That Was The Week That Was
First aired in Britain on the BBC channel in 1962 this was the program that brought fame and fortune to David Frost. It pitted sharply intellectual investigative reporters against the establishment and no stone was left unturned. When it was first broadcast Britain was in the midst of the Profumo spy scandal and John Profumo MP, closets filled with whips and stockings, and the infamous prostitute on a chair became second nature watching for all those tea slurping couples sitting in front of their coal burning fireplaces. Frost did something that had never been done before – he took the gloves off in public. When you look back on it it was absolutely radical and it changed TV reporting forever. I mention this because over the last few weeks I have been brooding over various wine related topics that are, in their own way, radical ideas. First up I give you a quote: “There is no health magic in wine,” said Sheila B. Blume, M.D., addiction psychiatrist and former New York State Commissioner on Alcoholism. “I would never recommend that anyone begin drinking because alcohol has many destructive health effects. Physicians simply cannot predict with any certainty who will become a problem drinker.” [Oct. 1997 - Center for Science in the Public Interest CSPI]. I suspect that Ms Blume is a closet tea drinker. I wonder whether, in the light of overwhelming medical research to the positive effects of drinking a glass of wine, she would still recommend never having a glass or two – I wonder if Charles Manson drank tea; would that make him a ‘problem drinker’. Box wines are another radical topic. Tyler Colman, the sharp witted mind behind Dr. Vino recently went on Good Morning America and championed the whole concept about the transformation of Box Wine brands. There was a time, not too long ago, when the mere suggestion of buying wine in a box, and drinking it, would lead to instant Country Club Dismissal. By the looks of the latest wine box the industry has simply moved toward a more eco-friendly method of bottling and shipping. Used to be that your Chateau Petrus would arrive in a wooden box with 12 little bottles in it. Now you can still get the wooden box but the 12 little bottles have been shoved into 1 little vacuum sealed plastic bag – same principal, radical new concept! Not so radical, but more politically charged is the recent disclosure that the Beer Wholesalers of America Association recently spent over $2.6 million dollars trying to ensure that H.R 5034 remains in law. This is the law that ensures that only alcohol distributors have the right to sell their wicked brews. It was first passed in 1933 and has for the last 77 years ensured that the sale of alcohol remains a monopolistic business owned, operated and protected by a tiny group of mega wealthy people. The NBWA (National Beer Wholesalers of America) are the 4th largest corporate political donors in the US (WSJ). Interestingly the leading recipient of their money is Rep. John Conyers, MI who coincidentally chairs the judiciary Committee where the Beer Wholesalers Protection Act (H.R. 5034) came up for its annual hearing. But there’s more. The second largest contributor in support of this bill is…the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of America – same group of misfits, different initials. They allegedly spent $1.1 million during this election cycle to ensure that HR 5034 remains in effect. The WSWA doesn’t want you, the consumer, to be entitled to choose which wine you want to buy, and from whom, nor do they want you to be able to buy wine and a loaf of bread together and just to nail the coffin shut, they don’t want you to purchase an eco-friendly, reusable wine tote bag…in a wine store!
Where does all this lead? Thoughts for 2011 – wine in a box will become an accepted variation on the screw cap argument. They are both great ideas and will convince consumers of their respective merits in the near future. Wine as a health product will continue to dominate tabloids and will be seen as an alternative to viagra. And the NBWA, in conjunction with the WSWA will no doubt support the WWE in ensuring that Linda McMahon gets the Connecticut vote for US Senate – Not.
In our own little way we have had a ‘That was the Week That Was’. Ever since I started Wine at Five I have been determined to introduce consumers to wines that don’t show up on a discount store shelf. I have been determined to root out commercial plonk and wine writer’s trumped up scorecards. I have sought to introduce wine aficionados and just wine drinkers to the merits of good value wine without the Leer Jet aspirations of their wine-makers. And during these last few weeks we have enjoyed some of the best wines I have tasted in a very long time. I am a huge fan of wines from the Rhone and I recently tasted the 2005 Domaine Notre Dame des Pallieres Gigondas and was blown away by the flavors. This is great stuff made in a truly artisanal fashion. Its complex and subtle, with just the right amount of smokiness, vanilla bean, fruit compote and jam – its the non-drug users version of zantac.
Alongside it I drank one of my old favorites, Domaine Montvac. Cecile’s new 2009 Cotes du Rhone is indicative of how great this vintage is going to be. At $17.00 the wine is a steal and as masculine and macho as the Rhone wine industry is, Cecile Dusserre, the astonishingly good looking wine maker, proves that nothing is set in stone. To finish the Rhone flight I drank more than a few tasting glasses of Paul Autard’s 2009 Cote du Rhone. Jean-Paul Autard has taken over the realm of this historical vineyard and has combined the essence of his family tradition with his own modernistic ideas onthe making of Chateauneuf. I wanted to see whether the 2009 harvest really is that good, and having been late to buy into the 2007 vintage, I don’t want to make the same mistake with this one. Not sure how long the wines will remain in stock,but I am going to keep buying them for as along as I can. We also bought in the range of Argentinian wines from Luigi Bosca, one of the most influential, radical and brilliant wine making families from down south. We tasted, loved and bought new whites from Italy – perfect whites for fall weather. Spadafora Don Pietro Bianco, a blend of inzolia, grillo and catarratto from Sicily; Vadiaperte Fiano di Avellino, from vineyards outside of Naples, a strongly flavored, aromatic white that lends itself to hearty soups and chunks of country bread and cheese. And last but not least a rare beauty from Burgundy’s Chablis region – the Romain Bouchard Le Grand Bois. Wine lovers may remember the visionary wine-maker, Andre Tremblay, the man who single-handed brought fame to Chablis. His wines were legendary and sought after by European cellar hoarders at every auction. Now his grandson Romain Bouchard has taken over the legend and is working his own magic. This single vineyard Chablis, ‘Le Grand Bois’ is situated on steep, chalky slopes facing south/southwest, perfect for capturing sun from early morning through dusk. The vineyards are organic, the vines are harvested individually, by hand, and the wine is vinified and matured on their lees for over 12 months. The resulting Chablis is both complex and subtle and radically different from the over extracted commercial plonk that presides over most retailers shelves.
So come into the store this week and stock up on a few radical ideas. Who knows, this could become your This Was The Week That Was.
We have a full plate coming up over the next few weeks so get your calendars out and start scribbling:
On Thursday, October 28 we will be hosting a charity event on behalf of Oceana – an organization dedicated to the protection of the World’s Oceans. Hors d’oeuvres will be supplied by Espana Restaurant and our guest speaker will be Felipe Gonzales-Gordon Terry, the ambassador of the Gonzalez-Byass winery in Spain. Gonzalez-Byass is probably more well known under it’s sherry brand name, Tio Pepe. Felipe lives here in Rye and we will be drinking copious quantities of his wines. To RSVP and to make a donation please call Oceana directly at 212-371 5013.
On Thursday, November 4 we will be organizing the wine tasting for members of the Apawamis Club. Attendance is limited to members of the club, and their friends, and we will be putting up eight tables of wines featuring the very best of wines for the holiday season.
On Friday, November 5 we will be organizing a similar event, Passport to the World of Wines for members of the Westchester Country Club. Another opportunity to taste hundreds of wines and fill your shopping baskets with your choice for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
On Friday, November 12 we will be hosting the 3rd Annual Wine Tasting for members of the Coveleigh Club and the following night, Saturday, November 13 we will finish with an amazing tasting of high profile wines for members of the Shenarock Shore Club.
If you are a member of any of the above clubs please call your club and make your reservations. These tastings are an excellent opportunity to try hundreds of different wines and to fill your cellars with wines that you like. We have arranged for very special pricing at each of the events – we also understand the necessity to save you money!