Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Surprise! When wines are dubious tricksters and SKIN

It's 9 o'clock on a Tuesday night
The regular crowd shuffles in
There's an old man sitting next to me
Just kidding, I am by myself

Billy Joel just gets it, you know? And I think he really crushed it feelings-wise when he wrote:

I don't want clever conversation 
I never want to work that hard 
I just want someone that I can talk to 
I want you just the way you are. 

Because cleverness is exhausting, hard work is straight up terrible and acceptance of the person you are boning is a classy move. Also, so you don't have to even put in the hard work that is typing it into your search box, here you go. You're super welcome.

Let me set the scene for you dreamy readers out there. It's Tuesday evening. I've made it through such trials and tribulations as another health insurance application and a misunderstanding vis-a-vis the time of my Groupon manicure which led to no Groupon manicure. The vibe in my apartment is very Karen Sharp. And the wine I'm sipping started out a little closed off, green bell pepper, spice, underbrush and resin, then opened up into smoke, mesquite and blackberry. Oh my goodness, who is grilling blackberries up here? Oh wait, NO ONE! Bam. Luscious and jammy on the palate, black-red and nearly opaque, and at 14.8% ABV, this 2011 Bear & Crown drinks like a Bordeaux blend. So what is it? Merlot? Cabernet? Syrah? All of the above? Nope. Check it out:

I know, right? As my dad texted me during the Oscars, "WTF is Seth McFarland?" That may not be applicable here but I really wanted to share that text with the earth. This, a Pinot Noir? Aren't those supposed to be translucent and subtle and smell like raw meat and raspberries? This meat smells cooked over fire! Raspberries are similar to blackberries so ok fine! But this does not look like a Pinot Noir:

Yes, I did my nails myself because the lady dicked me over. By the way, this is how you should check a wine's appearance: white background, tilting the glass (which shouldn't be more than a third full anyway so you can swirl and sniff), in the presence of Trader Joe's olive oil cooking spray. That way you can get a sense of the hue, the opacity, and even the age. This wine's color goes all the way to the edge and has a very slight purple-blue tinge. It's pretty young. The purple-blue would be more pronounced if it was super youthful, but this is pretty ok. That doesn't mean it's young in years (although it is, it's a 2011). That means it's young for this particular wine. This could be a 2008 or a 1989 and if it looked like this we'd call it young. Reds get lighter and more rust-colored with age (though Pinot Noirs are almost always light even when young. Not this time!), so regardless of the year, some thin, rusty-ass wine is old. White wines get darker with age, toward amber colored, and have a green tinge when they're particularly youthful. And just in case this wasn't confusing enough, some wines are meant to age, some aren't. Most wines should be drunk 3-5 years within the vintage date.

Ok, so let's think about how this happened. How did this thin-skinned grape that usually results in light, low-tannin, delicately flavored wines end up this big, bad, bold motherfucker? Well, I don't know, write this Robin Langton character the label says made it a letter and find out. But when you do, run this guess by her...

Skin contact. This is my theory. These grapes sat in contact with the skin for a long, long time. Here's why I think this: the juice of red grapes is clear. The color comes from contact with the skins. The skins of white grapes are removed early in the process, but red grapes ferment with theirs and sometimes get extended maceration or other processes to really get every last tannin and aromatic out of the skins. I think that's what happened here: bonus skin time. That got all these rich aromatics out of the skin and gave it a hue whose corresponding lipstick is more goth than femme fatal. Rose wines have some contact with their skins (and depending on what that skin is, will have color ranging from ballet slipper pink to magenta. And magenta isn't necessarily sweet, it just comes from thick-skinned grapes like Syrah). White wines have little or no contact with the skins. 

Here's a metaphor I just invented, debated not using, then took a few more gulps of wine and decided was genius. In this metaphor, the skins are skins. Like when you first meet someone, you're all, I do not know if I want you in contact with me, what if you have a rash or what if you hurt me like the others or what if you are made of glass and the temperature and smoothness of your body is a shock? You have little or no skin-to-skin contact with the other person. 

Ok, so that's white wine. 

Rose is the honeymoon stage, when you're blushing and happy and delighting in your sex injuries because you've had lots of skin contact but only for a short period of time. The chemistry is electric and you're still pretending to like farmers markets and thinking this person is perfect when their skin disappears (hopefully with the rest of them, or not hopefully, depending how rude the disappearance was) and you just stop everything and go into a metaphorical bottle which is the walls you put up that you don't know if you can ever smash down. 

Red wine is when you've been with someone for a long time and everything is darkness and drinking and 14.8% alcohol doesn't seem like nearly enough and also the bottle is the walls. This part may need some work.

The point is, labels aren't everything. Grape variety isn't even everything, which I find startling and uncomfortable and a little bit freeing, like the time I found out Josh Brolin and Diane Lane were married by finding out they were getting a divorce, or the other time I almost typed Russell Crowe instead of Josh Brolin. The wine in the glass is everything. The wine in the glass is worth two wines in the bush because what if you forget which bush you hid the wines in? I just wish Josh and Diane realized this before it was too late.

So try wines, form your own opinions, and never close yourself off to a particular grape variety altogether. You may have just hated the winemaking techniques used, or the person you were drinking it with, or eaten it with the wrong food, or not been mature enough to appreciate it, or have drunk it out of a chalice that was full of ebola like ten minutes before you poured. All of these things could have happened.

Even with Chardonnay.

I'll snuggle you juuust the waaay you aaaaaaare

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