The cost to acquire Barolo vineyards is outrageously high, about $700,000 per acre Luca Currado, 4th generation wine maker at Vietti explained to us today. And that’s if you can find any for sale. It just doesn’t happen much.
One of those rare opportunities arose a few years ago with a tiny piece of Lazzarito, a cru in Serralunga d’alba. It was owned by a brother and sister team, neither of whom had ever married. Vietti had bought grapes from this parcel for years. In her 70s the sister unfortunately passed away leaving the brother in sole control of the land. Now alone he confided to Luca he would sell the vineyard and offered him first shot. Despite the high cost Luca knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire a great vineyard.
He also knew he had to move quickly, closing the purchase in record time. Less than two weeks later the previous vineyard owner and 78-year-old lifelong bachelor married his 23-year-old Romanian bride. Had Luca hesitated there’s no telling how high the price of this piece of Lazzarito would have been.
In 1983 I was ten. We had just moved from Chicago to Florida. I had a portable cassette player with a shoulder strap and a love for Michael Jackson’s Thriller and G.I. Joe. Here are some wee chunks of nostalgia from that era. Where were you way back when?
The final episode of M*A*S*H airs
Reagan announces that GPS will become available for personal use
(Unfortunately) Kiss appears on MTV for the first time sans makeup
Chrysler cranks out the world’s first minivan
Top 5 Songs
1. Every Breath You Take, Police
2. Billie Jean, Michael Jackson
3. Flashdance…What A Feeling, Irene Cara
4. Down Under, Men At Work
5. Beat It, Michael Jackson
Reagan begins his second term
Coca Cola releases New Coke (for three months before accepting defeat and returning “Classic Coke”)
Back to the Future hits theaters
Microsoft releases Windows 1.0
Top 5 Songs
1. Careless Whisper, Wham!
2. Like a Virgin, Madonna
3. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Wham!
4. I Want to Know What Love Is, Foreigner
5. I Feel for You, Chaka Khan
In the past I’ve read claims about the negative effects of alcohol consumption on men’s sexual health, but a group of Australian researchers recently posited that moderate boozing is actually beneficial. They assembled over 1,500 men from 20-80 (get some, Gramps!) and found that blokes who drink diminish their chances of erectile dysfunction. Mind you, this addresses dudes who dwell within the guidelines of low-risk drinking, BUT the study occurred in Australia where they define “low-risk” as up to four drinks per day, five days or less per week. I sustained those levels (and then some) in my twenties, but I can’t fathom a bottle of wine a day almost every day. It almost seems like work. (What about twelve drinks a day one day a week? I’m on that, son!)
Results reveal that any amount of alcohol consumption appears linked to lower instances of ED. Dudes who subscribe to low-risk saucing are 30% less likely to report issues with impotence. Those who drink and resist the urge to puff are 50% less likely than their bros in the smoking section to experience the sleepy soldier. Bear in mind that moderate consumption has long been associated with cardiovascular health and your little buddy is a part of that equation. Also, heart-related issues and smoking are major risk factors for ED. So lay off the cheeseburgers and put down the Camels. And feel free to add some virility foods. Tomatoes, almonds, walnuts, and oysters are all sources of various sexual health benefits.
“I’ll have a Caprese salad with a bowl of walnuts, a side of oysters, and a tumbler of rum, please.”
Change it up, big dog. Your bestie downstairs will thank you.
After a 170 year respite in Davey Jones’s locker, divers raised a 145-bottle collection of champagne from the Baltic Sea’s chilly clutch. The wines were found some 164 feet down where pressure and a lack of sunlight kept them going. Best guess gives them a born on date somewhere between 1825-1850. Two bottles are up for auction during which one expert suspects they will each command about €100,000, or $148,730 US (man, our exchange rate sucks).
Among the labels are Veuve Clicquot, Heidsieck, and Juglar. “This is truly a historic event,” Veuve president Stephane Baschiera gushed. “We have worked closely with the government of Aaland since the discovery of the shipwreck to help salvage and protect the precious wines, which we know now were tasted by Madame Clicquot herself.”
During a sampling of the Juglar last November, lucky participants experienced a wine that was “remarkably fresh. The fizz had almost gone and it was too sweet for today’s palate, yet it retained a distinctive smell of orange and raisins, like a Christmas cake. It might still be served as a dessert wine.”
And they found beer. The world’s oldest. Scientists are studying it now in an effort to isolate the recipe so brewers might recreate it for production. So polish your Millenium Falcons, beer guys. There’s something for you coming down the pike.
*update* Since the completion of this article both bottles were sold – one for €30,000 and the other for €24,000 – to one anonymous bidder
Remember the Wine Rack Bra article? I had the cart in front of the horse on that one. The creative masterminds behind that venture began their journey with the Beerbelly Stealth Beverage System, a no nonsense approach for the bucolic alcoholic.
Friday night school bus Figure 8 races at the dirt track? Check. Smuggling contraband aluminum guard rails to the recycler? On it. Long, boring court proceedings for your baby momma’s trumped up domestic battery charges? You’re covered.
Beerbelly’s crack team of engineers transformed the athletics-inspired CamelBak system to accommodate weekly laundry runs to the river. “Ahhh, yeah. Rotate dat sum bitch 180 degress and make her ride real low in mah coveralls.” Properly adjusted, the Beerbelly rests comfortably on the gas tank of your quadrunner. And it holds 80oz., which is, according to Sublime, two trips to freedom that you will undoubtedly be covering on a suspended license.
A few words of caution. Don’t wear it too high. You may get mistaken for some odd, new breed of suicide bomber. And if you already have a natural beer belly, this thing will make you look like a bell (put down the purple shirt, Grimace).
What’s next for the Beerbelly team? My money’s on the Swollen Ankles Stealth Bladder Evacuation System. When used in conjunction with the Beerbelly, you won’t miss a second of sweet monster truck action.
And for those of you unfamiliar with the Cheese Wagon Figure 8 Derby I mentioned earlier…bon appetit:
True enough: Last winter an extortionist threatened to destroy La Romanee Conti and killed two vines to prove it. He told Aubert de Villaine that he would hold the vineyard hostage so to speak until he delivered a suitcase jam packed with Euros (a suitcase in 2011?). Les flics arrived and eventually arrested the culprit, a veteran but hapless criminal, who committed suicide awaiting trial.
Sensational crime story in Burgundy last year, but in the U.S.not so much. But now we get our chance in the May issue of Vanity Fair (the Rob Lowe edition). “Assassin in the Vineyard,” retold by Montgomery Potter, is presented breathlessly as a Da Vinci code scoop complete with a pained de Villaine in dreary vineyards.
Scoop only to Yanks who missed it, yet a very good read and uses the crime story as a lure to a thorough, enjoyable introduction to Burgundy.
U.S. wine press should have made more of the crime, it clearly can be done (and likely will be).
Can’t wait for the movie, the first wine thriller!
In Nebraska, bars cannot sell beer unless they simultaneously brew a kettle of soup (Odd, but awesome).
It’s illegal to sit on a street curb in St. Louis and drink beer from a bucket.
Ohio state law prohibits getting a fish drunk.
Public intoxication is not a crime in Minnesota (I just ordered an Adrian Peterson jersey and seek a condo in the Minneapolis greater metropolitan area).
In Fairbanks, Alaska, you may not feed a moose alcohol (Sorry, Boris. Fiendish plan foiled by moose and squirrel).
This time it’s our hockey-loving neighbors to the north. “According to federal prohibition legislation first passed in 1928 to curb domestic bootlegging,” reads the Vancouver Sun, “it is illegal to carry alcohol between provinces. To purchase alcohol from out-of-province wineries, consumers must contact their local liquor board and ask to have it ordered.”
Canadian broadcaster and character actor [read: unemployed dude] Terry Mulligan aims to show his government how he feels about its antiquated legislation. “I’m going to do (it) on Friday the 13th at high noon at the B.C.-Alberta border,” he espouses, “I’m going to have a nice wooden case of wine that I’m going to walk across the border transparently.” Watch out, Michael Moore. This dude knows how to stage a demonstration.
Mulligan suggests the law is “stupid,” “unconstitutional,” “illegal,” and “odious,” and plans to inform the boards in B.C. and Alberta of his plot (in the event no one at either organization subscribes to the Vancouver Sun). His Wikipedia entry avers that he broadcasts a radio food show from his house (the clouds part and the impetus for Mulligan’s stunt becomes clear).
What say the government?
Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdictions executive director Roland Dunning argues that the legislation is “in line with other countries” and suggests the law’s retraction “would reduce revenues that would be going into the provincial treasury,” cutting into funding for social programs, hospitals, and schools.
I agree that this level of micromanagement is unnecessary. The best solution is to allow wineries to ship direct to consumers and assess current tax levels during the transaction.
Unfortunately, the U.S. sits embroiled in its own alcohol shipping struggle. B-21 isn’t at liberty to ship spirits or beer outside the state, only wine. And of that wine, we have a list of thirty-six states to which we are allowed to ship. Is yours on the list?
In Florida’s upside down seasons, May is Thanksgiving, when the last and best of harvest come in, the tangerines and strawberries; but there’s a cornucopia in the roadside stands if you look carefully. Blueberries.
Our local heroes at Keel & Curley winery just had their big harvest for the little blueberries that make their best wine. And Florida blueberries are in many stores ready for ice cream, salad, pancakes, or Sherman’s blueberry-mushroom sauce for duck breast.
(Quick RX: sauté a mix of shiitakes and large mushrooms with the duck. When you remove the duck, add finely chopped
onion, a little garlic, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme. Add a cup or more red wine to deglaze the pan. Add blueberries and reduce the sauce. Very woodsy and earthy. Great on lamb, too.)
Eating blueberries will also tell you why you find this key black fruit in Merlot, Pinot, and Cabernet Franc.
Guava too. If you’ve only tasted guava jelly with cream cheese, you’re lost in descriptions of tropical bouquets that sound like Carmen Miranda’s hat. Now’s the time for the real thing. At my local stand, fresh guavas the size of golf balls perfumed two aisles for ten feet. Imagine a truly ripe pineapple, dial in a little peach.
Tomatoes? The much maligned Florida tomatoes are at their best now from Ruskin and beyond. Ripe, firm and juicy, perfect for any pasta (I add them raw with basil garlic and olive oil) and opening day of of BLT and rosé season.
It’s often the stuff that doesn’t make the album, songs tossed aside in pursuit of the Holy Grail of rock stardom, that end up endearing us.
“Into the Groove,” “Yellow Ledbetter,” “Unchained Melody,” “I Will Survive.” The list goes on.
This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to music.
In an effort to amass as many hits (90+ points) as we can, we lose sight of diamonds in the not-so-rough, those wines subjugated by the demarcation of professional opinion, scored just beyond the basement threshold of the savvy wine consumer.
Keep in mind that an 89 is a very good score. Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar considers 85-89 points “Very Good to Excellent,” Wine Spectator calls anything from 85-89 points “Very good: a wine with special qualities,” and Parker’s Wine Advocate regards 80-89 “above average to very good…displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character with no noticeable flaws.”
How much difference is there between an 89 and a 90? Quality-wise? Not much. Price-wise? Here’s where things get interesting. The demand for a 90-pointer often far exceeds that of an 89. And that one point makes a world of difference in a wine’s success, availability, and, of course, price. So let’s for a moment pretend that wine reviewers are fallible (madness!) and accept a margin of +/- 1 point. Close your eyes and *POOF* our 89s are 90s.
Head to b-21.com. Click “Review Score” and select 89 points. Sort by price, ascending. Looky here. Twenty-seven wines under $10. Twenty-seven. And another forty-two between $10 and $15. That’s sixty…honkin’…nine 89-pointers under $15. Expand the criteria to 87 and 88 points and there exist over two hundred unique bottles under $15. This is a huge resource of extremely capable wines to which we might normally turn a blind eye. Not this guy. Not while grousing over $4 gas.
Broaden your horizons, my friends. This is where values lurk in spades.
Here are a few of my favorite 89s that are every bit as good as any 90 on the block:
They have no teeth, but can flick their tongues up to 160 times per minute (calm down, ladies). Four species range in size from squirrel-like to a ginormous 7 feet from head to tail. Anteaters looks like something from a George Lucas film and they loooooove them some sauce. Hailing from Central and South America, I bet this guy gets down with some Festivo Malbec. I sure do.
What’s he slurping in the vid? Lindeman’s Kriek? Looks like somebody needs to get his nails did.
A lot of folks poke fun at the French, but, after seeing this, it’s abundantly clear that they are way cooler than us.
French authorities recently found themselves embroiled in a crazy battle with police brass. Liberties are at risk. Human rights issues. Important stuff. Scary stuff.
What could it be? Faulty tazers? Dangerous fumes? Lead paint?
Nope. Far more serious.
At risk is the right to drink while on duty.
Last year someone snapped pics of on-duty riot cops enjoying suds while monitoring a demonstration and now French legislators seek to end the long-cherished tradition of cops tippling on lunch breaks. Union heads are pissed (pun intended) and want to nip the ban in the bud, lobbying the interior ministry to sustain the officers’ right to consume alcohol during on-duty meals. Interestingly enough, French law allows for the consumption of wine, beer, and ciders in the workplace, a permission that connotes that it’s perfectly acceptable to turn back a few over mid-day croissants and smokes.
“Does the fact that having a glass of wine while eating prevent any kind of worker from carrying out their job?” one union rep asks. “I don’t think the chief of police drinks water when he’s having a meal.”
This reeks of logical fallacy. Have you tried the red herring?
“Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it.” -Napoleon Bonaparte
Sabrage. No, she’s not the newest cross-dressing Burlesque sensation, but a method of popping champagne bottles with a sword (like opening a Heineken with a cigarette lighter, only much classier).
Rumors circulate over its origins, but sabrage likely came to pass through Napoleon’s saber-wielding cavalry as an impressive field spectacle to share with adoring citizens after a conquest.
Sabrage works because of pressure. Early champagne bottles (think Burgundy bottle thickness) exploded, forcing winemakers to experiment with heftier designs and alternative closures. Carbon dioxide builds up during fermentation, reaching about 90psi. With a mouth diameter of about .7 inches, that puts 35 pounds of force behind the cork. Adding to this are weak areas in the bottle’s construction – the union of the lip and bottle as well as the two vertical seams that run the length of the bottle. The impact of a saber at the base of the lip creates a perfect storm, sending lip and cork hurtling through the cosmos.
Feeling froggy? Here’s the 411 and some bubbly to get you started. And aim away from your people…we don’t need any Dick Cheney impersonations.
Start building an ark, mate. The Barossa and Clare Valleys are drenched. Many winemakers have left berries to rot on the vine in Australia’s most rain-affected vintage ever. “This is the worst that I have ever experienced,” laments 61 year Barossa vet Leo Pech, “And when it is the worst that I have ever experienced it’s the worst by a long shot.”
Grape yields should be quite diminished for 2011. How much of an impact this has on pricing remains to be seen.
The crazy vid below of the flooding in Toowoomba sort of makes worrying about wine unimportant, though if I saw my car floating away I’d sure as hell need a glass of something. Here are our most popular wines from our friends down under.