Whole lotta learning

So we did something the other night that we really enjoy: not only bringing together two cool couples who didn’t know each other, but also having an incredibly smart guy from the wine trade and a couple who were mere wine enthusiasts.

That’s a good way to avoid having wine talk dominate the night “” and it worked, as we discussed art, perfection, novels and all manner of stuff. But the wine novices also asked very interesting questions about our favorite beverage. So I checked in with my friend Denny to see whether he had learned anything interesting about wine. His response:

Dom“I learned that old wines can get too old, and a wine can get too old faster than I had thought. [We had two 1990 Champagnes and a Montlouis from the same year; they ranged from oxidated to quite good.] So drink what you have!

“I learned about the Merry of Merry Edwards [they had brought the ever-delicious Merry Edwards sauv blanc].

“I learned, again, that everyone loves Champagne. Ice cream, chocolate, Champagne. Everyone loves ’em.

“I learned that if people could talk politics the way we talked about wine, peace would reign. You can share, disagree, listen, hold forth, communicate every which way, without having to be ‘right.’ Maybe Congress should drink more, or maybe they should move the capital to Napa.

“I learned wine needs food more than any other kind of drinking. You can drink beer and hard liquor alone, but wine? Something about good food and good wine, it takes two to tango. Good food and good beer? Not really necessarily. Good food and good bourbon? Not really necessarily. Good wine and a good meal (and good cheese selected by the Wards!)? Absolutely.

“We learned about the family with the holdings under the streets of Beaune, that I would love to see.

“I learned how fast you can change a label. Small point, yes. But really interesting.

“I learned about carbon exchanges and how [our other male guest, the wine pro] Larry really cares about what he does and how he does it, A to Z. Impressive.

MOO-14240041 - © - Nick White“I learned that real wine people only talk about good wines; they don’t waste their time talking about bad wine. Something very positive about the whole experience. The way serious writers talk about the books they love, and don’t waste time on bad literature. They’re positive critics, if there is such a thing.

“[My wife] learned that if you drink too much on Saturday, you lose a Sunday. (She drank on an empty stomach, she hadn’t eaten a thing that day.)”

Good lessons, one and all, from a wise man who’s always striving for more wisdom.

10 Responses

  1. Bill,

    It is important as wine reviewers to talk about bad wines so that the general public avoids them. I encourage you to do more reviewing of the bad stuff you come across which is over half of what you sample so you enlighten your readers. While you will piss off a few of your distributor friends it will help your readers which is what your end goal should be.

  2. Winemaven58

    john glas,
    As a reader of a great many wine reviewers over an even greater amount of years, I respectfully disagree with you. Yes, there is a goodly amount of plonk out there. Why do I need to know about it? I’d much rather spend the amount of time I dedicate to updating my wine knowledge on learning which wines out there are of value and worth my time and sheckels exploring. That is the way in which I want to be enlightened. That is what I find of value.

  3. Well winemaven (real name unknown) I really don’t want to buy plonk. When you spend what I do a year on wine along with the people I drink wine with it is nice to actually know what is worth spending $50 and beyond on a bottle of wine. With several negative reviews of wines via Cellar Tracker I can make much more educated decisions. In the Cellar Tracker community I have benefited from reviews from lesser quality Bordeaux vintages and gotten some stellar wines that Parker/WS rated low.

    Not sure I agree with your logic.

  4. Bill Ward

    Well, John, I don’t come across that many $50-plus Bordeaux period, and generally only encounter those that my friends have come to appreciate through their journeys (http://ow.ly/krb3E). I’m not a big fan of Cellar Tracker, as I prefer finding an individual with whom to calibrate my tastes, rather than an “average” from people I don’t know. I’m glad it works for you, and am afraid you’ll need to look somehwere besides here for someone to warn you off the bad Bordeaux.
    I have written before about my hopes to someday do posts or even a webiste on plonk (http://ow.ly/krbe0).
    Your estimates about the amount of bad wine I encounter are WAY high; it’s less than 10 percent bad, maybe 25 percent not necessarily to my liking but not objectionable.
    And I’m not sure why you feel the need to tell me what my own website should be, or to comment on my having formed friendships with people in the trade.

  5. Winemaven58

    Wow, john glas, you sound not only a bit defensive, but a tad snobish. I was just relating my preferences and the way I like going about my wine exploration. No right, no wrong, just preference. Is the “cellar tracker” community the be all and end all? Hopefully there aren’t any pods involved. I’m not sure but you sound like some kind of wannabe wine reviewer trying to make a name for himself, gone awry. Me thinks there is room for all avenues of wine exploration.
    Glad you’re reading Bill’s blog though, you must think it’s wonderful too.

  6. Bill,

    I am not criticizing your blog as you can put on it what ever you want however as the wine writer for the Star and Tribune it would be interesting for you to inform the public on some misses since that is what a critic should do at times. Rick Nelson doesn’t always review positively and that is why I value his opinion.

    As far as Cellar Tracker Bill you would need to spend some time on it. You will see which reviewers know what they are talking about and the ones just putting a score are not worth the time so I put the ignore feature on it. The other thing you have to remember is most of us buy wine and don’t get truck loads of free samples or get invited to every industry event in town.

    Many Cellar Tracker power users have more knowledge put together than myself, you and the mysterious winemaven.

  7. Bill Ward

    John: I am jealous of you for having the time to sort through Cellar Tracker users and the ability to cull out the experts. Good on ya. I don’t have the time or desire to go there. I can’t keep up with all the reading and research I already want to do.

    And while I get a lot of samples sent to me, I also go to trade tastings to try everything and spend thousands of dollars a year in local stores on wine, some that I know is good but mostly recommendations from wine merchants who I am confident “know what they’re talking about.” FYI, I neither ask them about, nor spend my hard-earned money on, wines that they don’t like.

    It’s tiresome to deal with your criticism of me, much less snarkiness about other commenters here. If anyone else out there is actually reading this far, John has called my Taste editor at the Star Tribune (it hasn’t been the “Star and Tribune” since 1986) to berate my writing and tout himself for my job.

    Yes, John, there are Cellar Tracker users and a buttload of other folks out there who know way more about wine than I do. It’s a journey, and the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. If you’d like to take in my thoughts and opinions on that journey, would love to have you. But I would appreciate your bringing along a bit more civility if/when you choose to comment on it.

  8. Because John Glas has decided that this is a reasonable forum to tell other people how to do their jobs, it’s only fair that we tell him as well.

    Dear John,
    Here is a list of suggestions to make you a more successful person in the wine industry:

    1) Realize that positive energy, friendships, encouragement, and laughter go much further than negative energy and accusations. People like good people and like to be around them. The amount of negative energy you give off sets you back, and gives people a fair reason to not give you the time of day.

    2) Realize that cutting people down does not make you look taller. It only shows that you don’t have the confidence to simply proclaim your own ideas in a healthy way. Constantly throwing bombs into the blogosphere makes for tiring reading.

    3) Buy a dictionary, and read The Elements of Style. Just sayin’.

    4) Realize that hyperbole such as “the number one wine taster and event planner on the planet” or whatever it is you proclaim to people doesn’t make you sound good. It makes you sound desperate.

    5) Consider how many people in the wine business (writers, retailers, wholesalers, bloggers, and consumers) initially gave you a platform or time, but later distanced themselves from you. There is a reason for that, and the list of people is long (longer than you realize).

    6) Never forget about you trying to get freebies: http://www.imediaethics.org/News/1013/Food_journalist_asked_for_free_wine__food_a_media_ethics_no-no.php

    7) Realize that wine is first and foremost about friendships, ideas, terroir, history, and personal opinions (which everybody is entitled to). It is not about who can piss the furthest.

    8) and finally … contacting me years ago while you were forming your business plan, posing as a consumer who wanted to do a private event, and getting all my pricing information and class ideas was simply bad form. The words I wrote to you after discovering what you were up to stay true today: “Hey John – There is more than enough room in this community for all of us. A rising tide lifts all ships, and you didn’t have to lie to get the info. I would have shared it with you if you simply asked. But doing what you did has bad karma all over it. Good luck.”

    And so I conclude my suggestions for you with the same sentiment. Good luck. Try to be less of a Glashole (which, as I’m sure you know, is your moniker in the local wine scene).

    Jason Kallsen
    Twin Cities Wine Education LLC

    PS: I’m not at all interested in you telling me how to run my blogs, so save your time and use it instead to read about the difference between “its” and “it’s” … your website could use it.

    PPS: I’m honestly sorry I felt a need to write this.

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