Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wine Warning Labels....Don't Say I Didn't Tell You So

A recent post by Alice Feiring’s on her blog, In Vino Veritas, set off a small firestorm of a discussion on taste…good taste, bad taste, elitist taste, Devil Dog taste. The initial post was about Daniel Boulud’s “lowdown downtown place”, DBGB Kitchen and Bar. The bar is located on the Bowery, in the East Village, not far from the site of former punk-haven CBGB. For those not familiar with the intricacies of the New York restaurant scene or its gentrification geography, there’s a definite irony to a major multi-starred chef setting up shop on a street that was until only recently, best known for its many halfway houses.

I haven’t been to DBGB yet, but the post points out that the DBGB wine list is heavy on natural wines. Rather than lay out yet another definition of what makes a wine “natural”, I’ll just point you to another blog (mydailywine) which recently interviewed Alice. Since she is one of the leading voices discussing natural wine, her words should do just fine.

Now, back to the DBGB wine list. Lots of natural wines, which as Alice says in that post I pointed you to (go ahead, you know you want to read it now,) can be quite shocking. They don’t taste like other wines. Or to be more specific, they don’t taste like wines with big ratings from the big wine rating gurus. Which to generalize just a bit, is what many of the customers at a “lowdown downtown place” fronted by a big time fancy chef are going to expect.

Alice brought up the concept of warning labels. Since these wines can be a little, well, odd when not given a bit of context, why not put a warning label on the menu? Proceed with Caution. Or a skull and cross bones?

I had to laugh at the thought….because we tagged our first bottle with a warning label about a year ago: the Lopez de Heredia Rosado 1997 (now we’re into the 1998.) Fino sherry notes, exotic spices, very little fruit. Not so popular with someone looking for a lovely little Provincial rose. Generally, we were able to give verbal warnings, but sometimes if it was really busy, a bottle would manage to escape without getting its proper due. And often, that bottle would get returned because its new owner thought it was “off.” It wasn’t, it was just odd. So we would swap it for something else and drink it ourselves. A nice treat, but not so fiscally responsible.

The logical next step….a warning label:

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