Monday, January 20, 2020

Intimidation and shame are holding wine back

Helen Rosner, food correspondent for the New Yorker, stirred up the wine Twitterverse last week by complaining about a page on a wine list.

Her actual complaint, which wasn't clear from her first tweet, wasn't that she couldn't understand the list. Instead, she is irritated when she calls a wine something (i.e., "the Benoît Ente") and the server responds by calling it something else ("Oh, you mean the Aligoté.")

Let's put the reach of this tweet, and all wine Twitter, in perspective. This was, for wine Twitter, an enormous tweet. She got 2900 likes (as of Saturday). Also in my Twitter feed as I write this, Congressman Ted Lieu got 191,000 likes for telling Devin Nunes to shove it. (Not enough likes.) The Hill got 7,100 likes for announcing that Donald Trump was repealing Michelle Obama's school lunch rules on her birthday. (People like that?) And Professor Snape (@_Snape_) got 2600 likes for posting, "Recent studies show I hate everything." Wine Twitter is still a fishbowl.

That said, Rosner took a blender to the fishbowl with her tweet, and her subsequent aggressive stance in arguing about it. It is the latter that strikes me.

Rosner is no shrinking violet. She's fully capable of having a conversation with a sommelier, obviously, because she's willing to argue with dozens of people simultaneously. What bothers her is that she doesn't want to experience in person, however briefly, the feeling of a server correcting her.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Result of a 10-year experiment: does filtering out brett work?

This blog post has been 10 years in the making.

A decade ago, I interviewed Cameron Hughes. He's a San Francisco-based wine negociant and I've interviewed him a bunch of times, but on that occasion, he said something -- and gave me a bottle -- that I wanted to test.

Hughes had bought a batch of 2008 Napa Cabernet that he said was full of brett, so much that the producer couldn't risk releasing it under its own name. He boasted that he sterile-filtered out all the brett and now he had a prestigious wine to sell.

What if you didn't get it all, I asked. Even a little brett in the bottle could increase over time.

Hughes told me if I checked the bottle in 10 years, I would find no brett. And he gave me a bottle.

Which I put away for a decade.

Last week I got it out of my cellar. And on Saturday night I opened it. What would I find?


This is the part where I talk about how the world was different in 2010, when I put this bottle away.

The first iPad was sold in 2010. A DVD-by-mail company named Netflix introduced streaming video.