The Wine Avenger

Paperback | June 23, 1998

byWillie Gluckstern

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IT STANDS TO REASON THAT IF OUR FOODS ARE NOW LIGHTER AND MORE DYNAMIC, OUR WINES SHOULD BE ALSO.
A longtime champion of the victimized wine consumer, Willie Gluckstern debunks the myths and misinformation surrounding the (allegedly) complex subject of wine. His straightforward advice includes:
  • The wines that go BEST with food -- and why.
  • A cure for label worship: "There are just as many lousy $60 bottles as $3.99 bottles."
  • How to avoid getting ripped off in stores and restaurants.
  • How to choose a great wineshop: "Do they know where Italy is?"
  • Dreary housekeeping tips, such as storage, decanting, saving opened wine, and "that sulfite thing."
    Plus, the straight poop on oak, "the MSG of wine," a few well-chosen words for greedy restaurants and retailers ("Those bastards!"), and an unprecedented expose of mass-market Champagne, including how to find the good stuff by cracking the secret label code.
    Irreverent, informative, and controversial, The Wine Avenger is indispensable for beginners as well as enthusiasts.

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From Our Editors

Irreverent, informative, and controversial, this book offers indispensable information for beginners as well as for wine enthusiasts. 2-color throughout. 50 line drawings

From the Publisher

IT STANDS TO REASON THAT IF OUR FOODS ARE NOW LIGHTER AND MORE DYNAMIC, OUR WINES SHOULD BE ALSO. A longtime champion of the victimized wine consumer, Willie Gluckstern debunks the myths and misinformation surrounding the (allegedly) complex subject of wine. His straightforward advice includes: The wines that go BEST with food -- an...

Willie Gluckstern, an outspoken critic of wine snobbery, label worship, and over-oaked Chardonnay, is the founder of Wines for Food, a consumer wine school in New York City. He has written the wine lists for hundreds of Manhattan restaurants, and is the purchasing director for the popular wineshop Nancy's Wines in New York City. He liv...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 7.25 × 5.25 × 0.5 inPublished:June 23, 1998Publisher:Touchstone

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0684822571

ISBN - 13:9780684822570

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OAK: The MSG of Wine Recipe for Chardonnay One 10,000-gallon fermentation tank 10,000 gallons of Chardonnay grape juice Two 25-pound burlap sacks of oak chips (extra-light, light, medium toast, extra-medium toast, heavy toast, or extra-heavy toast) 1. Toss oak sacks into tank with Chardonnay juice. 2. Let steep for about a month, lifting and dunking occasionally (like giant tea bags). 3. Fish out sacks. 4. Bottle and label. Serves 106,000 Many kinds of containers are used to ferment grape juice into wine. The following are the three most popular: Stainless steel, a neutral environment. It imparts nothing to the fermenting wine-zero aroma, flavor, or mouthfeel. Used oak (barrels that have held wine in a previous year). It imparts weight and a rich, viscous mouthfeel without adding sweetness or flavoring. New oak. It adds a lot: enriched body, tannin, and certain unmistakable aromas and tastes. These include vanilla, caramel, buttered toast, and all too often, burnt popcorn kernels. Above all, new oak adds its own nonvinous, rough-hewn sweetness. WHAT OAK DOES The staves of oak barrels allow mild, beneficial oxidation of wines as they age. Oak enriches a wine's body and adds viscosity. Oak's natural tannins act as a preservative for wine (important for aging big reds and a few whites). It creates a vanilla-like sweetness. Oak is generally used in the form of barrels. Wines fermented in oak barrels are far more powerfully influenced by its character than wines merely aged in them. Oak should be applied only to a wine that already boasts substantial weight and flavor of its own, and that means rich reds, primarily. While the expert use of oak barrels in the maturation of great red wines is essential, misuse merely contributes strong barrel flavors that obliterate any varietal aromas in a wine. Very few white wine varieties reap any benefit from contact with new oak. New oak acts on white wine like MSG, sweetening up but dumbing down whatever vibrant varietal signature exists. For Chardonnay, the grape on which new oak cooperage is most often lavished, varietal character is a nonissue. As a variety, Chardonnay has so little flavor of its own that it is often entirely dependent on a winemaker's "recipe." Most Chardonnays are created in the winery with oak, not in the vineyard with pruning shears. For Riesling, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc, the food world's three most important white wine grape varieties, new oak is the Antichrist. The joy of these varieties as food mates is their freshness, delicacy, and succulence, all qualities that wilt in the presence of new wood. THE OAKING OF AMERICA For many years, the American public, who are by no definition daily wine drinkers, have been seduced by wines oaked in the most heavy-handed method imaginable. Virtually all under-$10 white wines produced in the United States are sugared with oak chips, powders, and essences. Oak-obsessed California winemakers simply will not let the poor palate-dead American consumer come up for air. (To be fair, neither will the Australians, South Africans, or Chileans.) It's nearly impossible to find a nonoaked domestic white wine of any kind, save a handful of East Coast whites and a very few West Coast examples (Randall Grahm's Malvasian bonbons). This begs the question: Why is virtually all white wine made in America bludgeoned with oak? American wine drinkers, as well as those of countless other nations, are weaned on cold sweet drinks -- fruit juice, soda pop, etc. Since all alcohol is puritanically forbidden here until at least voting age, we have never been a wine-drinking nation. Our first tentative contact with the grape is logically made most painless with a beverage of comparable sweetness to fruit juice and soda pop. Once we are initiated into a world of oaked wines, our reprogramming requires a complete reinterpretation of individual taste. There are actually grape varieties that provide us with the sort of sweetness we love without relying on enhancement by nonliving substances. Unfortunately (or fortunately), these wondrous varieties don't flourish well in most parts of the world. To satisfy the great American sweet tooth, the wine industry has marked each decade with a new "pop wine": Cold Duck in the sixties, Lambrusco in the seventies, white Zinfandel in the eighties, and finally in the nineties, the great seducer -- Chardonnay. Since Americans historically have little or no contact with clean, well-made, nonoaked wines, they neither understand nor enjoy them. They do enjoy the concept of wine -- as long as it doesn't taste like wine. Oaked wines are far easier for non-wine-drinkers to deal with. They are mild, low-acid, sweet beverages that are popular for many of the some reasons as fastfood hamburgers: The taste is reliable, always the same -- not great but no surprises. The wine establishment, because of a combination of taking the path of least resistance and its own nonenlightened wine experience, has become an unwitting accomplice to this oak-driven madness. When consumers, retailers, and restaurateurs cease associating the aroma of oak with quality, perhaps winemakers will stop abusing it. In my twenty-five years' experience teaching consumer and wait staff wine classes, I've found that when someone who's genuinely interested in wine tastes a range of examples uninfluenced by new-oak treatment, set out side by side with oaked wines, they become instant converts to "the real thing." Copyright © 1998 by Willie Gluckstern

Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction

TASTE: It's Not What You Think

WINE AND FOOD: The Basics

WHERE DO GREAT WINES COME FROM?

QUALITY:
What to Look For

OAK: The MSG of Wine

THE GRAPES

WHITES

Chardonnay

Sauvignon Blanc

Chenin Blanc

Riesling

Und...Other Germanic Grapes

REDS

Merlot

Cabernet Sauvignon

Sangiovese

Nebbiolo

Syrah

Zinfandel

Pinot Noir

Barbera

Gamay

Cabernet Franc

HOUSEKEEPING

Storage: Do's and Don'ts

The Bad Bottle

Decanting: When and How

Is Older Wine Better?

Serving Temperature

The Sulfite Thing

Saving Opened Wine

Cooking with Wine

RETAIL: Buyer Beware

WINE IN RESTAURANTS: Dining's Downside

AN OPEN LETTER To RESTAURANT CRITICS

BRING YOUR OWN

WINE RATINGS:
What's the Real Score?

CHAMPAGNE: WIth Respect

WINES FOR FOOD

The Strategy

A Few Helpful Do's and Don'ts

Appetizers

Salads and Vegetables

Seafood

Pizza

Pasta

Roasted Meats

Game

Picnics

ETHNIC CUISINES

ITALY

Northern

Central

Sicily and the South

Germany, Austria, and the Scandinavian Countries

FRANCE

Northern and Central

Provence and the Southwest

Alsace

Spicy Foods of the Wesern Hemisphere

Tex-Mex/Southwestern

Mexican

Caribbean

Cajun/Creole

Indian and Asian

Thai and Vietnamese

Indian

Chinese

Japanese

Cheese

Desserts

SO...

Index

From Our Editors

Irreverent, informative, and controversial, this book offers indispensable information for beginners as well as for wine enthusiasts. 2-color throughout. 50 line drawings