[Working journal while I continue to obsessively assemble a project of dubious interest & limited appeal. PreviouslyPreviously. Previously.]


[Link to Levi’s post]
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Literal wine list (ongoing)

13 November 2017

[see here for an introduction, and here for methods, and here and here for more notes]

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[Working journal while I continue to obsessively assemble a project of dubious interest & limited appeal.]


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[This is a post explaining a few of the methods & sources I used to write a literally-translated wine list.]

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Literal wine list

11 November 2017

Image result for atlas of true names

[Note: I wrote the below a week ago. It turns out that, even constraining myself to an existing wine list, this will take a long, long time; so I’ve decided to publish now & continue progressively adding entries. A follow-up post will go into a little more detail about methods & sources. Last updated 1:23 pm, 12 Nov.]

[Update to the update: I’ve moved the list itself to a new post so I don’t have to wade through the introduction every time and worry about rewriting it.] 

This is a long version of something that comes from two specific places: a premier cru vineyard in Chablis called Montée de Tonnerre, and a project from two German cartographers called Atlas of True Names. (That’s a detail from their map of the U.S. Northeast above.)

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Notes from Georgia, i

7 September 2017

Brief impressions from the a weeklong wine trip I took to the Republic of Georgia this summer, hosted by Wines of Georgia.


Pictured: Keto Ninidze’s first wine. Keto’s a university-trained philologist, social activist & wine writer, one of Georgia’s very few female winemakers, and she moved out west from the capital just last year to Martvili, in Samegrelo. There are a lot of hazelnuts here—it’s a cash crop—and the soils are predominately limestone. Her husband Zaza works with the national parks service (I am paraphrasing—I don’t know the official name, but it’s involved with natural wonders & attractions in the area like the Martvili canyon) and also makes wines under his own label.

Keto’s much smaller winery, which just received its qvevri, is in the home, at cellar level, with a dress on a hanger in the center column. It’s named (“Oda”), the word for the traditional wood houses of the region. They’re two stories, with the front door on the second floor, approached by an outdoor staircase & an elaborate balconey. Next to the house are her baby vines, one and two years old.

Ojaleshi is a variety (actually there’s two, unrelated to one another) whose name roughly translates to ‘sun-lover’—it used to be trained up persimmon trees. The Soviets encouraged its planting for sweet red wine. Here, instead, she’s made a direct-press white in stainless steel. (She didn’t have qvevri yet, and it’s purchased fruit as her vines are growing.)

The Georgian characters on the top of the label read, “TERROIR VS TERROR”. The woman on the right is imprisoned in the sort of typical Soviet-era drinking glass old men in the countryside fill to the brim & toss back.

There’s a tension in natural wine, maybe a useful dialectical tension worth exploring, between its traditionalism (“I’ll make wine the way my grandfather did”) & its progressivism (“I won’t use chemicals the way all my neighbors do; I’ll experiment with aging vessels & technique; I’ll make wine even though in my grandfather’s day people like me didn’t”). I think it’s one that Keto inhabits consciously, and it’s one that we should think about as wine professionals who sometimes fetishize the traditional or the premodern.

Tomato or dance

23 June 2017

I woke up this morning out of a service dream in which I was trying to reassure a guest during the dance about price:

— The bottles of wine on our list start at $36 and go to the four figures, and anywhere along the way we can find you something delicious & honestly made, I said.
— Well then what, the guest said (in the mood to press me a little), is the difference between that $36 bottle & those four-figure ones?

What I said (in the dream) is something I’ve been meaning to work out in writing, at a little more length. But instead of that I’ll just tell you, if I can remember, what I said in the dream.

— At the everyday end of the market, wine is basically a grocery; at the high end, it’s an art collector’s game. In the everyday, you’re buying a perfectly ripe tomato. At the high end, you’re buying a Picasso.

(I thought for a second, or pretended to look thoughtful.)

— Of course, you’re also drinking the thing for dinner! So it’s not really a Picasso you’re buying, unless everyone is burning their Picassos after they look at them. (And also, unless Picasso was actually simultaneously painting a couple thousand replicas at once…you see how analogies break down if you let them.) If it’s art, it’s an art we consume, something momentary & irreplicable, but something that can be restaged later under different terms. A jazz concert, say, or dance.

And so I woke up this morning thinking, ‘tomato, or dance?’

And I think that’s a nice way to think about the wines that I love and that give me pleasure, to unite a simultaneous appreciation for honest, unpretentious juice you guzzle out of a bottle* & oh, that ’96 Priuré-Roch Clos de Corvées that I tasted Wednesday night, mythic, crystalline, unsulfured & unsurpassed red Burgundy that could have covered a month’s rent in my college apartment in Boston ten years ago.

*I nominate Lauer “Barrel X” riesling for this ‘adult juicebox’ category, if you want an example. I also encourage everyone to look closely at the now-modish Instagram trend of drinking straight out of bottles and see if they’re actually drinking, because in many cases I feel like the foil’s still on that thing.

Now— if you’ll allow me to continue stretching analogies around the room— everyday wine is a perfectly ripe tomato only at the best of times. Sometimes it’s one of those tomatoes that was picked green in Florida so that it didn’t bruise in the truck and then gassed to color. Sometimes it’s an heirloom tomato that has little splits in it, one of the big ugly ones, and your kid starts crying because it doesn’t look like the tomatoes in the grocery store, the color’s wrong, why isn’t it perfectly round… Sometimes the tomato is spoiled. Sometimes it’s more like a can of Bloody Mary mix.

And while it’s nice to think of blue chip wine as art, as dance, while wine pricing for blue chip bottles works like the art collection market in a lot of ways— they’re even sold at the same auctions!— expensive wine can also work more like a luxury branded good. A Luis Vuitton handbag, say. (And the wine and the handbag will be owned, you guessed it, by the same company.)

I’m losing the thread. I can’t remember how the dream ended; I think I woke up before I’d convinced the table to order any wine.