Great Wines For the Discerning Connoisseur

Q San Francisco
September 2002
Pages 44-45

greatwinesdiscerningIt’s hard to be the arbiter of fashion. But somebody’s got to do it. When the question of fashion is not Yohji Yamamoto versus K-Mart, but wine, the average consumer takes one of two well-defined paths. Either leads to the same result.

The first, I shall call the “pansy,” defined by my dictionary as “a man or boy considered childish or unassertive”. There are other definitions, but I’m sticking with this one. A pansy announces, with practiced timidity, a complete lack of knowledge of wine. He then proceeds to order the same wine that he has ordered at every dinner, at every restaurant, for as long as any of his friends can remember. It’s the same wine to be found in his home. Always.

Now, this same individual would never take the same approach to his wardrobe fashion. If so, he’d still be wearing brown Farrah corduroys that are just a little too short, a white shirt buttoned to the throat, and, no doubt, a pocket protector.

The second, I call the “narcissus”, only because I’m in a floral-print mode. This is that person in each of our lives who is in love with the timber of his own voice. He has an opinion on everything, and, regardless of whether soundly based, is going to share it with you. He will order “an amusing little wine which shows great promise.” It will no doubt be the same wine he has ordered at every dinner, at every restaurant…

Now, he wouldn’t be caught dead still wearing his blue blazer with gold buttons and the white shirt with the monogrammed pocket that he used to wear in debate club. Would he?

When I go out shopping for clothing, I’m the first (well, one of the first) to admit that I’m vaguely clueless. I’ve learned to ask for help, usually from whomever is the current boyfriend. They always tell me they have better fashion sense than I do. Maybe they do. All I know is that other than having heard them endlessly discussed, I basically don’t know the difference between D&G and H&M.

So that’s how I end up here, offering up the latest in wine fashion. Because hopefully, somewhere out there, one or more of you will decide not to take the pansy or narcissus fork in the road. You will strike out in fresh directions, creeping over boundaries, taking over the winelist and trying something, new.

For those of you willing to explore, I give you new wines. Trust me, your friends will stare at the new you in awe; much like when you showed up to that soiree in lime-green capri pants and a teal fishnet tank. At least you’ll be drinking good wine.

Over the past few years it has become completely acceptable to drink South African wine. Yet, for most consumers, these wines are still unknown. The grapes are not all that unusual: Chenin Blanc (the main white wine of the Loire Valley in France) and Sauvignon Blanc are the mainstays of the whites and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Pinotage (South Africa’s unique red crossing of Pinot Noir and Hermitage, the local name for Cinsault) make up the bulk of the reds.

The wines you shouldn’t miss: Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc and his dessert wine “T”; Martin Meinert Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend; de Trafford Chenin Blanc and Shiraz; Fairview Pinotage “Primo”; Spice Route “Flagship” Pinotage and Shiraz; Hamilton Russell Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; Glen Carlou “Grand Classique”; Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc; and Fleur du Cap “Noble Riesling” for dessert.

Everyone has heard of Beaujolais, especially in the context of Nouveau when it’s released in late November. And we’ve all drunk our share of these simple, fruity wines made from the Gamay grape. How many of your inner circle know that the Beaujolais region has ten “crus” or declared top-quality vineyards? How many know that there is Beaujolais Blanc and Rosé?

Here is one from each of the crus I know you and your guests will enjoy. On the lighter side, try Domaine Berrod Fleurie, Bernard Santé Chenas, Pascal Granger Julienas, and Christophe Pacalet Chiroubles, Raymond Mathelin et Fils St.-Amour. On the medium to full bodied side, pull the cork on a bottle of Alain Michaud Brouilly, Bernard Dalicieux Moulin-à-Vent, Château Thivin Côte-de-Brouilly, Domaine des Souchons Morgon, Château de Pizay Régnié. And just so you can look especially chic next time you want a Chardonnay, turn to Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc.

Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.


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