Dave McIntyre WineLine



Written and © copyright by Dave McIntyre
Welcome to the second issue of Dave McIntyre's WineLine, a rather spontaneous and decidedly irregular newsletter that aspires to keep you abreast of happenings that might affect the contents of your wine glass, while offering some humor and a little plain ol' good writing to swish around in your thoughts awhile before spitting it out.

In this issue:

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who sent encouraging responses to the first WineLine you've convinced me to continue with at least one more! As always, please forward this to anyone you feel might be interested and encourage them to subscribe (it's free!) at http://lists.lyris.net/wineline.

And in case you missed the first issue, you can find it on the Web! All WineLines will be posted and archived at Robin Garr's Wine Lover's Page. (www.wine-lovers-page.com for a direct link, add /mcintyre, but only after checking the site out.) Robin has graciously offered this platform on a site all Web-savvy wine geeks should know about. Think of it as a cyber tasting room, where you can share your experiences and tasting notes with friends and strangers. And make new friends, of course!

Remember, you are my editors! Please let me know what you think of WineLine, and pass along any tips about your own great discoveries you think others might want to know about. E-mail me at McIntyreWineLine@yahoo.com.


Dave McIntyre

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And this guy IS edited! I don't like to take pot shots at other wine writers. Describing several wines in words that make them sound different is extraordinarily difficult without lapsing into ridiculous and pedantic verbiage. But one columnist for a major metropolitan daily seemed to be taking his frustrations out on his readers recently when he described two wines as featuring, respectively, "a serious wallop of tannin" and "a well-measured lashing of oak." Are these wines as painful to drink as they are to read about?

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Thursday around noon I'll be standing in a wine shop awaiting a special delivery. This is always a tricky business, as wine shops can be cramped and delivery men take sport in weaving dolleys loaded with liquor or beer swiftly through the aisles, jostling the displays and clipping the ankles of unsuspecting customers.

But this is the third Thursday of November, so I'll take that risk because le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé.

Wine snobs look askance at Beaujolais nouveau. We like to dust off a forgotten bottle of five-dollar spaghetti red that's been boiling to vinegar in our garages, then rave about the marvels of age. It's reassuring, after all, to think that a nectar we identify so closely with life itself gets better with time; we'd like to think we'll age so gracefully. Something so new, so fresh out of the press, something that actually tastes of fruit instead of macho tannins is naturally considered inferior, worthy only of ignorant neophytes who describe wines with meaningless mush words like "dry" or "smooth." Pablum for soda drinkers.

Another reason wine snobs hate nouveau is that it is heavily marketed and has made one man, Georges Duboeuf, fantastically rich. Having spent ourselves into near-penury stocking up on our fave Barolos and late harvest Zinfandels, we resent anyone who is living royally off our hard-earned dollars. Someone that successful should have given us a snobbier wine, one that would receive at least 90 points from Robert Parker. We prefer wines made by mythical "artisans" who sacrifice all for quality and therefore earn mere pennies per bottle of their exorbitantly priced and never-to-be-found Cabernet.

Beaujolais nouveau, on the other hand, is mass produced and shipped out in truck convoys on the stroke of midnight the third Thursday of November to be air-freighted around the world. Or so the marketing types say. It may have been resting in our warehouses for weeks, so far as we know. If a wine snob is somehow forced to drink a glass of nouveau, he will invariably complain that it doesn't taste as "banana-y" as the 1996.

Who cares? Beyond the hype, Beaujolais nouveau is a celebration of the harvest just completed. By pulling that cork this Thursday, we can join in with French vignerons as they commemorate a global Thanksgiving of sorts, the unofficial start to the wine lover's holiday season. And with our own national harvest celebration only a week away, it's noteworthy that nouveau's grapey sweetness pairs beautifully with turkey and all the trimmings both in symbolism and flavor.

In fact, Beaujolais nouveau or not is one of the most food-friendly of wines, even though it is under-represented in our wine stores because of the bad image nouveau has given the lot. Or because the French, who aren't given to snobbishness when no Americans are around, want to keep it for themselves.

Nouveau is no longer the first wine with this year's vintage, like the shiny new penny you find in your change drawer each January. Some 1999 Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand have already reached our shelves, and some U.S. wineries, most notably Beringer, produce some nouveau from near-forgotten plots of Gamay and rush it to market unencumbered by artificial deadlines such as the "third Thursday of November." And no, it is not the best wine for the price; but that misses the point.

Wine is the bottled memories of summers past, and there is no reason to wait to celebrate the most recent. So let's strike a blow against snobbery and in favor of sentimentality Thursday as we pull that brand new, unstained cork from a bottle of Beaujolais nouveau and raise a toast to all within earshot in honor of the final vintage of the millennium.

Let the holidays begin!

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Larry King's Paris vignettes: A rainy night in Paris, we meet friends for choucroute at L'Alsaco, a smoky Winstub in the 9th ... Who knew sausage could be such an art form? ... And here's an idea I wish we could import: Diners are charged only for how much of a bottle they actually drink ... We traded portions of our Riesling for some Pinot Gris opened at lunch, then wheeled and dealed (well, actually we asked) for tastes of various producers ... No by-the-glass markups, either the jovial patron, who sort of resembled Nikita Khrushchev, eye-balled the fill level and calculated a fraction of the bottle price, even as he regaled us with stories about the wine makers.

Prohibitionism rears its ugly head in France ... Any magazine page featuring not just a wine ad but even a tasting note now carries small print warning that alcohol is a health danger ... At least some of them say "abuse" of alcohol is dangerous, and all urged "consume in moderation" rather than not at all ... There were even anti-smoking signs posted in some Metro stations ...

Now to allow myself a bit of snobbery ... On the Parking Shuttle at Dulles, a fresh-scrubbed 50-something couple just back from Napa (how could they look so squeaky clean and refreshed after a cross country flight??) ... the insufferably perky type who wear bleached tennis clothes and make instant friends with anyone they meet ... even serial killers ... carrying a wine box from Sutter Home ... I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to hear, "They make RED zinfandels, too!" ...

 ... (celebrity writing style impersonated) ...

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"If Wine Interferes with your Business, Put your Business Aside."

-Spanish Proverb

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Tastings: Lovers of wines from Ribero del Duero should look for Vega Izan Reserve 1994, soon to offered by the glass at Jaleo. This import, from our old friend Aurelio Cabestrero and Ingram Imports, offers dense fruit and deep extract in the new school. An excellent value. Wine Lovers should also know that Tony Yelamos has beefed up the wine list at Jaleo with cold-weather offerings from Priorat and other regions. Around the corner at Jaleo's sister restaurant, Café Atlantico has expanded its wine list with many of the new high-end offerings from South America, and they have plans to install temperature-controlled storage in the basement for their ever-growing selection. Atlantico's manager, Todd Thrasher, remains busy with the cocktail mixer: his latest surprising creation features passion fruit juice, ginger and jalapeno pepper, of all things. It's absolutely delicious ... Oh yeah, there's booze in it, too!

This year's Holiday Wine Expo, sponsored by Continental Liquors and the Wine Tasting Association, was upgraded from previous years, which had seen it become a cattle call of singles eager to gulp as much wine as possible as fast as possible, while producers kept to the cheap stuff. This year, however, a price increase and some arm-twisting by Ed Tauber of Continental ensured that the crowd was smaller and more serious, and the wines more impressive. Some favorites: the most expensive wine there at $59 ($52 on sale), and mighty fine, was the Sena 1996, the "super Chilean" from the Robert Mondavi-Errazuriz joint venture. Great depth and complexity from the Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with a smidgen of Carmenere. Two 1997 Shiraz from Burge Family in the Grateful Palate portfolio were offered, though in extra-small tastes that gave only a hint of what those wines can do. On the bargain side, ones not to miss were Il Palu 1998 Merlot from Friuli ($11 regular price) and the Domaine de la Coustille 1998 Merlot from the Languedoc ($10 both from Class Wines) and the Mas Carlot 1998 Cuvée Tradition, a 50-50 Grenache-Syrah blend from the Rhone ($9, Kacher). We could compare a number of styles of Sauvignon Blanc, but the Jean Reverdy 1998 ($17, Kysela) showed why France remains roi.

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