do’s and don’ts...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The wine blogs this week are loaded with generally interesting, often challenging lists of things that need to go away (, things that should be encouraged, things you should own, things you should do, etc.

I have done my share of these lists over the years. To quickly re-cap, I would love to see the elimination of non-recyclable styro and “popcorn” packaging; an end to faux “wax” capsules; the demise of impossible-to-remove plastic corks; a winnowing down of single vineyard wines, especially pinots; an appreciation for wines that have well-modulated herbal components (especially cabernets and syrahs); less reliance (by the trade!) on critic’s scores to sell wines; fewer wine books promising to “take the snobbery out of wine”; better coverage of Washington (and Oregon) in the big name annual wine guides; and an end to the sorry-a** trend to give wines seemingly-obscene names (like Fat Bastard) just because some people will buy them for shock value.

Some trends already in place will surely accelerate, as they should. There will be better pricing and QPR values at all levels in the year(s) to come. There will be fewer and fewer over-wrought “vanity” labels started by bored rich guys and hyped by PR folks simply chasing a deep-pocketed client. There will be more wineries and vineyard owners taking on the challenges of earth-friendly farming – hopefully not just the mom ‘n’ pop owners, but also at the larger corporate operations, where it may be economically challenging. Do it because it’s the right thing to do, not the least expensive.

For you consumers, I have just one or two ideas to offer. They may seem obvious, but it’s worth doing a personal checklist to see how you fare. First, do you have decent stemware? If not, buy some. My favorite wine glasses at the moment are a single-size stem made in Italy and perfect for virtually any type of wine. They were selling at Costco a few months ago for $3 each – I bought 16 and should have bought more.

Second, do you have a decent corkscrew? For starters, get rid of those horrid, thick-wormed monstrosities with the double levers. Buy a waiter’s corkscrew with a Teflon worm and a double hinge, and it will serve you well for many years. If you are feeling really adventurous, by an ah-so and learn to use it – sometimes they are indispensable.

You don’t need an aerator. Why do you think winemakers go to such trouble to treat wine gently, avoiding pumps wherever possible, and give it plenty of rest in barrel and bottle? So you can go out and aerate the hell out of it? That makes no sense!

Last on my short list, at least for now, is make it your goal to break out of your tasting habits on regular occasions in 2010. Try something you’ve never tried, from a place you’ve never heard of, or a grape that is new to you. Be willing to spend a few bucks on some wines that may not always thrill you. Open the doors to experimentation and the fun will follow.


@nectarwine said...

Good list. I agree with most, specifically the coverage of WA and OR wines (soon to be ID too) and less reliance on scores to sell wines; but a few notable disagreements -

The sorry a$$ trend of shocking wine labels will continue as wine marketing dives into the Gen Y dollars.

Not Aerating wine? Are you just referring to aerators or decanting in general?

As always a very well written and thoughtful piece

Josh @nectarwine (twitter)

Peter said...

Paul, It would help consumers if they wrote down the name of the bottle they recently had. Bring that name to the specialist shop/store. To often consumers think that wine is in stock every where! There are just too many wines for wine stores to carry one tenth of what is available.

Micah N said...


Nice list. I would like to add to the 'consumers' section.. to buy locally!! That may seem obvious, but let's support our local wineries first. Also, hit those wine specialty shops, buy direct from the wineries, and don't buy all your (WA) wine from Costco and QFC.

Finally, as for industry changes, I am not a big fan of these 'good ol' boys' mailing lists. As a new washington winery, this is something I am not planning on doing.

PaulG said...

As for decanting, I'm all for it. Very helpful for wines both old and new. And it's a gentle process. The aerators basically put the wine thru a blender in order to oxygenate it. Not good in my opinion.

Peter, you are absolutely correct – I get a LOT of emails asking where a certain wine can be purchased. How would I possibly be able to track the thousands of wines in the hundreds of retail outlets just in my vicinity?

Micah. Buy local, for sure. Not clear about the 'good ol' boys' reference. Can you explain?

Plymale said...


I'm with you and Steve on damning the plastic corks, though the composite ones sometimes present the same problem of not going back in the bottle (not a problem at dinner parties, but often a problem otherwise).

As for the wax, my corkscrew usually goes right through it (not that I'm crazy about it).

Happy New Year,


Denise Slattery said...

Paul - great list! And you didn't even use bullet points! I want to add something. How about smaller pours? I mean try 4 oz in a glass and then try 4 oz of something else! I think it's quite possible to try lots of wine and not over drink. I'd like to see people branching out and trying more than one big glass of wine with a meal. There's so much to discover and a meal can be complimented by more than one varietal, blend or winemaking style. Cheers and love your columns. Thanks for supporting "local"

Jim Caudill said...

Labels that demand attention sometimes do have wine in the bottle worth checking out, as in the Bitch Grenache from Australia. Manliness alone would normally preclude reaching for a pink labeled wine with a your Mom will blush name, but as some moms would tell you, Bitch is just another acronym for Babe In Total Control of Herself (honest, a gal pal told me this) and the old vine Grenache inside the cork is decidely terrific. Maybe an open mind, caveat emptor approach?

PaulG said...

Jim, I take your point. But if the grenache is really that good, why does it need a name that is designed to provoke and possibly offend? I love clever names, but where does it stop with profanity? F-U Merlot? C--ksucker Riesling? I think we've pushed it as far as it needs to go. Just my opinion.

MagnumGourmet said...


I think that we have already crossed that line with over the top wine labels. Just take Washington Wine Companies "Big F'n Syrah". I won't purchase it based solely on principle.

Shaun Richardson said...

Paul, many Cabernet Sauvignon winemakers practice aeration to a greater or lesser extent in the cellar - it aids building tannin structure. As for the Vinturi, it is a great tool for a just-opened wine that otherwise would be subdued and 'closed': sure it's an aggressive way of doing things, but it works, and the wine tastes better. There's no way I can argue against a tool that makes wine taste better.
Shaun Richardson, Clos Pegase Winery

Plymale said...

Regarding oxidative tannin polymerization (and decreased astringency), vis a vis Shaun's comment, is the jury out or in? Just curious.

joe in wine sales said...

you are kidding on some of these, right?

Ed Thralls said...

Paul, great list and I agree with the label names. Not sure, I agree with Nectar regarding the need for shock value to market to Gen Y. Studies have shown this generation is indeed interested in a story, is in-tune with green initiatives and will take recommendations from their friends (even if only FB or twitter "friends") -- those labels just look stupid and cheap.

I agree with Denise... in an effort to try more wines, more places should offer tastes and the consumer should ask even if they don't advertise that they do. Many are willing to oblige.

Thanks for clarifying your answer re: decanting, as I do think it is helpful at times when done correctly.

Happy New Year to all!

John Cesano said...

Great list, I agree with so much of it. Complete agreement with eliminating p[op corn, fat fake waxy plugs, less reliance on points in marketing, and fewer annoying - or obscene - wine names.

Love my big glasses and my waiter's corkscrew. The only point of difference is on aerators...and that is situational.

Although I do not own a vinturi, I am a patient man and love the experience of a wine opening naturally, I am completely impressed with the wine tool's ability to open a wine quickly to make it much more palatable when time is limited.

I was at a tasting room, tasted a just opened wine, found it dense, packed, but closed. Unapproachable. The tasting room manager then poured another glass through the vinturi. I was stunned with how remarkable different, open, approachable and delicious the second pour was.

Vinturi has a place. That's my take anyway.

Ron McFarland said...

Your suggestion below has to be the best and one that will solve all the other on your list. The more this becomes a wine habit the more interesting consumers will make the industry. Too much of the industry making the consumer right now.


"Last on my short list, at least for now, is make it your goal to break out of your tasting habits on regular occasions in 2010. Try something you’ve never tried, from a place you’ve never heard of, or a grape that is new to you. Be willing to spend a few bucks on some wines that may not always thrill you. Open the doors to experimentation and the fun will follow."

Tim said...

Great list, and it is probably an abbreviated one at that. Happy New Year!

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