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Thursday Thorns: The Report Card
New News Fit To Spit

By Charles Olken

The Wine News continues to amuse and amaze. Nothing wrong with that. As long as the industry, from winery to writers and everything in between and Sideways (sorry, just could not resist that one), keeps rolling out the items, we will keep on reporting them to you.

ITEM: Menlo Park council narrowly approves BevMo

I know Menlo Park. I lived there for a year while in grad school. Of course, I moved to Palo Alto proper a year later and liked it a lot more, but Menlo Park is OK with me. But, I just don’t get this “narrowly approves BevMo” stuff. This is a city with large chain stores and is suffering great angst over a store planned to sit in a strip mall that includes a Staples and Big 5 Sporting Goods. One council member put it this way (please no snickering at the end), “We think BevMo does not fit in Menlo Park but it does fit into this shopping center”. And where is this shopping center? Why on Menlo Park’s busiest street along with all the other big volume stores. There is one downside to this story however. Beltramo’s, the long-standing premier wine merchant on the mid-Peninsula, is just down the street and will now face competition for customers. Folks, I know Beltramo’s and I know BevMo. Beltramo’s will be just fine. It is a hands-on wine merchant with a very good selection of goods. Sure, some of its trade will directly compete with BevMo, but much of it simply will not. The argument about too much competition is about as valid as CGCW complaining that the Wine Spectator is allowed to be sold in California. Sorry, Menlo Park, but you don’t look good on this one even though I still love you.

Our Grade: C-

ITEM: Why France matters in world of wine

“The French have bequeathed much to the world of wine. Here are 5 reasons to raise a glass in their honor.”

This from the Chicago Tribune, penned by a self-confessed “wine peep”. He probably posted it first on Twitter or Facebook. Of course, the whole world knew what was coming after that introduction so I will just tick off the items with just enough rant to tickle your funny bone and exorcise my amazement—

  • Wine words: We should love the French because they have given us words like brut and blanc de blancs, cuvée and chaptalization. Never mind that we don’t practice chaptalization much here because can get our grapes ripe enough that no sugar is needed to raise the wine to acceptable levels of body and richness.
  • At the table: “The French taught us that wine went with food”. I guess all that wine made in amphora in Persia and Egypt was only for show. People did not really drink it. And you can forget about Italian wine. According to the Tribune’s wine peep, the Italians made no good wine until the 1960s. I guess that stuff I was drinking in the North End of Boston in my college days, you know the stuff that came in those little round bottles with straw baskets, was not good enough to go with Joe Tecce’s Cannelloni. Silly me. I never minded it. My roommates and I thought we were pretty cool taking our dates to an authentic Italian restaurant and ordering wine. I guess we should have sent it back because it was not French.
  • Good Grapes: “Where would we wine peeps be without the Cabernet—Sauvignon and Franc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc?” Well, you wine peeps would just have to drink Tempranillo, Grenache, Zinfandel, Riesling, Torrontes, Albarino, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese.
  • Terroir: “How the voice of the place murmurs through the grapes”. I kid you not. That is an actual quote. Apparently, terroir did not exist in the Napa Valley or the Mosel or Tuscany until the French discovered it.
  • AOC: “The laws that govern grape growing and wine production”. Yes, folks, France matters because it has a system of hidebound rules and regulations that cannot be bent. No matter that some south facing hillsides in Beaujolais, just a stones throw north of the Rhône region, have the same soils as the Côte Rotie and are better suited to Syrah than to Gamay. If you do as a several Rhône winemakers have done, and buy land on those hillsides to grow Syrah, you will not be able to identify the wine as anything but common plonk with no name and no appellation. Never mind that the overheated summer of 2003 practically killed off the vines in many parts of France, that you could not add any water to the parched and dying vineyards without an order from the very top of the government. The progressive French winemakers are butting their heads up against the AOC system and are delighted to tell you so in private. They are smart enough not to fight about it in public or tell wine peeps.

Grade: D

ITEM: Bidding farewell to wine writing

Chicago Tribune
Published: Monday, Nov. 8, 2010 - 12:00 am

You'll notice that I'm not doing my usual column today. That's because my last call for "Uncorked" was a week ago with that article on Carmignano.

The above, taken from the pages of the Chicago Tribune, tells you all you need to know about why the ITEM directly above exists. Bill Daley, the Trib’s long-standing and highly regarded wine columnist has stepped down.

Okay, so it’s not so funny, folks. Good winewriting is a joy. Poorly conceived winewriting sets us all back and confuses the people who read newspaper wine columns hoping to learn something.

Grade: A. For years of good winewriting.


by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:11/11/2010 10:12:34 AM

You were too kind to peeps with a D. He's got 4 out of 5 wrong.

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