Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Not The Same. Period

"What is that?!"

"Oh that’s Prosciutto I think. Whenever I see that in a recipe I just use some Oscar Mayer ham, it’s the same thing”

A conversation from years ago but one that has stuck with me for well over a decade now. Same thing? Um, not even close. I mean aside from being made from pig they have nothing, absolutely nothing in common. Now before anyone goes and tries to label me a pig parts snob, notice that I didn’t say one was better, hell I can get my grub on with a simple ham sandwich as much as the next lover of the swine but the same? Nope, won’t concede to that foolishness. They can both be wonderful, some days one might even appeal more than the other, both have their place but they are not, I repeat, are not the same. Period.  

Saturday afternoon we hosted a sparkling wine event at The Wine Country. This is always kind of a fun event for me as I get to pour, talk about, re-taste and share with people some of the fun little sparklers we sell but don’t pour for our Champagne events…know why? Yeah, they aren’t Champagne. So like I said, these events can be a lot of fun for me and for the most part I have a blast, there is however one thing that always gives my crunders a bit of a crunch, and likely makes uncomfortable some of the others that come to just learn and have fun, the, “Oh stop with the not calling it Champagne, they’re the same” comments from a somewhat hardheaded set of folks that seem to find some weird little sense of fun in poking…almost mocking this wine slinger for my refusal to agree with or actually call those wines something they are not, Champagne. Grrrrrr

A couple years ago I cured one such gentleman, (um, term used quite loosely) that was breaking my bawls left and right about not calling a domestic sparkling wine “Champagne”. We went round and round, I explained that Champagne was not a thing, nor was it a style of wine, it was a place where they make sparkling wine. This dude wasn’t having it, just kept laughing, (and just so you know, you ever want to see this normally mild mannered woman go buck wild, just try laughing at me when I’m being serious. I’ve got an ex-boyfriend that can attest to the hells furry when you pull that shit) and chiding me, telling me I was being silly and just then I remembered he had come in with his brother, who was steering clear of this whole spectacle by the way, when I first offered to help then he had introduced both he and his brother, by name….my tactic now, to call this gentleman by name before starting any sentence, except I kept calling him by his brother’s name. “Well Eric, I can see why you feel that way but the truth of the matter is” and “Eric, while you are correct in that they both have bubbles, they aren’t the same thing” and finally he spoke, “Oh, just so you know, Eric is my brother’s name” to which I responded, “Well…it’s the same thing right?” breakthrough. We laughed a little, my smirk a tad sharper as we discussed that even though he and his brother looked alike, grew up the same way, were basically made from the same “material” they were in fact different people and their names were actually kind of important in differentiating them, “So you see, Tom, it matters.”

Saturday afternoon I poured to a group of happy tasters while dodging the fiercely annoying, “Champagne is Champagne, no matter where it comes from” set, a phrase that makes my head implode by the way, trying my best to be light hearted and educate without being dogmatic. I don’t care who likes which and why, I’m honestly just thrilled you found something that moves you but try and get me to call a heart a spade, won’t happen. No matter how bitchy or stuffy it might make me seem. There is no such thing as Italian Champagne, no Anderson Valley Champagne and they sure as shit don’t have Champagne in Spain. Sparkling wines, hell yes, and some damn fine ones, but Champagne? No. Period. 

So the part that made it so freaking hard to keep the lid on this powder keg of fielding asshat “Oh C’mon it’s still Champagne” comments dome of mine, the fact that when each and every single one of those poking me with a stick folks hit number eight on the table, the one and only actual Champagne we were pouring, “This sparkling wine comes from Champagne”….getting a tiny charge out of watching the little hamster spin around on the wheel in those heads, is that they all stopped dead in their tracks, eyes wide, chins dropped and mouth agape before asking me, “Why is this one so much better?!”….argh, because it is freaking grower Champagne! Dammit…

There are times for Oscar Mayer ham, times for Prosciutto and each of us might love one above the other, for whatever reason but the fact of the matter is, they aren’t the same. Just as hot dogs and sausage aren’t the same, Tom and Eric aren’t the same, Brie and Maytag Blue Cheese, while both cow’s milk cheeses have their own flavors, texture, nuances and personality, all sparkling wines are not the same…calling all of them by one name, as if it were a style is not only wrong, it’s unfair. Those willing to see each wine as individual, unique and pleasurable in its own way, well they are less likely to drive me batshit and way more likely to find enjoyment in each glass….for what it is, not what you assume it’s trying to be. 

Ugh…that feels better.


webb said...

I love it when you can make your point in a way the a**h***s get - Tom and Eric. You're not just a pretty face!

Oh, and I love just about any wine that sparkles. I am so cheap!

Thomas said...

Have always loved that Almaden Mountain Chablis--until I tasted Gallo Hearty Burgundy!

Samantha Dugan said...

I've always tried to help people understand by using an example outside the wine frame, which I know can be intimidating for some. Thankfully the name thing worked with that one guy. Will or did he go back to calling all sparkling wines Champagne, probably but it something he will likely remember...all I can ask for at times.

Oh and I don't think I would call you cheap dear lady, I would say you are lucky!

Yer killing me....

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Is there anything worse than a pig parts snob? It's why I never attend the Swine Bloggers Conference. You know, "Swine Blogs are the attention-snorting of lonely porkers."

You're fighting the good fight over the use of "Champagne," My Love. But the fight will never end. Not until the last bottle of Boo Pecoche is poured down the drain.

I love you so!

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
Oh trust me love, I know I won't ever win the battle but there isn't a chance in hell I'm going to condone or worse, use the wrong name for a wine. It isn't just that it is wrong to steal place names, Champagne isn't a style of wine and when you say it wrong, well it is just stupid. Really is kind of my job to educate people about sparkling I shan't back down. I will however be one of the first in line for the Boo Pecoche dumping party!! What a glorious day that will be, hey...wanna be my date? I love you too!

gabe said...

my girlfriend and I still laugh about the time, after we had dating for about six months, she invited me to a party where everyone was bringing a bottle of champagne. i was incredibly excited, until we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a $5 bottle of cook's. not only did i complain about it all night long, i think i spent a couple weeks assuring her that cook's is not even close to champagne. since then, she has been sure to use the phrase, "sparkling wine".

Samantha Dugan said...

Welcome back kid. I just can't figure out why it's so damn hard. I think we ought to blame those damn "Bottomless Champagne" brunches...or Korbel.

gabe said...

i think "sparkling wine" isn't a sexy enough name. i always call it "bubbles" or "bubbly".
i also try to teach people about the joys of cava or prosecco, because i can't even smell a bottle of korbel without getting a headache.

Samantha Dugan said...

Meant to ask Gabe, how was that Cook's? Just as I will every once in awhile hit up places like TGI Friday's to see if suspected, I often sample bottles of things like Korbel or Chandon just to see if they are as I remember. Sadly, they always are. Cremant me amigo! Prosecco and Cava, yes, but don't forget Cremant, some truly lovely wines coming out of Burgundy, Alsace and Loire too. Poured a Parigot Cremant de Bourgone Rose this weekend, what a wonderful balance of texture, red fruit and elegance that wine was. Turns out, I wasn't the only one ga-ga for it, sold out! If you can find that, get you some. And Gabe, thanks for fighting the fight with me, "bubbles" or "bubbly" is perfect.

gabe said...

creamant! of course! that's a great suggestion. i'll keep that in mind next time i'm looking for bubbles.

the cooks tasted like a mountain dew, only sweeter. my girlfriend now buys cava if she's spending $5 on a bottle of bubbles - at least when i'm around.

Sara Louise said...

I love how you kept calling him Eric to make your point, how very clever or you Sam :)
And how could someone just slap some Oscar Meyer in a recipe that calls for Prosciutto? They are two totally different things, with completely different flavors and textures. I weep for whomever has to eat that person's cooking.

Charlie Olken said...

Sam--Love the ham and prosciutto analogy, but, love, Oscar Mayer ham?

No wonder, Mr. P. piped up about his Almaden Mountain Chablis.

I have to say, however, that I am less exorcised by the use of the term "Champagne" than I was by the use of Burgundy and Chablis for the wines that float Mr. P's boat. At least, the misuse of Champagne applies to a category that is in some ways beholden to Champagne. The usage is wrong, but it is at least not wholly without arguable value.

Now, as to being a "parts of the pig" snob, I will admit that I have been know to add a couple of slices of proscioutto to my ham sandwiches from time to time.

Samantha Dugan said...

I know right?! As soon as I heard that I flashed on hat her pantry must look like, bunch of dry egg noodles and lots of Cream O Soups.

Hi, boy have I missed seeing you here! The ham analogy was a direct quote I overheard at a wedding, just seemed to work here if maybe a bit extreme.

As Ron pointed out I am fighting a battle that I'm not too likely to win but, well I just feel like I would not be doing my job, as a specialist, if I just went along with it. I'm not going to demand that people say sparkling wine, I will however correct them, gently and most times I find that people simply didn't know. The ones that try and make me feel as if I'm a snob or just letting fact get in the way of their calling it what they want, well they get under my skin and inspired this post. Thanks for chiming in sweetheart.

Anonymous said...

Along the lines of this post, you will be interested to know that the venerable Food & Wine magazine has a blurb in the current issue about a new Cognac from Camus that comes from a "tiny French island", according to them.