Tuesday, June 12, 2012

a few things I've been drinking


2009 Giacosa Fratelli Nebbiolo d'Alba | DOC Piedmont


2009 A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir | Oregon


2010 First Press Chardonnay | Napa Valley


2009 Caves De Gigondas Le Dit De La Clapassière Séguret | AC Côtes Du Rhône Villages

All I ever want to do is drink interesting things. I'm just a simple guy - no matter how long I've been a North American, I'm still an immigrant. And I'm ok with the fact that I'll have very limited opportunities to taste rare, great wines. My parents taught me the importance of financial planning from a very young age - the sort of spend a dollar like it's ten kind of idea. We're always saving you see . . . sometimes for no particular reason except to have money ready when things go to shit. New immigrants (from China at least) don't go through that thought process, but for those of us who came over in the late 80's, it's a deeply ingrained habit that you save, save, save. It must be nice to be new immigrants, living off your parents money, doing fuck all. We know a lot of people who've sent their kids over to North America to do 'school' - heavy sarcasm, deep eye-roll - somehow equating success as getting married and having kids ASAP. What the fuck kind of world are we creating when spoiled, juvenile brats are having kids themselves before the age of 25? They go through the motions at school, barely get their degrees (if at all), and have no intention of getting proper jobs. They don't even need to raise their own kids, because of course, mom and dad will take care of living expenses and raise the kids for you, while you sleep until noon and hang out with your other rich, useless friends.

Useless people that's all it is. I sound increasingly bitter. This is because whenever I return to Shanghai, it's as if I'm the failure for not being married, not having a kid, not being able to buy my own house. Are you fucking kidding me? I don't want to be anything like you motherfuckers. If anything, I'll go out of my way to avoid turning into you, because there's no pride in gaining anything you haven't earned yourself.

All I want is to drink interesting things.

I've cut my wine budget significantly. I figure I'd rather drink a case of $13-20 bottles a month, than drink 2 or 3 bottles that fit the definition of what people think good wines are. Whatever the fuck that means. I'm cool with it. Because we all know Barolo is a fabulous wine - it'll be a great experience, but the knowledge you gain from it is incremental. It's the more obscure, humble wines that give a much more meaningful lesson. These are some of the wines I've been drinking recently.

So a downgrade from Barolo to a nebbiolo d'Alba, though from a very good, traditionally-minded producer. The Giacosa Fratelli, flawed as all hell with volatile acidity (comes off as sharp and vinegar-y, as well as used frying oil), but with considerable old country charm. Good nebbiolo character, ornery but give it some time - it proves that there's as much beauty in imperfection as there is in perfection. The A to Z pinot noir, admittedly a mistake . . . I had originally planned on picking up their chardonnay. I've never made that mistake before, but I could have sworn it looked lighter in colour when I bought it. A simple, clean, pure pinot noir. See what I was referring to, when I spoke about charm? These 'correct' wines simply reflect the bias of the winemakers, who are so terrified of anything un-sterile that they end up robbing much of the character of the wine. You can make clean, sterile wine anywhere. But character . . . ay, that's where so many producers take a stumble.

Napa Valley chardonnay fits a very specific profile. Do we really expect anything other than big, oaky, alcoholic wines from there? One does get the sense that they're dialing it back, at least compared to 10 years ago. Interestingly enough, you only get that really obvious, really fake kind of wine in the upper price ranges, the sort of wines Parker gives 95+ to. There's quite a bit of balance to be found in wines towards the lower end, which is why I had to taste the Wine Press Chardonnay. Moderate levels alcohol at about 13% abv and fresh with great balance. Creamy oak, but it's all offset by lots of lemon citrus aromas, great amounts of acid and extract. Some herbal aromas too, to keep it all interesting. A fabulous find, and because it says Napa on the label, people will think you balled out for it.

I haven't drunk Rhône wines in a long time. I'm reminded that these are some of the wines that first impacted me deeply, when I first started drinking. It just seems that (on the low end at least), these wines have become more homogenized in taste. They've been made higher in alchol, with more overripe, macerated fruit, and with softer textures. Almost the exact opposite of the Rhônes I first started drinking - those wines were massively structured and masculine, yet showing incredibly fresh, earthy aromas. Wild wines. This bottle, the Caves De Gigondas Le Dit De La Clapassière, from the village of Séguret, reminds me more of that traditional style. It has the ripe fruits and structure, yes, but also of that freshness good red wines need. There's also this great stemmy quality I associate with country wines.

I have a thing about non-conformists. We need to celebrate these wines, like we celebrate people who refuse to take the easy way. Just as noble and grand wines come from vines who struggle to survive, so do great people. I'll probably piss off a lot of people for writing this. But at least I know how to wipe my own ass.

All I want to do is drink interesting things.


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