Jonathan Nossiter was the first to alert me to a rant by winemaker Fulvio Bressan on Facebook on Italian integration minister Cécile Kyenge — Italy’s first African-Italian minister. She has been a target since taking office. In trying to offer Bressan an excuse I can only come up with insanity--or being a drunk. I had heard rumors that this is what Bressan was like, but I never saw it. To me, even though I'm Jewish (did he know?) he was always super sweet, going out of his way to help me find an Italian publisher. But that friend said, "Just consider yourself warned."
For background and a translation of the Facebook debacle, read my friend, Jeremy Parzen's blog, In the wake of people stopping stocking the Bressan wines, from Chambers Street to Bobby Stuckey, Vinography's Alder also wrote a passionate post on whether we drink the wines of people who are objectionable.
The issue goes well beyond that.
Picasso was supposedly an asshole, and according to the dirt, Philip Roth was no picnic with the ladies. Ezra Pound? A complicated anti-semite who was probably insane. I'm not going to stop looking and reading. When I go to Napa, which I sometimes do, do I know not to talk politics? Yes. Are some winemakers anti-semites? Yes. Even though I might be 'their Jew,' yes, anti-semitisim does indeed exist in the wine world. Would I buy their wines? It depends. If they went on a hate rampage? No. I found out one winemaker was a perpetual wife beater. I can't buy his wine anymore. There is hatred and even obsession with verbotten sex, such as with underage children, as abhorrent as that is. But one must, must, must resist the urge to act out on it. That is what separates us from most of the animal kingdom, the choosing what is right and what is wrong.
This issue is not about someone having a different opinion, it is not about someone being 'nice' or not, it is not about political beliefs. The Bressan incident is about a hate mongering road rage that could very well be dangerous, and I can't support that. His is the kind of blame and hatred that starts wars.
The concept of cultural hegemony--the domination of a culturally diverse society by those who rule, who manipulate the culture of the society so that they become the world view--seems appropriate to invoke here. It was Jeremy P. who once told me when it comes to addressing the Italians, invoke the Marxist, Gramsci. So I googled Gramsci, hegemony and racism and came up with Can Gramsci's theory of hegemony help us to understand the representation of ethnic minorities in western television and cinema? It's worth a read, as it in its way, knits Dean with Bressan and even my father who thought nothing of going out for "Chinks."
But there was one Bressan left on my shelf. Last night I opened it up to gauge my friends reaction. They are not wine people and they loved it. It was the Bressan Schoppitino 2006. Full, spicy, long, complex, very boldy Italian. On the eve of the events in Washington, the wine opened the conversation to racism, anti-semitism where's the line when we vote with our pockets. I read them some of Bressan's exerpts on Jeremy's blog.
hey, dirty Black MONKEY, I DON’T PAY TAXES to put your GORILLA friends up at a HOTEL. Please take them to your house where you can be the big shot with all that money of yours. Oops. That money isn’t even yours. Because Italians give you that money. YOU SHITTY NEGRO GOLD DIGGER.
Case closed. The wine was good. Sure. Need it? Everyone has a price, but price for hypocrisy is way higher than that.
So, I thought I had already written my 50th anniversary of the Freedom March a few weeks back. Wrong.
One of the most embarrassing moments of my life was going to the Shop Rite at Stony Brook and picking up a package of 'Coon' cheddar because of the cute racoon on the label and bringing it to my poetry class. When Kofi Awooner, my professor from Ghana asked what I had in my bag, I pulled it out and with a bag said, "Coon Cheddar!" As soon as it was out of my mouth, I searched my memory, did I once hear someone refer to a black man as a coon? This was pre-PC was in the lexicon, and I turned as red as my hair and felt like crawling into a grave. Kofi, knew my innocence, and gave me and A+ and a little love note on my final paper in spite of it all.
I know Paula Deen wasn't as innocent, but I thought of that story when I read her own. Charging her with ignorance, would have been more pertinent than for racism. But when it comes to l'affair Bressan, it's another story.
I might be a decent journalist, but I am a very good cynic. That's why when I read the Wine Buisiness Monthly piece entitled Study Indicates Commercial Yeast Strains Take Over Fermentation, and then Tom Wark's , Wild Yeast Fermentation:There's No Such Thing, the reportage and interpretation smelled off.
Jessica N. Lange (now in dental school) was the study's author. She focused her master's thesis on three British Columbia wineries and four fermentations at each, three inoculated and one spontaneous. Her purpose was to study the multitudinous yeast strains that finished the job. Her conclusion? Whether inoculated or spontaneous, the laboratory saccharomyces cerevisiae won the race. I read her PowerPoint and then fleshed out my understanding of her approach through emails and also with her thesis Yeast Population Dynamics During Inoculated and Spontaenous Fermentations at Three Local British Columbia Wineries.
Tom's piece broadcast his reading of the WBM article to mean there's no such thing as a wild yeast ferment, writing that...“the Natural” winemaker may have to rethink what they consider necessary in order to call a wine “Natural.”
Meanwhile, the WBM piece focused on the questions the study raised for winemakers like Ken Wright of Oregon. Another Bob Ferguson of Kettle Valley Winery in B.C. said he was in "shock." I'm not sure where the shock comes from, especially when you consider the study's flawed control parameters, which neither article did.
#1-Each fermentation, including the spontaneous one was sulfited. Before the cold soak, every batch of wine had 40ppm of SO2 added.
#2- All of the spontaneous fermentatios were done in wineries where inoculations were going on and had been going on for years.
Now, adding 40ppm of SO2 is like administering a sucker punch to the yeast population in a vat of grape juice.
At 40ppm, the poor native yeast population is so stunned, the nubile grape juice eager to convert its sugar into alcohol is succeptible to invasion by the neighboring, aggressive yeasts. Usually you sulfite at this stage to prepare a vat for inoculation. With the vat's yeast population now impotent, it was an eager host for the resident lab yeast that took up residence in the winery. (as in my concern #2)
These blips in the study also leaped out at Hank Beckmeyer, a well-versed winemaker and a favorite of The Feiring Line. Because he makes low intervention (La Clarine Farm) wine, and has a day job-- at a more conventional winery-- he knows better than I do both sides of the fermentation coin.
"Spontaneous and inoculated in the same facility at the same time? Spontaneous fermentation is an all-or-nothing game. It either is, or it isn't. And it isn't if you are using commercial yeasts in the same winery."
"Add 40ppm at the crusher, and you pretty much HAVE to inoculate. 1st species to repopulate a barren environment are aggressive and often pathogens."
While this study doesn't add up to the conclusions WBM and Tom Wark came to, it does certainly prove one thing --all of those winemakers who say they're 'experimenting' with native yeast fermentations, unless they are experimenting in a new winery that has never seen any laboratory yeasts, are fooling themselves. Or as Hank put it, "This study just confirms that commercial strains do take over a winery and stay. This study proves nothing unexpected. How this is ammo for the anti-natural crowd is beyond me."
And so, to the concerned winemaker-to-be who wrote me this last week:
I am building a 11,000 square-foot gravity flow winery on my Pinot noir/ Chardonnay vineyard right now. Yet I suspect that yeast will be on all of my barrels that I bring into the new winery and the chances of accomplishing what we would hope to be a unique wild yeast fermentation might be fanciful thinking on my part.
Hank has this encouragement:
"Non-commercial strains found were unique to each winery (pg.48 of the thesis). The winery is part of the terroir. And that if you are into that concept, then you better be damn sure that you don't fuck it up by adding commercial yeast."
Former? I thought I was still a wallflower. That link will bring you to a glimpse of my fraught HILI (Hebrew Institute of Long Island, that is) high school reunion and proof positive that while some of grow, some never change.
"Will pineau d'aunis be allowed the Touraine appellation comes 2016?" asked my friend in California who was trying to interpret the new laws.
"Nope," I said.
"So strange," she said, "that the AOC can protect and do the opposite simultaneously."
The Appellation system of France was born in 1935, to try to preserve wine's integrity. They've done some good such as organizing the complex system, giving credence to areas that came up in quality but they've made huge booboos. Some of them? Banishing grapes like aligoté and gamay from great terroir in Burgundy.
Oh, you say, what was a mistake about that? Look what they did? Everyone knows about Burgundy being Chardonnay and Pinot Noir? If you tasted what I tasted in Corton, you'd know what you missed. And really, is Burgundy really so popular because people can guess the varietal correctly or is it the place?
And once again, proving that no one learns from the mistakes of the past they are trying to dumb down the wines of the Loire mostly for people who won't spend more than $8 anyway. They are going for the broadest common denominator.
As of 2016, the new white of Touraine is sauvignon blanc--the only white wine that can get the appellation. Trust me on this, despirte the success of Burgundy, the Touraine is not going to replace Sancerre any time soon. It will not be known for $40 sauvignong blanc. This is the law that inspired M. Puzelat who makes beautiful menu pineau to say, "I'm getting ready to be a table wine maker." Many of his wines will now be made from forbidden grapes in his area so he will have to label them Vin de France. VdF is the appellation with the most freedom in the bottle and the least information on the label--because you want a bottle just to drink--here you go. So how will the drinker know that a VdF is not just a thermovinfied creature but one with a soul and a place? They will have to do their research. f
Huff....As if place didn't matter.
Another casualty for the wine world will be the loss of pineau d'aunis. Yes, friends, our gorgeous, peppery, velvety and seductive pineau d'aunis. The wine that Anthony Wilson created a song for. The wine, as in the beauties that came from Clos Roche Blanche will still be made but will be labeled Vin de France.
Pineau d' will allowed as a rosé, but only as a blend. CRB pineau d' rosé? Bye Bye appellation.
So, in summation:
The INAO says for the regions of Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher
En effet pour l'AOC Touraine blanc, il n'y aura plus que le Sauvignon blanc.
Pour les rouges :
- AOC Touraine Gamay (100% gamay)
- AOC Touraine rouge : assemblage cabernet, cot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, gamay.
- AOC Touraine rosé : cabernet franc, cab sauvignon, cot, gamay, grolleau pineau d'aunis, pinot gris, pinot noir
(what took me so long from posting this? Jon Rimmerman gave me this incredible shoutout January 31st, which are his reasons to subscribe to the newsletter)
Rants and Raves Dear Friends,
First off, I’ve written plenty of ridiculous things over the years but I have to call a spade a spade when it is not only misinformed but does a complete disservice to an entire young generation of artisans attempting to re-write the complacency of years gone by.
As one of the more unreasonable assessments of a wine movement I’ve read in a while, the following article completely misses the point. A zero dosage wine (in some way, akin to using no oak) forces the fastidious to produce better and to farm better – the flaws cannot be covered by sucrosity, which is EXACTLY THE POINT. To be satisfied with the stodgy former status quo of a region that’s (arguably) been saved by the brut nature/no-dosage youth movement is utter nonsense: http://www.jamessuckling.com/champagne-or-champain.html Rant over. Rave to follow...
Now then, if you are seeking wine journalism that is neither ill-informed nor overwrought – a parcel of pages that are well written, interesting and worth every penny of their subscription cost – I urge you to take a chance on the periodical below...for education's sake alone. You’ll come out on the other end far more knowledgeable than you were before with actual insight and new-found inspiration.
How many newsletters can legitimately make that loaded claim and back it up (Jancis, but few others)? Where most fail, the journal below succeeds in spades. It gives notice to worthy up-and-coming winemakers, their vineyards and their particular movement with both the positive and negative illuminated (yes, even those dreaded no-dosage Champagne houses)... Subscribe and be enlightened! http://www.alicefeiring.com/newsletter
The morning of the march I was a pigtailed kid on a family trip with my family to D.C. It was the year before my father understood a martini. The year before he had that silly goatee and the year before he went down to Montgomery--to extract Stokely Carmichael out of jail, yet again, for backing out of his driveway.
Our Capital visit was coming to an end--my brother and I had Dennis the Menace comic books as our guide--(far better than our parents) and I didn't really know what was going on but I wanted to stay. There were crowds of people flowing in like human rivulets on the city. My mother was in a panic, "We have to get out of here!"
My mother was always ruled by fear, and that sometimes fogged in her sense of right. She'd seen the dogs and the water hoses opened up on peaceful people seeking freedom in the South, and she was being a lioness, I have to forgive her. But how, I wondered could she really want us to run from it. The march happening almost in front of us was a wrapped up present of fate. And we didn't stay around to pull the string.
The fights started. The panic. My father wanted to stay. I wanted to stay. My brother wanted to stay. I have no clue about my grandparents but, I'm sure they wanted out. Too many of their kind had been killed, it was see a crowd? Flee. In the end, there were three sullen Feirings facing off three scared Avrechs. It was the last battle my mother won in that marriage. With Phil dead, no one is here to tell me the details, but he never ever forgot not being there.
We hopped into the Buick, the first one. We left Washington when the air was a high buzz. An e-string pinging in the heat and the tension. I would forever regret sitting in traffic going north when instead, I could have heard magic.
For the Feiring household, it was the beginning of the slide.
Never know what you'll find out on a late night romp around the net. Tonight we found a lovely spray option for your wine, it's kind of like Binaca (does that still exist?) for your glass.
So2Go (from Australia--as if they don't have enough problems). But I suppose if you're trying to combat the sulfitage from Yellow Tail or the summer of riesling..
Here's the way they want you to use it:
SO2GO is perfect for a night out or in. It is so easy to transport in your pocket or handbag and can be sprayed directly into your glass of wine or emptied into a bottle. SO2GO works by saturating the wine with oxygen.
This burst of oxygen binds to the Sulphur, neutralising it, leaving you with pure wine and no preservatives. It will not affect the flavour or quality of your wine or Champagne at all. Winemakers use the same solution to remove bulk preservatives prior to bottling but some remain in order to stop the wine from spoiling in the bottle.
This is not a joke. They are for real. I suppose it's better than carrying a hypo in your pocket to protect against anaphlactic shock.
How does it work? I have no idea, but I found this on their website and --if you wondered why I wrote the kinds of things I do and want to educate about the other side? Here you go.
"How does So2Go combat sulphites?The productis based on the same process used by winemakers. It contains a measured, dilute level of food grade Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2). Winemakers use H2O2 to remove bulk preservatives prior to bottling. SO2GO works by saturating the wine with oxygen shortly before consumption. This burst of oxygen binds to the Sulphur, neutralising it. SO2GO is designed to neutralise between 50% and 80% of free Sulphur Dioxide in an average 750ml bottle of wine.
I just want to say, food grade H202? I do love it for infections, and even if this crack pot site tells me it's a miracle substance. Personally, I'm onto apple cider vinegar myself, but I'm not spraying that on my wine.
If you come to Georgia for wine, sooner or later you’ll find yourself in the sweet little town of Signagi. Or at least, if you're smart you will. It's about 1.5 hours southeast from Tbilisi towards the Caucasus. It's a picture perfect, hilltop touristic town, complete with an image ruining casino. But that shouldn't stop you as it's perfectly situated for exploring the wine area of Khaketi and when you come back sweaty from it all, you can eat and drink at the Pheasant’s Tears wine bar.
Owned by friend and American ex-pat, John Wurdeman, the list is packed with the best of Georgian wines, Pheasants Tears and his buddies, even a few that are not totally natural. John is afterall, a nice guy. And if you get a yen for something else, Ganevat (it's true, if you can't find FanFan in NYC, go to Tbilisi or Signagi)Puzelat and Princic and friends are on the list.
I've been in Signagi on all three of my trips to this country. This last June I was in Georgia for near to a month, working on a book as well as overlapping with the second annual qvevri conference, I returned, several times. Alone, with John and with about 30 of my new best friends. But when in town, there wasn't a day I didn't eat or drink something from the wine bar.
John's chef, Gia is one hell of a talent and pulls strongly from the riches of the spice route, sumptuous , heady, sensual. There are always local surprises whether newly foraged Cesar mushrooms.
Or, how about some creeping vine? Sure it sounds as if it.s out of an Avengers movie but is more delectable than broccoli rabe.
A few nights got tossed under the two sheets to the wine and chacha wind bridge. I had no complaints.
But as it happened, on the last night of the conference, some of us were put up at the newly opened Kabadoni hotel.
I needed it. Badly. And I needed it so much that when I found out I could downgrade my room to an $80 number, I said, sign me up.
I was on the road a lot, on couches and day beds and needing privacy and a little pampering. So sue me.
Now, look it’s still Georgia. On the Wednesday I went down for breakfast I was told I was out of luck until 8. Nothing happened at 8. Finally someone realized I needed a coffee and that happened around 9. Coffee was great (be prepared for a lot of instant in this country--this was espresso machine pumped and not bad). And so was the freshly made matsoni, thick yogurt. As usual, the electricity goes out once a day, but it's Georgia. I am not big on spa, even though the prices for treatments were silly reasonable (most around $40-$50). I stayed in and worked instead of checking it out or heading the sauna. This is what I do. I book into a hotel and work. Weird. I know.
There are guest houses in town, for as low as $15 I hear. They are sweet, people are friendly and a good choice for longer stays, but sometimes a hotel, views, fab sheets and wifi are needed. If you’re willing to forgive the Kabdoni's lack of obsessiveness of detail, after all, thanks to John, they also have Franck Pascal Sagesse on the wine list and the rooms, even in the big boys, are lots cheaper than the Georges V.
Hotel Kabadoni/Tamar Mepe Street/ Signagi 4200
All right. It has to happen. So let it flow.
When I read Lettie Teague's lead in the WSJ, it was obvious where she was going.
WILLIAM JAMES was not only a famous philosopher but a source of some pretty memorable quotes. One of his better-known observations, "Belief creates the actual fact," came to mind recently as I was researching the topic of natural wine.
Yes, I said to myself, with a different interpretation that could indeed well describe what happend with the grass root phoenonemon of natural wine.
To recap, in the 1970s Marcel Lapierre observed The two tits of the Beaujolais are sugar and sulfur. Marcel, who lived in Morgon in the Beaujolais, having decided that the wines he made were undrinkable, he wanted to return to real wine that tasted delicious, the way generations before him worked. He hooked up with Jules Chauvet, a winemaker/scientist researching ways to bring a stable, lovely, additive-free wine to the table, staring with organic viticulture. An essential piece of the history was to make a wine without the use of added sulfur.
Why? Well, chemical agriculture was wrong. Additives interfere with direct expression. Too much sulfur was obnoxious, smells and felt awful. Those were beliefs. Winemakers and their friends were huge drinkers who didn't want the huge sulfur hangover. That was desire. Out of that great combo of belief and desire the trend to make these wines grew. More winemakers tasted them, liked them, and worked that way. Drinkers loved them. It was a secret spoken out loud.
Today, demand is greater than the supply. This is a situation guaranteed to activate any marketers salivatory glands. I think it must be getting some more conventional winemakers antsy. Afterall, when wines like Provence's Pfifferling are on allocation, (fact) wouldn't others who make more expensive wine get a little jealous? Being closed out of the wines she wants and needs is driving sommeliers like Pascaline Lepeltier crazy There simply isn't enough of the good stuff around. So I have to wonder, what wines Lettie tasted that she rejected.
For the piece, (it didn't get in) Lettie asked me when the term natural wine first came to be used. I suspected that it originated with the bar a vins naturel...so probably the wine bars in Paris started to use it? I emailed Thierry Puzelat to confirm. He said, "In my memory, at first we were using vins sans soufre, vin naturel came later just before we created the association about 10 years ago." Jean-Pierre Robinot's wife Noella had a different take. Robinot had one of the first of two natural wine bars in Paris. (Francois Morel had the other).
Le terme “ vin naturel” a été utilisé par un groupe de passionnés de vins ( dont je faisais partie) qui ont crée les uns après les autres leur bar à vins ; et ce à partir de 1986. On dégustait des Morgons sans sulfite de Jules Chauvet (notre maître à tous ) et de Marcel Lapierre qui nous ont convaincu que les vins sans sulfite avaient une autre dimension. Donc Jean-Pierre parlait de Vin naturel en 1986 et c’est en 1989 qu’il a crée son bar à vins ou il vendait des vins naturels.
To translated: The term was used but a group of passionates wine lovers who created wine bars in Paris from 1986. Marcel Lapierre had convinced us that wines without sulfur had a different dimension. So Pierre talked about the wines since 1986 and started to sell natural wines in his wine bar in 1989.
So the wine bar peeps used it, but it was just code for nothing added to a wine, including sulfur. When the association started, the term was more formalized.