Have you ever wondered if Bordeaux wines should be kept forever in order to be better appreciated? What if a sommelier really had a secret about the second best bottle on the list? What about the basic principle that white wines should be served cold and red wines at room temperature?
In this episode, editor-in-chief Lauren Buzzeo speaks with editors Roger Foss, Matt Kettmann and Virginia Boone to provide an overview of these issues and other common misconceptions.
That’s right. Today, everything is fair if we turn these general questions upside down.
We also have solid offers for the regions and bottles you’re looking for and now we can try to make your wine even better, from affordable Bordeaux bottles from the Crewe Bourgeois Médoc to serious Beaujolais and friendly Napa Cabs purses.
So learn and travel with us on this journey to expel even more wine myths.
Transcripts are created using a combination of voice recognition software and human transcriptors and may contain errors. Check the correct tone before quoting.
President: Lauren Buzzeo, Roger Voss, Matt Kettmann, Virginie Boone,
Lauren Buzzeo 0:08
Hello and welcome to the Podcast, your show about wine trends and off-bottle lovers. I’m Lauren Buzzeo, the editor-in-chief here, and in this episode I’m going to talk to some of our talented critics and editors to debunk some of our favorite wine myths. Did you know that not all Bordeaux wines are incredibly expensive, or that you have to endure them forever to appreciate them? And what about the fact that some people don’t necessarily have the secret of the second cheapest bottle on the wine list? What about the basic idea that white wines should be a kind of cold and red wine at room temperature? Well, it’s true. Today, anything is possible when it comes to these and other burning issues and common myths about wine that we want to change. We will also give you some solid suggestions of regions and bottles you can look up today and try to increase the vitality of your wine. So get ready to learn and travel with us on this journey to expel even more wine myths.
Well, while we continue our efforts to dispel the myths about wine, I am now joined by our European editor-in-chief, Roger Voss. Hi, Roger. How’s it going today?
Roger Voss 1:21
I’m fine, Lauren, how are you?
Lauren Buzzeo 1:23
I’m fantastic! I’m very happy to talk to you, because to be honest, Roger, we had to hire you as the next evaluator for so many classic French wine regions, because we have some really stupid moments that we absolutely have to discuss with you. So, are you ready to help set a record?
Roger Voss 1:40
Yes, of course. It’s my life’s work.
Lauren Buzzeo 1:45
And you’re perfect for the job. Okay, here we go. The first wine myth I want to discuss with you is the idea that every good Bordeaux is expensive and must ripen forever. Truth or lie?
Roger Voss 1:59
Completely wrong. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.
Lauren Buzzeo 2:03
Okay. Tell me why.
Roger Voss 2:05
Well, so yes, there’s a piece of Bordeaux that must be old and expensive. I’d say there are probably about 50 to 60 different properties in Bordeaux that fall into this category, out of 10,000 properties in Bordeaux. So you’re talking about a small, tiny minority. Most of the Bordeaux I taste are really as good as they can be, because that’s what people have to buy, it’s a great value from all the regions of Bordeaux. Even the neighbors of the largest states, the biggest names, produce wines of great value. Take, for example, part of the Médoc where all these first plants are located, and there is this range of wines called Cru Bourgeois, which are extremely cheap. They work almost to the same standards as the first large seedlings. But at the same time they don’t charge the same prices. If I told you that you could buy a very good bourgeois crew wine for $40, 93, 94 points, that wouldn’t be a good price in my opinion.
Lauren Buzzeo 3:24
Absolutely. And compared to some of their neighbors, who can charge 6 to 10 times more than the price of the label, that’s certainly a huge value.
Roger Voss 3:33
Absolutely. And indeed, it is another myth that we have to expose, because even the most expensive Bordeaux is, apart from the very, very little, not really that expensive. You can get a class increase in properties sold for less than $100. Although it’s expensive in most of our circumstances, it’s not as expensive as we think… It’s not the hundreds of dollars we’re looking for. But I’d like to go back to Crewe Bourgeois in Medoca. I’d like to go back to a lot of cheap Saint-Emilions. And it’s very good value for money. And on the other side of the scale, it would be wrong to say the end because she says it’s not so good. Actually, it’s as good as it gets. There are wines from the Bordeaux Cup, Bordeaux Super, which are of great value. And I would like to point out that all these countries, which today are often small and family-oriented, have greatly benefited from the work of the big names. That is, they use the same consultants, they use the same technology, but to a lesser extent. So the quality of the wines, even those from small states, is very good for what it is.
Lauren Buzzeo 5:08
Correct. And it’s so hard to talk about it. I mean, you even surprised yourself, you said less mansion. But that doesn’t mean they’re inferior. It’s just sad that these things have been deposited in Bordeaux. That you have these iconic early emerging countries that attract so much attention and fame that everything else around them is sort of classified. However, this does not mean that they are of inferior quality, less important or less tasty, nor that they are appreciated in comparison to other wines.
Roger Voss 5:40
Room You forget the classification of the Grand Cru Classé de Médoc in 1855. It was determined on the basis of the selling price of the wines and not on the basis of quality. So although they produce very good wines, I will not deny that for a minute – they are not necessarily the only excellent wines that can be produced in this region. And I come to that and say that the neighbors actually make wine, which is not so good, let’s say, but very good, and just as good for a lot less money.
Lauren Buzzeo 6:26
Yes, I find that a very interesting point about the classification system and how it originated. Because I think most people really assume that it’s some kind of qualitative statement and that it’s not influenced by anything else, like the selling price. But I think it’s a very good idea to go there and help find out exactly how these great vintages and rankings came about.
Roger Voss 6:52
Yes, we’re talking about Medok. Saint-Emilion is different. It has its own classification system, which is revised every ten years. And this is in fact almost exclusively based on the quality, the nature of their soil, the work they do in the basement, and so on. But there is also a price element, so some wines are advertised because they are sold at a high price, which has nothing to do with the fact that they are better than their neighbours.
Lauren Buzzeo 7:26
Bordeaux is a surprisingly complex and somewhat confusing region that consumers can really immerse themselves in and understand. But on the other hand, it is one of the classic regions in which people are so interested. So I think that although we can of course have a whole episode, and I hope that we have really committed to Bordeaux, I think that at this stage the correct assessment of the relationship with this wine myth is that people should absolutely not be afraid or hesitant to buy wines that are not first class or that they consider to be the pinnacle of Bordeaux expression, at least if their wallet can afford it. And they should be willing to experiment and try all the other great Bordeaux wines that are available at reasonable, I dare say reasonable, prices.
Roger Voss 8:14
Correct. And of course you can always say: Check out the notes on winemag.com because every year I look at almost 1,000 different Bordeaux Reds. Then you’ll see the scores, the costs, my notes, etc. And I know it’s pretty complicated. It’s all called this castle and this castle. And on the front of the label is a picture of the house. So it’s actually pretty scary. That’s why we need someone like me, like every examiner who drills and says: Buy them. Don’t buy these.
Lauren Buzzeo 8:54
Correct. Okay. Okay. Okay, okay. Let’s go to Bordeaux. I think we got it all figured out. And now everyone goes out to buy cheap Bordeaux so they can enjoy it and not age forever. But let’s move on to Beaujolais, perhaps the least known neighbour of Burgundy. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.
Roger Voss 9:17
This is undoubtedly his cheapest neighbor.
Lauren Buzzeo 9:21
So, the Beaujolais, many people know about the campaigns and marketing efforts around the Beaujolais Nouveau, what is it, you know, a beautiful fruit, a light wine that is normally produced, what is it, the third Thursday of November?
That’s right, yeah.
Okay. Okay. Okay, okay. The myth I want to talk to you about is that not all Beaujolais wines are serious wines.
Roger Voss 9:48
Okay, it’s a call. I mean, the idea that you have to ask that question today is shocking. Because, yes, Beaujolais Nouveau was a big problem. In the ’80s and ’90s, and maybe even in the ugly years, it was a big problem. But for us in America, it doesn’t matter anymore. Although millions of bottles are produced every year, they are generally sold in places like Japan. So I think we’ve moved forward. I am very happy with that, because what we are really talking about is the quality of what people do to get old or at least get drunk after the third Thursday of November. And the range of wines on offer is exceptional. Here too, as in many wine-growing regions in France, quality has made a big leap forward. And there are two categories I’d like to talk to you about, if you don’t mind. One is a village, the Beaujolais, and the other is the Beaujolais de Crewe, and on these wines you will not see the word Beaujolais. You can see the name of the region as Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Sherub, Shen, Flory, Saint-Amur. I mean, what nice names, anyway. So these are the wines that, in my opinion, reflect the quality of what Gamay can achieve in the Beaujolais region.
Lauren Buzzeo 11:36
For all these wines, whether Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais Villages or Cru du Beaujolais, are all made of gourmet grapes, aren’t they?
Roger Voss 11:44
Lauren Buzzeo 11:48
But you’re really talking about the difference in terms of, well, what’s the difference between the term new wine and raw wine? What does a different characteristic and profile do when everything is made from the same grapes?
Roger Voss 12:02
It’s about where it grows. These are winemaking techniques. Beaujolais Nouveau is made to be consumed by young people, while the quality villages Crewe and Beaujolais are brought up to age. With the usual Burgundian method, if you like, of pressing the grapes, they can be kept in wood or in barrels, but they are not made to be drunk young. Part of this process is therefore linked to the winemaking process and it should not be forgotten that the Beaujolais Nouveau usually comes from the southern part of the Beaujolais. It’s a big area. It takes about an hour to go from north to south. It’s a large area, and the south is very different from the north. It’s actually prettier, but it’s still different. This is where most of the Beaujolais Nouveau comes from. Thus the villages of Beaujolais, Crewe Beaujolais, also come from the northern part of the region. And it’s another terroir. It’s granite. There are many, many more, many different soils. And the whole atmosphere in the north is very different from the south.
Lauren Buzzeo 13:20
And that brings you to what? A little more structure, a little more depth? What perhaps makes these wines more serious or more effective in terms of campaigns?
Roger Voss 13:33
Well, you hit two words, structure and depth. Dude, if there’s such a word, something like that. It’s really because the producers make the wine before it ages. You can drink them, and you can think about a lot of them for a year after the harvest. But I would certainly advise most Beaujolais de Crewe to wait at least two years. And with places like Morgon and Moulin-a-Vent, you wait three years before you drink it. So you deserve attention, not too much, because otherwise you’re a basement and we don’t do that anymore. The fact is, they can grow old as long as it takes to grow old. And the producers make them for this purpose, fill them in this way.
Lauren Buzzeo 14:31
Good, i.e. the absolutely serious wines are from Beaujolais, not from the Nouveaux. Not to mention the New isn’t serious, but it’s a little friendlier and more fun. But on the other hand, in terms of structure, ripening, depth, complexity, you talk about some of these wines in Crewe and in the villages of the Beaujolais, discovered on more serious occasions.
Roger Voss 14:57
Absolutely. And one of the interesting things about game is a word they use in the Beaujolais, which is Pinotting, which is called Pinot Noir P-I-N-O-T, -ing. In other words: Very old players start to taste Pinot Noir when they are old enough. Thus, when one is old enough to drink Beaujolais de Crewe, one begins to taste a great Burgundy.
Lauren Buzzeo 15:23
Wow, you know, I thought you said Pinotage.
Roger Voss 15:27
It wasn’t me, no.
Lauren Buzzeo 15:30
But I think you could do the same for Pinotage. When you have a very old Pinot Noir, it starts to develop much more like a Pinot Noir.
Here we go. Yeah, something like that, I know what you mean. So, yeah, there’s a connection. So it’s interesting because I drank old Gameyes, you know, 10-year-old Gameyes, 12-year-old Gameyes, even older Gameyes. If you’ve drunk it with your eyes closed or if you haven’t seen the label on the bottle, tell God it’s a pretty interesting Burgundian wine. Or, where did it come from? So Gamey can grow old.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And I’m sure, for part of the cost of their Burgundian brothers.
Roger Voss 16:16
Well, with the mission to find a value for money, very lively and good Beaujolais.
Lauren Buzzeo 16:25
Fantastic. It’s the perfect ending. Roger, thank you for helping us dispel these two very important myths about French wines. Thank you for your time and experience, as always, sir, you’re welcome.
While we continue our efforts to dispel the myths of wine, I am now with our editor for the Central Coast of California, Mr. Matt Kettmann. Matt, how are you?
Matt Kettmann 17:32
I’m doing pretty good, Lauren. How are you doing?
Lauren Buzzeo 17:34
I’m fine, I’m holding on. So I have a few myths about wine that I’d like to discuss with you and maybe clear up. Do you think you have a challenge?
Matt Kettmann 17:44
I love to demystify wine.
Lauren Buzzeo 17:47
That’s how we do it here, isn’t it? We feed on it. Okay. Okay. Okay, okay. So I think this first one’s actually the right one for you. So I’m gonna get started on this. That’s a nice little softball for you, because that’s what we were talking about anyway, I know you covered some of your points. Thus, the myth of the number one wine, which should be discussed with Mr. Kettmann, is that white wine should be served cold and red wine at room temperature. Truth or lie?
Matt Kettmann 18:21
Well, that’s a lie. I mean there is a certain amount of red wine that might need to be served warmer, and of course there is also a lot of white wine that is perfectly super cool, but most of these wines, in my opinion, should be closer somehow. Most red wines are served too hot, at least in American restaurants. And most white wines are served too cold. So you can’t even taste what’s going on out there.
Lauren Buzzeo 18:45
Yes, these white wines should not be treated like, excuse me, the Coors in the cold light of a baseball game. And these red wines are generally not allowed to be exhibited in warm restaurants in summer.
Matt Kettmann 18:58
Correct. And you know, there’s a time and a place for this very cold White Owl and this very cold, crispy, even Vignier. But when it comes to Chardonnay and Rucillon and wines that have a little more body and texture, it really stands out a lot more as long as it’s just a little bit – and you don’t mean hot. You want them cold all the time, but you certainly don’t want them cold, like you said, Coors Light. On the other hand, some red wines are now fantastically fresh.
Lauren Buzzeo 19:35
Yes, it seems to be a hot topic from time to time, a topic you have talked a lot about for wine lovers, I would say in recent years. It seems that the trend is quite new or hot, especially in your supply area for us, that these more full-bodied and slightly fruity red wines taste better or with a little freshness.
Matt Kettmann 20:02
Yeah, you know, I don’t know what that was. I’ve worked for the magazine for over six years. And then, I would say, I don’t know, maybe about four years ago, I started to get these wines that were lighter and brighter and often a little fruity, but sometimes still with some vegetable or fluffy components. And they were delicious at the temperature where I tasted them, and then I threw them in the fridge, and I thought, man, they’re better than a little cold. When you put something in the fridge, you take it out, it’s cold enough, you put it in the glass, it heats up a bit. Drinking these wines throughout the range seduced me. And, you know, there’s a lot of talk about Pinot Noir, Grenache is a common thing in that category. And some are at least partially or somehow carbon treated, so somehow you get a style of winemaking that captures the freshness almost automatically. I’m not sure why this region is at the forefront, other than the fact that we have a really cool climate. So you can have a kind of long growing season in which you still harvest grapes that are quite shiny and quite sour, but have had enough time to develop their taste in the vineyard. And so they’re in a lot of trouble, even though they’re still easy. I think many winemakers, and especially this trend among many young winemakers, understand them a little. They pick this grape at the right time and produce these super fresh wines that are simply delicious. They’re easy to drink, and they’re not easy. You’re complicated, there’s something about that. You should be careful when chilling, as with any wine, whether white or red, especially with such a bright red. If you cool it down too much, it’s certainly stupid. There’s kind of a nice place where the complexity comes out a bit. You can somehow mute it in cold weather.
Lauren Buzzeo 22:04
Correct. So the ideal temperature, in general, for these red wines that lend themselves to a little cooling, would you say that the ideal temperature might be 45, 50?
Matt Kettmann 22:16
It’s a real scientific question, Lauren. Mine’s more like 10 minutes in the fridge. Or, if it was in the fridge, take it out for ten minutes. For me, drinking all kinds of wine, you know, if you really dedicate yourself to a bottle with friends, it’s an experience, isn’t it? This wine opens for you only by the oxygen that enters it, and then by the change in temperature of the wine. Anyone who looks at a glass of wine will notice if he doesn’t chew it. You’ll notice that it gets a bit narrower at first and when you get to the end of that glass, it opens and that happens on the way. And if you take that bottle out and leave it there, you can make a strong enough argument not to throw the blank you open on the ice. If you want to cut the bottle in a relatively short time, remove it and let it rest while you drink it. Because then it will be a more interesting experience in the whole bottle, because it will be in constant evolution. This is what is most interesting in wine, it is not the stagnation, but the change, from the opening to the end of a bottle. So you can take it and not try to freeze it at some point. But if you really like the taste at this low temperature, do what you want. But if you really want to see the full range of wines, I’ll heat it up while you drink it.
Lauren Buzzeo 23:54
Personal preferences. Absolutely. I like that you called me on a scientific issue, you’re absolutely right, 10 minutes in the fridge is much better and much more convenient. Thank you for making me understand. But I would like to take a poetic look at the development of a living being that is a bottle of wine. And he starts and sees it take shape, and it changes during the experience of actually drinking a whole bottle. It’s such a beautiful thing. And you’re right about the effect of temperature on them. So I think it’s a great moment, not just to not let the whites cool down, but to let them really and truly experience the joy of evolution from that initial temperature respectively cool to maybe, but still good, to let them experience that slightly warmer temperature that you will know at the end of the bottle, because you’re right, you’ll have different impressions, different qualities, and that’s a wonderful thing.
Matt Kettmann 24:57
It’s really an argument for the red wine to cool down. Because a similar process can be obtained from a large, heavy stand, which will probably show most of its texture, most of its flavor, at a slightly higher temperature. Start a little cooler and see how those songs come out. You will learn more about wine, where it is produced, who makes it and all that. All these pieces of wine will appear slowly, and not just one thing in the glass. Of course, it comes down to drinking a whole bottle of wine. If you drink a glass of wine, it’s more like a time capsule. But even then, as I said, the wine in your glass gets warm. As long as you’re not smiling and patient, you can probably observe the same evolution.
Lauren Buzzeo 25:44
Yes. This whole California, cooled down by the reading mentality, is starting to make a little more sense to me. I think we should move on before I’m like a girl from Kali.
Matt Kettmann 25:55
Yes, actually, I’m thirsty.
Lauren Buzzeo 26:00
I think that’s why it started there, because it’s always hot. Let’s move on to our next myth, which must be debunked. And instead, it will be hospitality. I’m talking about this idea or the wine myth that exists that a sommelier or a wine manager just wants you or a patron to buy an expensive bottle of wine. What do you think of that myth?
Matt Kettmann 26:30
I generally consider it a myth. I believe that today, especially for modern sommeliers, it is really about education, that they read your palate and show you what they know, show you that they are passionate. This is usually a wide range of prices. I say I know catfish, I know people who run restaurants, there are times when they have to get rid of some of these bottle rims, so it’s not a complete myth. There’s some truth in that. This has a commercial aspect. But I think, generally speaking, especially these days, catfish are your friends in the first place. They’re the ones who want you to have a good experience, because you’ll come back when you’ve had a good experience. You can buy a second bottle if you hear something good that suits your strengths.
Lauren Buzzeo 27:18
Well, if you trust her, you can buy that second bottle. When you come back, you’ll know you’re in good hands. It’s like finding a good mechanic. For example, once you have found a good one, you know that you are a customer for life because he really cares about you and your interests. That’s how I feel about catfish and wine managers. They have to take care of you, your interests and yours.
Matt Kettmann 27:42
Yes, that’s right. And just like car mechanics, you can, so to speak, walk with them as they move the stores. And when the catfish moves from one place to another, you can follow it and see what it has done in the next place. You find a good mother and they’re really best friends when it comes to buying wine. Honestly, they’re saving you money, too. I mean, there were a few times I was in a restaurant and we bought a bottle or two of wine. Maybe we’ll buy a second bottle of wine, they’ll understand my palate. I had a little talk with him about what I like and what I like about wine. I like to try and the areas I haven’t tried yet, etcetera. And I’ll tell you what, it’s $80. Lots of times they come and go, you know what, it’s a good bottle of wine, but for that $60 bottle, you get more for your money. I think you’ll like him better. And when that happens, you’ll be like a champion. I have a problem with this guy or this girl. Here we go. I’ll even buy a third bottle. I trust you so much and you saved me 20 or 30 bucks on the first bottle.
Lauren Buzzeo 28:41
Correct. Again: If a mechanic tells you you need brakes and discs and you go somewhere else and it’s like you don’t need discs, then you just need new brake pads. And you thank me for saving you $1,000.
Matt Kettmann 28:51
Lauren Buzzeo 28:54
But yes, I think people, for whatever reason. Of course, there are good catfish and good managers, and there are bad ones, and those who, unfortunately, have made that impression on people, perhaps more commercial or self-service, who care about their own bottom line, as opposed to their own customer interests. But they have to guide you and help you discover new things, make your palate happy and work for you. So I think the more information you can share and the more open you can be, the more it looks like a therapy session. The more open your feelings and wishes are, the better the result of the whole process will be.
Matt Kettmann 29:32
Correct. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Sometimes you’re a wine therapist, I suppose. You tell them about the consumption of txacolina in Spanish Basque Country and maybe they don’t have it on the list, but maybe they do. And they take him outside, and he takes you back to Spain, there, with your drink. I also think it’s easier for Welse to do the right thing, because the restaurants and wine menus are very varied. Not all restaurants are dominated by the same wines that were the real problem in the 70s, 80s and 90s. You go to five different restaurants, and most of them have the same wine list. In those situations it was much more a commercial situation, much more a desire to sell wine, but that has changed so much. And so I believe that this myth is usually based on ancient reality. While there are now so many educated and excited catfish that really make the wine flow from all over the world. You’ve never heard of any part of the world, and they take you there. And often the cheapest wines, which I find fascinating and also good for a pickpocket.
Lauren Buzzeo 30:51
Yes, you know when I talk about them, often the cheapest wines there, which brings me to another myth I usually hear about, namely that if you do not know what to order on the wine list, you always go for the second cheapest bottle in each category, because it is the best explosion for your dollar. Where did this come from?
Matt Kettmann 31:09
I don’t know. But, to be honest, I often used this strategy before I started working with wine professionally. It’s a little safe because we think the one downstairs is just an idiot. It’s like, okay, we have to buy something really cheap for those guys who don’t want to spend money on wine. And then when you get on the list, it gets more expensive. I also believe that this myth has somehow spread in the catfish community, so there has been some kind of active force that has ensured that this did not happen. And I’m not sure that the third shot was the best shot for your dollar. But the truth is, I’ve seen more people end up on your bones than the one on top. It certainly helps to have a good knowledge of your guilt when you go there. Just some basic stuff, and I know a few brands. To be honest, I almost always check the wine list on my phone or computer before I go to the restaurant, if I intend to do so in advance. It’s not because I want to get excited about what’s on the list that I don’t necessarily make decisions, but I do a little research. And I think it helps, too, and I think anybody can do it. You don’t have to be a wine expert, you can consult the list and view some interesting regions. And that gives you a step, this catfish, who might be a little more interested in serving you well because you show interest, you show something you know about on the list, and he will be fired. This will guide them to guide you in the right direction and make an unforgettable choice, whether it’s the second bottle from the end of the list or the bottle at the bottom or somewhere in the middle. Or, if you have a budget, at the top. So do a little research, and it’ll pay off.
Lauren Buzzeo 32:59
Correct. Do a little research and have a little faith. Believe in yourself, know your budget, know what you like and what you are looking for, believe in working with your mother or your wine manager. You know what? If you go through this experience, if you feel that someone is pushing you to buy the most expensive bottle, this is probably not the place you want to go back to, at least not until you have a new wine manager.
Matt Kettmann 33:20
Yes, that’s right. Recently I had a work experience in a restaurant in Los Angeles where the man knew I worked as a copywriter. We had some good bottles with friends and family, and then I wanted to pick another one, and I put them a little bit at 80, 90, 100 bucks. And he pushed me in the direction of 200 bucks, and it was a little weird. Maybe I should just go and not get cute, but the wine was excellent. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t what I was looking for, and I still have bad taste in my mouth, not only with this person, but also with this restaurant. For example: Why is this man working there? Why do they insist? And that’s what happened. It happens to people like me who are professionally involved in this sector, but you have to stand up for your rights and get what you want, because you pay for it.
Lauren Buzzeo 34:12
Right, right. I mean, absolutely. It has happened to all of us, the best of us succumb to the pressure of our fellow man, especially when enjoying a fantastic dinner. And you’re probably surrounded by people who love you, or friends, or someone who’s having a good time. It’s so easy to let your limits fly by the side of the road. But keep your expectations high, be realistic with yourself and have faith in yourself, believe that you know what you are looking for and how much you want to spend and just ride that wave, no matter what anyone else says. And if they’re not with you, find another place.
Matt Kettmann 34:47
Lauren Buzzeo 34:49
Fantastic. Matt, thanks for your time. I really appreciate you unmasking these wine myths with us.
Matt Kettmann 34:54
Thanks for the invitation, Lauren. I hope we’ve taught some of our listeners the truth about wine.
Lauren Buzzeo 35:01
Exactly. I’m gonna go cool some red.
Matt Kettmann 35:04
Well, I’m gonna go warm up the whites.
Lauren Buzzeo 35:10
Well, as we continue our journey to dispel the myths of the lines, we are now with our California-based taster and collaborator, Virginie Boone. Virginia, how are you today?
Virginia Boone 35:23
I’m fine, Lauren. It’s pretty hot in here. I live in Sonoma. It’s pretty hot.
Lauren Buzzeo 35:29
Friction, friction. So we’re both here to talk about some wine myths we want to expose. I bring you these two wine myths I have for you. Of course, this applies especially to the area you cover, know, love and live in California. So we have a wine myth that says a little more about Californian wine in general, and another that goes a little deeper into a particular area and region that in turn interests you. So, where to start, in general or specifically?
Virginia Boone 36:14
I think we should get started, General.
Lauren Buzzeo 36:16
I think I like it. Okay. Okay. Okay, okay. So I ask you, Virginie Boone, first of all, to debunk the wine myth that all Californian wines are fruit bombs.
Because you know I love that question, and I love that myth so much. What I would say is partly true, as are many myths. But California is a very big place. And it’s like Spain, France and Italy are united, and all the wines are the same. Clearly this is not the case. I mean, we’re very diverse and very big. We also have a very warm and dry place. So that really affects the growing conditions here. The Mediterranean climate, for which most of our vineyards are known, ensures that everything grows, and of course we grow many agricultural products. I think the fruit bomb comes from the fact that we are warm, that we are dry and that we have a lot of sunshine. This is especially true during the growing season. And you know, the early days of viticulture in California were in the easiest places. There are many floors in the valleys, many large areas with lots of heat, sun and energy. And so I think it was quite natural in those early years, when agriculture was more quantitative than qualitative, that people wanted the fruit to be as rich as possible. Thus, the many fruity characteristics of the Californian wine are still visible. However, I believe that this development has brought many improvements in agriculture. And on the big coastal trip. I mean, our whole west coast, or our whole western border, is the coast, and it’s the Pacific Ocean that’s cold. So I think there’s been a lot of movement over time to make bigger ones closer to shore. And I think there was a lot of movement to go into the mountains as much as possible. Thus, even in places like Napa and Sonoma, grapes are grown at higher altitudes over time. I think what you’ll find in both cases is the ability to maintain more acidity, more freshness and capture some of the spicy aspects of many wines than the so-called fruit bombs, which are really just an expression of the heat we have.
Lauren Buzzeo 39:08
Of course, the greater altitude and proximity to the sea have a refreshing and moderating effect on the vineyards, so the wines are not so obviously fruity and, as you said, retain some of that acidity and balance to this richness. Is it true?
Virginie Boone 39:31
Yes, I’d say it has a lot to do with the changes in style you see in California. I also think a lot of this is due to the fact that winegrowers have become much more involved in the culture and what happens in the vineyards than in the early days of winegrowing in California. So instead of just getting a lot of fruit, they want to have as much as possible, they want to grow as much as possible and leave as much unripe as possible. Winemakers really look at how the vineyard grows, how it is thinned out, how the foliage is treated, how irrigation is done just to get away from the open abundance that Californian wines can have. And I think these two things together have really changed and made the wine here much more difficult than it might have been in the beginning.
Lauren Buzzeo 40:28
Clear. So I think what you’re saying is generally a fair generalization, an assessment that all Californian wines will have very specific and distinctive fruit characteristics, if only because of the nature of the general climate throughout the state. But in these different regions and districts, sub-designations and even names, you will find areas that will not only produce truly lush, rich and ripe wines.
Yes, of course.
So you can tell me your favorite names. I know you said you’re off the coast, and I know you mentioned high-altitude areas. But what are your favourite names that match these styles?
Virginia Boone 41:14
Of course, but it is a very large area and of course it is called Sonoma Beach. The coast of Sonoma is very coastal, but also, as I said before, quite large. That’s why people who really start analyzing Sonoma’s coastal wines like to dive even deeper into the small areas, which are more on the coast than others. This is largely due to the height and distance of the back to the ocean, the fog and the wind, as well as many different variables. But on the coast of Sonoma and in some of the more specifically designated areas, such as Fort Ross-Sea View, in the Annapolis area, there is some movement for the Western Free State, which lies just off the coast of Sevastopol, a kind of technical Russian river and the Sonoma coast, but at the moment it is extremely cold. There’s a movement that might have a name of its own. But when I see Western Freestone wines, I know of course that on average they will be much fresher, much more acidic, much spicier in tone and with a rather fine structure. That’s why I like Western Freestone. Secondly, I also like what is called the Russian river district, but it is also the coldest part called the hills of Sevastopol. The hills of Sevastopol are very close to the western Fristone and are also strongly influenced by the coast and fog. During the growing season there is fog on the ground throughout the day for many days. He is best known for his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but just like the Pinot he just brings lots of black tea, lots of forest, lots of rhubarb and pomegranate. They’re very tasty. And in Chardonnay sometimes you just get a lot more brine and almost a taste of the sea. That’s why I like these extremely cool areas in a large area with a cool climate. And then through the mountains or the heights, I would say that one of my favourite places in the Napa Valley is Mount Wieder. Mount Veder is a high-rise. It is located on the west side of the Napa valley, so it is a kind of border between Napa and Sonoma. It is strongly influenced by the Bay of San Pablo and some of its coastal areas. Of course it is not cold, but it is cooler than many other parts of the Napa Valley, and it is high and extremely wild. And so I think this wildness permeates the wine, and one has the feeling of being present during the tasting. There’s a lot more flavor.
Lauren Buzzeo 44:07
I have to say that I personally find that many of the wines you’re talking about are also wines that have a greater aging potential and a longer lifespan than those that are perhaps a little more lush and fruity on the attack and richer at first sight. Do you think that’s a good thing, too?
Virginie Boone 44:27
Yes, of course I think the structure and if you look at the pH when you go into a rabbit hole like that, it’s a different game than the lush areas of Oakville and Rutherford, which are hot. And the soils are so energetic, and so these regions have increased their fame because the people love this splendor, and they love the red fruits that are extracted from these wines. People love California, but sometimes because the wines are often ready to drink, perhaps a little earlier than some of the European wines we are used to. That’s good and bad, because you don’t think it means they’ll always taste good the further they come.
Lauren Buzzeo 45:16
Correct. But you know, if that’s your personal preference and you like the style, even if you know you’re a fan of the fruit bomb, then go for it. Tmbraciroux, have fun. Not everything has to happen in a certain way. It’s good to have variety, and sometimes you’re just looking for a really nice and sexy wine to drink right now, with a good hamburger, but with beef, whatever you want. There’s no shame in that. Not everything needs to be over-structured, high acidity, classic European style. We just have to accept the differences that can arise. But I think the point here is that there are differences, and we shouldn’t generalize across the state.
I think it would be great.
Lauren Buzzeo 46:02
I’ll do what I can, Virginia.
Virginia Boone 46:06
We’re a very big place and in my opening statement I think it’s almost impossible to create such a big place in a small space. But I understand.
Lauren Buzzeo 46:21
Yes, you’ve given us hope. There are things you can try. And again: You can’t judge a book by its large cover. So I think we need to move on to a more specific myth about wine, which I want to talk to you about, and that would be a region you cover and in which you specialize, and that would be Napa. And the wine myth, which I would like to discuss in more detail, is all Napa wine expensive, true or false?
I think you need to identify the street. Cause, yeah, but your sweetheart might be worth somebody else’s money, I guess. But we must not get lost in this weed. So, yes, the Napa Valley, my dear. Look, I taste hundreds of Napa wines every month and I enter them in the database, and yes, a lot of very expensive wines come from Napa. What I’m trying to say now is that there is indeed a little supply and demand. There’s always truth in wine. Napa is a very small area. It’s 30 miles long, maybe 4 or 5 miles wide. And it’s not every inch that’s planted. This is what it sometimes looks like when you drive Highway 29, but this is an area that pays a lot of attention to the environment and the entire agricultural reserve. So there are limitations on where and what you can grow. Napa’s grapes simply lack a grand plan, and they are very desirable because they have been building a reputation since 1966, when Robert Mondavi founded his winery and started telling the world the story of Napa, including, of course, the tasting in Paris and all the different messages that have come together and all the successes that Napa has had. So there aren’t many grapes. Agriculture is very strict and very manual. It takes a lot of work. There was only a great demand for grapes. So when it comes to the price of the bottle, it becomes smart, because the bottle must of course reflect all costs. I think to a certain extent, and at this point I have thought a lot about it, but especially Americans are not used to paying the real price for things. It is the real value needed to produce things, often mainly agricultural products that are wine. So I think we should get into a real fight. If you pay a lot for wine, is it a fair price, even if it’s expensive? Is that fair? Have the farmers done their best to practise sustainable or ecological agriculture or to cultivate the land? Do they take care of their employees? Do they have full-time employees who enjoy a healthy lifestyle all year round, so that they really take care of their vines throughout the growing season and not just at harvest time? And then all the associated costs, from sales and distribution of course, but also bottling, labels, closures, all that. So I think California or Napa wines are particularly expensive. But I think most of that value is real.
Lauren Buzzeo 50:18
Yes, of course. It is very difficult to understand everything that goes with a product, as you said, especially in agriculture. But of course the country is expensive. The production technology used for some advanced lines is expensive. Labor, the cost of hiring the people you need, be it your winemaker, vineyard manager, grape pickers, office managers, social networks, everything. All this comes at a price. So it all makes sense. But I think the most interesting thing for me is that wine in Napa is of course quite expensive, and there is a reason for that. And you’re right to say that what’s valuable to me may not be valuable to others. But I think it’s safe to say that, in general, you won’t find Napa red wine for less than $20.
Virginia Boone 51:15
Pretty heavy. I think if I make an effort, I rarely get Best Buys in a magazine for that reason. But I don’t think you should be looking for a red wine cellar in Napa. There may be Zinfandel for that price, or Pti Sirah, or Merlot, or a blend. Often you have just gained experience with creative winemaking, where people who have been in the business long enough or have a lot of their own fruit from the cellar can harvest, as it were, and choose to offer something at a lower price. In cabernet it’s often between $40 and $50, but can it be as much as $20 to $30? I think there’s gonna be a lot of pressure. And there’s a lot of grapes in there now. As a result, the ability to find more affordable fruit may change in the near future. I think you have a lot of entrepreneurial spirit in Napa, too. Most of the younger generations, who sometimes have a day job, work in a very prestigious and expensive cellar that produces very expensive Cabernet. In their spare time they try to find those little bags where they can maybe take a ton or two of something nice and make it cheaper or put it in glasses or something like that. So there is creativity in the Napa Valley because many people who live and work in this industry cannot afford to drink their wine.
Lauren Buzzeo 52:59
Correct. And I think experience, like you, still has value. And not everyone in this ridiculous upper class, which perhaps not everyone can afford in the long run. But there are still wines of this average level that can be found and available. So not everything is astronomical and not everything is crazy.
Virginia Boone 53:24
No, and I admire the producers who can do that, so I decided to do it. Try drinking wine for 40 or 50 dollars, which is perhaps the name of the Napa Valley, and it can be found in restaurants and shops, perhaps, or it’s just a way for people to at least be able to play the game. At least they can try. And they make these beautiful vineyards, darling. I think the ability to do both is very good – it’s worth it, and we need something more from some of the major manufacturers.
Lauren Buzzeo 54:01
Yeah, sure. Well, I think you’ve certainly taught us today that there are a lot of discoveries and a lot of myths and maybe prejudices we need to think about to dispel and update our opinions, so, Virginia, thank you for your time. I appreciate you exposing those myths for us.
Virginia Boone 54:22
at any time.
Lauren Buzzeo 54:26
Thanks for listening to this episode of the podcast From Napa and Sonoma to Bordeaux and Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Beaujolais and more, today we talked about many different wines and wine regions, with so many delicious and fascinating recommendations to follow. Don’t forget to visit winemag.com/podcast to find out more about this selection and where to find it. Subscribe to podcasts in iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you can find a podcast. If you like today’s episode, we would like to hear your reactions and opinions. And why don’t you tell your friends who like wine to come and see us too? You can always send us a message at [email protected] For more information about wine, recipes, travel guides, diving and stories, visit winemag.com and contact us via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @wineenthusiast. The podcast is by Lauren Buzzeo and Jenny Groza. Until the next episode: Cheers!
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