because it is insulting, to say the least. Of a dozen successful auctions, this is the purchase that essentially killed auctions for me, and now makes my blood boil when I see an advertisement from this house. I can recall blogging about how much I was enjoying auctions five years ago…exactly six months before I opened my cooked bottles from auction.

The fact that the entire lot had cooked demonstrates improper storage, which is much harder to accept as a buyer than one corked bottle from a lot, when the auction is from a top house and the wines are touted as being “removed from professional storage”.

 

-I purchased a case of a gorgeous burgundy wine from a respected retailer at a great price and waited patiently for the wines to arrive. On the phone I was promised a few days to three weeks, max before I received the wine. Ultimately I waited a half a year for resolution, for the wines still had not arrived, teaching me the importance of the word: “pre-arrival” in advertising. As opposed to en primeur, aka purchasing wine futures (pre-bottling), this vendor said the wines would arrive within days, not weeks…and after call after call, I found out so much of the story it made me livid: “The shipping container was filled by another order, so your wine had to wait for the next one, which is scheduled in three weeks. Oh, that might be three months. The negociant bumped our order, but we’re next…” This charade went on and on. I had purchased the wines in early August, intending to drink them in September, since they’d be available “almost immediately”, I was told over the phone when ordering. By March, I was incensed. After writing a letter to the company and detailing the issues, I was finally offered a refund or an exchange. I accepted the exchange to a similar Burgundy, (a slightly lower quality at a higher price I had to ‘buy up’ for, of course) but I was furious because they had advertised something they could not accurately provide- and so I didn’t do business with this company for several years. After being personally invited to a complimentary tasting at their shop, however, I started buying from them again,  -but only wines that are in stock, in small quantities- with satisfaction.

 

What lessons have I learned? 

 

Build personal relationships with your vendors. You might be big or small in their eyes, but people will think twice about losing you and often work hard to help you and retain your business relationship if there is a personal connection.

Confirm you are purchasing wines that a vendor has in-stock.  Respect the word “pre-arrival” and know exactly what risk that entails (that you are paying for something the seller does not have either in inventory, or under their control).

-To take smaller risks with a vendor, buy in small amounts. This is simple, but can be hard to do sometimes.

-To take delivery in person when possible. This helps with each of the above lessons and practices.

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Premiere Cru was selling wines far below their competition…because it was a ponzi scheme.

If you buy at auction, be aware of everything that means. Read the fine print, and accept that you might be bidding on something you won’t or can’t drink.

 

The good news, dear reader, is that I learned, and have grown, from experience.

I stopped doing business with companies I could not trust, and I found vendors who are reputable and who work harder to maintain customer satisfaction. The more I learn about wines and the more winemakers I meet, the more “desert island” wines I find, and the more relationships I build both with winemakers and vendors. This constantly provides me far more quality wines to taste and enjoy- and more great, afforable wines to share with you! Where in the past I went crazy for a specific chateau and vintage, these days I am more a fan of winemakers and their philosophy. If I were to qualify that by comparing it with a food analogy, then instead of wanting to re-create a great meal, I want to go re-visit that chef and taste what they are doing currently. If I can manage to score another bottle of a great vintage, then that’s a lovely treat, but these days I’m so very happy when I can get a few bottles of recent releases  from a winemaker whose work I really enjoy.

Thanks for letting me share,

and maybe you’ll learn from my mistakes,

or share your own mistakes with me. 

Lastly…

I’d really like your opinion:

What should I do with that cheque?

 

à votre santé!

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin#8) Wine Buyer’s Remorse and the Perfect Moment

21 Feb

While I’m working on a new Broadway show, I’m sharing an early wine rant. This, from a 2012 post!

WINE BUYER’S REMORSE, AND WINE: THE PERFECT MOMENT

 And the rant continues…

Today I’ve been ranting on FB about all kinds of things.  My notes about wines have missed several days of expression, because I’ve been thinking about how to share the experience well.

 

So: WINE BUYER’S REMORSE

 

Obviously if you buy a wine that’s corked you’ll regret it. Sometimes wine is perfectly fine, just… “meh”.  Several times in my life I’ve regretted making a purchase, wine buying as much as anything else. We’re thrilled when a cheap bottle tastes like something much more expensive. What about when you drop hard earned coin on a supposedly great bottle that’s only OK? So sad!!!

 

When I have a negative wine experience, I try to ask these questions:

1)   Did I store it properly, with proper cork contact, and the right temperature & humidity?

2)   Am I drinking this too early, or too late (in the life of the vintage)- OR: was it meant to store? Did I ignore that?

3)   Did I taste it properly? Was my palate clean?  Am I using neutral judgment?

4)   Did I pair this with something inappropriate?

5)   If its not MY cup of tea, who WOULD like this?

6)   What did they do right in making and marketing this wine?

 

I find corked bottles less than 1% of the time. Sure, I’ve got a couple of sad stories about great wines that have been corked.  But more often than a corked wine, wine drinkers have a different negative experience- when they’ve found something they are excited about- a repeat of a special bottle that doesn’t pass muster, a rare find that has passed its drinking window, or a good or highly-rated  wine whose initial response is “so-so” when we hoped for astounding.

 

So-so. That, my friends, is a disappointment. When I taste a so-so wine, I taste it again, to double check myself, then I let it rest a bit and see if a little more exposure to air will improve. Then I’ll try it with a cracker, a gentle cheese, a robust cheese, and maybe some chocolate.  If the wine may improve with food, these are some of the best choices. It’s also easier to keep these foods around your home, instead of fois gras, mushroom terrine, cornichon/raclette cheese/baguette, and chocolate truffles- each of which might pair wonderfully with wines high in acidity , in tannin, in sugar, etc.

 

Sometimes you’ll find the wine has opened up, or pairs and compliments one of these foods amazingly well. And sometimes, you’ll realize that the high priced wine just isn’t what you like. It’s important to realize at this point, that it’s OK, it’s actually good- because you’re learning what you like and don’t like in wine. Don’t forget, every season is a new bunch of wines, every season is a new season to live, learn, try and taste .

So…have you experienced my misery? Bringing home a bottle of something you’re really excited about, just to taste it and think … ‘what’s the fuss about?” One of the ways I’m able to bypass this experience is by purchasing only a glass of wine at a good establishment with a nice cellar. Restaurants and wine bars are obvious opportunities to taste some of the higher end bottles, while risking little. I particularly like wine bars like Morrell Wine in Rockefeller Plaza where you can get a half-glass of some very expensive wines. Some bars & restaurants that carry high end wine by the glass will offer you a taste of a wine when you’re trying to decide what to drink, this can be a great way to taste something but make sure to spend money and tip to keep that relationship going. From time to time, I’ve been disappointed by buying an expensive bottle in a restaurant that didn’t live up to its hype. I’d much prefer buying a glass or half-glass of that vintage to realize it’s not to my liking.

 

 

buck-fifty

Cartoon by: Mark Anderson

 

THE PERFECT MOMENT

 

Most important, is simply to realize that wine is about constantly learning and evaluating. One vineyard’s crop or blend this year may not be as good as that year, last year or next year, and may be totally different from the neighboring vineyard. Wine is as much about your evolution as a drinker and finding out what you like as it is about and process of growing, harvesting, blending, maturing and bottling before a wine gets to the glass.  Often it’s an accident of experiencing a ‘perfect moment’ when a wine impacts the drinker- and your appreciation for the wine is stunning. These moments are the ones that help create the wine drinker: one who seeks another amazing moment of great pairing or insight of flavor, an impact of the palate- like the endorphines we experience on the playing field, the rush of the roller coaster, the joy of laughter. And what do we remember most in life, but highs and lows?  Our memories in life are made of the major failures and the perfect moments, much like our experiences in wine. 

 

Like those in life, the successes and moments of joy are the ones we’ll remember the most. We remember more vividly the moment of joy with the birth of your child, not the 20 hours of labor prior. We remember the dinners with a bottle of Opus One or Mouton Rothschild more than the one where I dumped an entire bottle in the sink and drank diet coke instead.

 

Here’s to the perfect moments in our lives. Cheers! 

-JvB

'How come your oldest vintage is on the top shelf?' 'I can't reach up there!'

‘How come your oldest vintage is on the top shelf?’ ‘I can’t reach up there!’

Cartoon by: Mike Flanagan

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