What We Write About When We Write About Wine

BOSTON, MA — First thing they teach you in journalism school is don’t write what you know. Go out into the great big world and find something new and interesting that you don’t know, that ideally no one knows. Discover it, figure it out, understand something about it, then explain it to other people in writing.
Do that once with anything like style, and congratulations, you’re a writer. Do that once on the topic of wine, and you’re a wine writer.

One of the main challenges of wine writing – as if there even are challenges and anyone anywhere cares about them – is resisting the urge to write about wine as a thing. It’s easy to do because wine is a thing, a wonderful thing, but the most interesting part of wine is not the concrete dimension, but the time churning experience of consuming a wine, having it be deliriously delicious for a moment and then gone forever.

I like the hands-on experience of schiste and loam as much as the next person – soils and weathers and growing conditions explain a lot – but as a wine reader, I want to know what it means more than what it is.

Limestone may well be soil composed of prehistoric sea shells and skeletons, so it’s high in calcium, which makes sense and is interesting on its own, but what’s that taste like in the glass? More importantly, do I like that flavor, and should I start asking for wines from high-calcium soil, or is asking that question going to be as epic a conversation killer as it seems destined to be?

Wine lovers rely on a lot of different sources to inform their wine selections: maybe your own taste or mood, often the people around you at any given table, sometimes a distant, accomplished expert. I like to watch people in tasting class start to connect with their own taste and mood, to see them realize they’re not wrong about Cabernet Sauvignon, they’re just Pinot Noir people, or vice versa. What I write about wine is what we teach about wine: what wine means, what it makes you think and feel, the story behind the story.


Chateau Grand Ferrand "La Palombiere" 2014

2014 Château Grand Ferrand “La Palombière” Malbec
(Bordeaux, western France, 85% Malbec + 15% Merlot, $21.99)

Translate the name of this wine into core English and it comes out 2014 Great Iron Castle “Pigeon Coop” Malbec, which would be an entirely unremarkable name if it was from some Australian or South African iconoclast winemaker. Instead, it merely specifies a particular vineyard – the one with the pigeon coop – where the grapes were grown.

Wines with this much Malbec in the blend are abundantly common in Argentina but not in France. In France, Malbec is a minor blending grape that makes a 2% – 5% appearance in Bordeaux blends, coming in a distant 5th place behind Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Thank you, Argentina, for changing our world view about what Malbec can be and how it can be made. The grape arrived in South America from France in the 1840s, but now the influence is flowing the other way. This Grand Ferrand Malbec is leaner and stonier than examples from Argentina, which makes it an especially ideal match with big red meats and aggressive cheese.

Southern Star Malbec: New world fruit, old world style

Turn on the grill for this stylish barbecue-ready Malbec

By Jonathon Alsop | Boston Wine School Founder

18 April 2018

2016 Alma Andina Malbec Reserve (Mendoza, Argentina)

Inventive holidays like International Malbec Day give us the chance to look deep into the many Malbec based wines we teach with in wine class. Alma Andina – Soul of the Andes – hits the Boston Wine School trifecta: we use it in “Come To Cheeses” with Manchego, “Grape Expectations” and “Wine 101,” classes that represent the core of our curriculum.

As you can imagine, the world is full of tasty Malbec under $20, but the style of this Alma Andina is special. There’s plenty of dark brooding fruit flavors in the glass, tastes that will remind you of dates and figs and dried cherries.

But if you step out a little into the lake, the bottom drops off suddenly, and deep earthy subterranean flavors take over. I know I completely mixed my metaphors there, but this wine is worth it. If I’d tasted it blind, I’d have guessed French Malbec, a category that starts at $25 a bottle.

Argentina is a land in love with its carnivorous ways. It’s not unusual to have chicken, pork, beef, lamb and goat all in the course of the same meal, and you can tell this week’s wine was brought up in that same tradition. Don’t feel left out, vegans and vegetarians: the match here is with the grill and the char, something you can achieve completely, even meat free. I can definitely see myself working through a case of this Malbec once we start grilling again.

http://www.vinovations.us/alma-andina-malbec-reserve-2016/