basics IDK wine

IDK Wine: Pinot Noir

I geek out.  About wine, about other interests… I confess that I love to really dig into the minutiae of a subject and then share my newfound treasured facts, telling people more than they ever needed to know about, really, anything.

And so it is that I begin a new Wine Scamp Series: I Don’t Know Wine, posts for those who read this site for pleasure, maybe a little knowledge, but really not to find out how the ’05 Cortons are drinking.

The concept here is to impart to you just enough wine knowledge to defend yourself in a wine shop or at a normal, public tasting. These skills won’t protect you against an all-out onslaught of wine geek-o-rama, but they should, given proper maintenance and some remaining short-term memory, allow you acquit yourself worthily if your group asks you to pick a wine for dinner.

I want to start with the grape varietal Pinot Noir because of its enshrinement by the movie Sideways and because it’s a flexible, reliable (if not inexpensive) wine choice.



My friend, the author Gabrielle Faust, invited me to do a series of Halloween wine reviews for her goth/horror blog Eternal Vigilance. I’ll be reviewing about 6 wines for her throughout October. Check out what all the cool ghouls are drinking this season.

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Event: Tuesday Class at Lake Travis Wine Trader

What an interesting, impressive tasting, led by Micheal Lunceford of Ambiente, a smaller distributer here in Austin with a lovely portfolio. They represent Kermit Lynch here in the region, and if Micheal is any indication, they do so flawlessly.

Lake Travis Wine Trader supplied tasty nibbles to go with this wine class, which included tastes of 6 wines for $30, the median bottle price being $43. This is an excellent value for a tasting, in my opinion; usually a tasting will run $20-25 and you’ll taste 4 or 6 wines that are all in the mere $20 range, which is also interesting, but what I enjoy about the LTWT is that these people have super-expensive tastes! Them and me, we totally get that. There’s a regular group of Tuesday tasters, but they were surprisingly friendly and inclusive, considering how well they all seemed to know each other. Don’t be afraid that if you attend one of these classes alone, you’ll have no one to talk to.


Am I fired?

Would you dump me as your favorite scampish wine gal if I told you that, in a tasting on Tuesday of some very beautiful and expensive Burgundies, my favorite by a large margin was the Fleurie, a mere Beaujolais?

I’m sorry, I tried to like the more expensive, silky, elegant, perfumed premier crus better, but I just didn’t. I appreciated them, I enjoyed them, I lauded them, I recognized them, but if I had to go home with any of those sexy bottles, it would have been with the lowly Fleurie. Because it was fun and pleasurable and it was so bright I almost had to shade my eyes from the fruit.

As I agonized over this fact (one I had difficulty admitting to in the first place, knowing from extensive research What I Should Have Preferred), it got me to thinking about literature.

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How to Drink Bad Wine

Yeah, yeah, I know. Life’s too short, right? Well, bullshit. There will always be that party where you’re the “wine gal,” so you get the special bottle of Turning Leaf Pinot Noir they’ve been aging on top of the fridge for 5 years, or that gathering where you are forbidden to bring anything and everyone’s drinking Franzia Merlot from plastic cups.

The fact is that there are times when you have no choice: due to social or psychological pressures, everyone eventually is trapped into drinking bad wine.  Fighting it won’t help you.  Quit struggling.  Accept that glass of pukey juice with a smile, confident that you can knock this fucker out with panache.

1. Drink very little.  Accept your glass gracefully and then contrive to lose it somewhere, and then switch to water after a decent interval.  If anyone raises an eyebrow, make some comment about feeling dehydrated.  That shuts everyone up.

2. Keep it cold.  Cold is your best friend when it comes to bad wine.  When given a selection of seemingly identically bad wine choices, choose the cold one: cold mutes a wine’s flavor, you will taste less of the badness.  If your bad wine choices are not refrigerated, ask for some ice.  Even Franzia Merlot is almost palateable over ice; the blueberry flavors almost conquer the bile flavors when it’s cold enough.  Plus, ice will dilute it, and you won’t be too drunk to go get a decent drink after the party.

3. No smellsies.  I know it’s a reflex to swirl and sniff everything, even your coffee cup and water glass, but don’t go sticking your nose in this crap!  It’ll only remind you of the misery of your situation and exaggerate the nastiness of your swill.  Even better, close off your nose when you swallow — you know how you kind of close the back of your throat when you drink?  Like that.  Keep your throat closed for a few seconds before and after your swallow, and you’ll minimize the amount of flavor you can perceive.  (This also works when you have to down nasty-tasting medicine, and Jagermeister.)

4. No sipping.  Take big gulps, using the throat-closing technique, and soon you’ll be buzzed enough that the ick won’t bother you as much.  This will invalidate your ability to go find a glass of something bearable later on unless you have a driver, I’m just warning you.

5. Mix it.  If you’re given bad champagne, splash some Kir or cranberry juice into it. Bad white wine can also be fruited up or made into a (more) drinkable spritzer.  If you’re really desperately staring down the barrel (no pun intended) of 4 bottles of rotten red and no way out, cheerily suggest Sangria.  If your hosts have no fruit, just throw some ice and OJ into your glass. Colder, dilute, and the juice will mask some of the skank.

Do you have another secret way to withstand bad wine?  A good story about learning that life’s not too short after all?  Pull up a comments box and tell us all about it!