Thursday, February 12, 2009

Days That Drive a Wino to Drink

What I'm about to describe isn't exactly a typical day. Most days, at least in my little retail universe, are a mix of placing orders, writing checks, chasing down distributors who always seem to lose my checks, printing out shipping labels, picking out mixed cases, helping customers, fighting with the cash registers, dusting, putting stickers on bags, sorting out deliveries, stocking shelves, and maybe tasting through a few wines with a sales rep or two, occasionally with a winemaker in tow.

Wednesday was a little bit different.

I started out with my 10am blind tasting group. On deck, 5 different wines made from the ever popular Tannat grape. On the off-chance you haven't heard, Tannat is the star grape of such star regions as Madiran, Irouleguy, and Uruguay. It's inky dark, deeply tannic, and perfect with steak, stews, or cassoulet. Not exactly breakfast wine, but what can you do when duty calls. There are 2 Tannats at Frankly Wines and we'll probably be getting a third soon....because every boutique wine store should have 1 Tannat for ever 100 square feet of floor space. It's in the manual.

Blind tasting finished, I brushed my purple teeth and headed off to a winemaker lunch at Alto. I love winemaker lunches...especially when I don't have to plan them. This one was with Elizabetta Foradori, possibly the chicest Italian grower/winemaker I've yet to meet. She does magic with the Teroldego grape which, on the (probable) chance you've never heard of it, is a very old grape that makes its home in the northern alpine reaches of Italy. Some day soon I'll go on about my growing facination with alpine wines, but for now, I'll just lay out what we tasted: 2 vintages of Myrto (a white made from the very non-international grape Incrocio Manzoni), the the current vintage of Elizabetta's Teroldego Rotliano (a fresher, younger-drinking style of Teroldego) and 6 vintages of her more serious, age worthy Granato (also made from Teroldego) going back to 1986. That's 9 wines. For lunch. Survival tactics include lots of bread, a gallon of water...and a conveniently-located red plastic spit cup by my place setting. Red plastic may not seem terrible chic, but neither is a table full of drunken wine buyers.

Lunch over, teeth brushed again, and off to a Burgundy tasting at the Design building. Less zoo-like than I had expected, but still plenty of of French spoken, plenty of men in suits, and plenty of elbows making their way to the Grand Cru wines. I settle in next to a spit bucket and concentrate on distinguishing the Volnays from the Pommards, while dodging elbows and spit streams, balancing my glass, scribbling highly evocative tasting notes like "powerful", "more perfume than the last one", "a little more earthy", "berries", and muttering in fake French. I generally ignore the price list, as one 6-packs of some of these wines would suck up most of my weekly open-to-buy. There are probably 20 tables at the tasting. I make it to about 5 before the tasting ends and I head outside.

Going for full-on contrast to my Foradori lunch at Alto, I have a hot dog and bad coffee for my 5.30PM snack. Then off to the International Wine Center for my weekly Diploma wine class. This week,we're studying the Loire, a region best loved by fashionable Parisians and New York-based wine geeks. We're learn that come test time, even if you smell stone fruits in your Pouilly-Fume, you should say you smell melon, because it will make the graders happy. There's a discussion about whether a wine is medium+ alcohol or high alcohol. And another about the odd purple color of a Cabernet Franc, which looks suspiciously like a Malbec. We taste 7 different wines, and I realize I've already drunk 4 of them at some point in the recent past, outside of class. Of the other 3, I've had similar styles from different producers. Since I'm not a fashionable Parisian, that must make me a New York-based wine geek.

As if a day filled with 5 Tannats, a Teraldego vertical, and a bunch of Burgundies hadn't already proved that point.

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