Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sure You Can But....Does That Mean You Should?

Those of you that don’t have the very real pleasure of being a Facebook friend of mine, (count yourself so bloody grateful and smarter for not having wasted umpteen hours reading my drunken, “Hey, how come we say Tris-kit and not Tris-qwee?” or, “These underpants, an unwise choice” the, “My hair, being a total dick” and the ever-so-delightful spans when I say something and then answer myself in a succession of rambling answers. Funniest thing, ever, to me and me alone) have been missing out on my current undie-twisting rant that has me barking and pointing my pudgy finger, stomping my Chuck-clad feets and muttering like that wheezy math kid in your fourth grade class that would stroke out each time you missed a long division answer. It’s charming I assure you.

Long time readers of this blog have seen, or read I should say, the flared nostril and chest heaving bitchy fits I go on. I’ve gone after customers, suppliers, wineries, critics and my most seethed upon group, “wine writers”. Critics I get have a job to do, and have some very serious wine chops, customers are more good than bad, suppliers tax my time but are for the most part fun, these wine writers, oh, sorry, “wine writers” these people are getting on my last fucking nerve. I ran into a bunch of them at the writer’s symposium I went to a couple years ago, all these writers that knew very little, if anything, about wine. I walked away from that event feeling like I had just spent a few days with Raymond Babbitt. Super gifted, like in the writing department but, maybe not so much with the practical in the world of wine. I’m talking massive amounts of perfume, unaware that Vouvray wasn’t a grape and pitching stories that made me slunk down in my chair. “These aren’t wine people. These are people looking for a niche that isn’t as competitive by the truly driven and talented as the daily news, or as technically challenging or demanding of accuracy, and actual facts as economics or sports. Peddling pabulum to the unaware and slightly afraid” the slightly sad comment I made when I was picked up from the airport when I got back. Of course I didn’t mean all of them but…the most aggressive self-promoting fell in that camp. Made me nervous and the shit I’ve seen in the past few months that passes as “wine writing” well I was right to be.

“This wine was awful” a tight jawed customer pointing to a bottle of Lava Cap Barbera I had, begrudgingly recommend to him. I felt the knot forming in my throat and the “Dude..come on now” face trying to break through the retail perma-grin. I recognized him the second he walked through the door that day. It was him. The guy that had asked me to do the fucking impossible and gave me a ration of shit because I couldn’t pull a miracle out of my ass. 

“Yes, I need a wine to go with a skewer dinner” I stood there with my head cocked waiting for the next bit of actual, useful information…didn’t come. “Okay, well what might you be putting on those sticks then?” I asked with as playful a smile as I could muster. “Oh, two kinds. One is beef cubes with a brown sugar glaze and red onions. The other is shrimp with garlic and basil” my head did that little tick thing it does when my brain is revving over and trying to implode. “Well, that’s quite the range of flavor there. You were thinking two wines right?” my hopeful lilt. “No, just one wine and we only like red. My girlfriend is a big fan of Menage a Trois, so a nice dry red like that would be good with those dishes don’t ya think?”….thinking, that appears to be the error of my ways. “Um, well okay. There really isn’t one wine that is going to be super tasty with both of those” I spent over fifteen minutes doing my best to let this cat know that he wasn’t going to find a wine perfect for brown sugar glazed beef and basil scented shrimp….this guy was simply relentless, emphatic and arduous. He wanted a dry red, like the rather sweet Menage a Trois, to go with his skewers and was pissed off at me because I couldn’t, or wouldn’t concede that there was one. I ended up telling him to have some fun with a couple tasty reds and see what tasted right to him. “I won’t tell you it is a good pairing but you should enjoy the wines” I managed over a pained and puckery smile. “So, if you had to try and pair a wine with both dishes?” relentless and that was when I grabbed the afore mentioned “awful” Barbera. I knew it wouldn’t be a good match but simply hoped it would be juicy enough to please the sweeter Menage a Trois palate and with enough acidity to not smother the dish. “That wine is awful and too acidy” said with a stuck out tongue and all.

Hate that. Hate not being able to please a customer. I didn’t want to pair a wine in an impossible situation. I knew whatever he tried to drink with those two very different foods would taste like shit. “Acidy” shit even. My hands were tied and now I had this grumpy mug in my face. Where do people get this idea that you can find a perfect wine for every possible dish on the planet?! I mean that seems like a rather impractical idea to me, everything has limitations and flavors can be so wildly diverse, where could these consumers possibly get the idea that wine is appropriate, one wine even, with every imaginable food you throw at it?! Oh, that’s right….

“Wine writers”

So over the past two weeks I’ve seen wine pairing articles for Girl Scout Cookies, Cherrios…as in breakfast cereal, (and that was the third, third breakfast cereal wine pairing bullshit article I’d seen. If you are looking for wine suggestions for your Cherrios, well I hate to piss in them but you have much, much bigger problems to address than which wine will play off the delicate honey and oats, in your fucking breakfast cereal…but the last wank of a writer suggested Sake if that helps) peanut butter and pickle sandwiches and Buffalo chicken wings. Perfect. No wonder. A couple back and forth situations with one said “writer” that told me, “People want to read these articles” but had a strangely absent comment when I asked, “Does that mean it makes it right? Just who do you think ends up untangling all the damage those horseshit pieces do?” and an old friend,  who happens to be a  winemaker, telling me that I shouldn’t be so dogmatic about food and wine pairings. That they should be fun and people should just drink what they like…that also never responded when I asked, “So should wine writers be writing articles that imply that they will actually find wine and food pairing bliss with breakfast cereal and Sake or Thin Mints and Shiraz?” I happen to agree with him, it should be fun and I have zero problem with people slogging back Stella Rosa with their lasagna so long as they are happy. What irks the living shit out of me is people in an authoritative position, the people writing the articles, making shit up and forcing wine into places where it has no real function.  Maybe it is me…

So I turned to the ever knowing interwebs and did a quick Google search on food and wine pairing, holy shit! Lots to sort through so I felt very lucky to stumble upon a “Five Easy Tips” piece to food and wine pairing. 

    1)  Choose food and wine that taste great on their own. (Sage, this is sage advice and why they fuck didn’t I think of that? Here I was picking one thing that tasted good and one that tasted like shit…what a nincompoop I am)
  2)  When in doubt always follow #1 (Really? Only on #2 and we are already referring back to #1?) 
   3) Choose wine and food that complement each other. (Um, isn’t that sort of why I came here? To have you shed maybe a little light on that?) 
   4) Use contrast flavors to have a party in your mouth. (Anyone that says “party in your mouth” is a twat)
   5)  Keep it simple. (Yup, um hmm very useful that)

This. This kind of glib, loose and unreasonable junk is what is now passing as wine writing? Not sure how this is going to grow the wine business…in fact from the look on the skewer guy’s face he won’t be looking to wine professionals again anytime soon. My fault for picking that wine or the series of everything goes with wine articles that are trying to “bring it down” to the common folks fault? Are those articles bringing it down and making the idea more accessible or making wine and food pairing down-right stupid? I’m not saying don’t drink this with that, not my job or desire to yuck anyone’s yum but are we, as wine people/writers, doing those seeking our knowledge a service or a serious, and dangerous disservice by telling them “This goes with this” or that wine is always the right choice even when it doesn’t or isn’t? Got called a snob for asking that. As if me asking was looking down on people and those fakers making shit up, for the “un-informed”, aren’t being the very epitome of utter snobbery. “Oh, let me explain, in a language you might understand…like chicken wings. Oh and I can even scribble you a scratch and sniff if you need a visual aid” Where did these people come from and why the fuck should we take their advice?

Okay. Let me give ‘er a go…

 Bac'n Pieces- The texture and aggressive chemical smoke on this item, calls for something breakfasty, like Peach or Almond Champagne. Flip the plastic top, on both or all three and have a party in your mouth. 

These Vienna treats call for Gruner Veltliner. No other wine will do.

Well turkey dinner is a wine pairing nightmare. All the sweetness and complexity on the spoon can make one's head spin but tried and true classics like Nouveau Beaujolais and Zinfandel are just what the wine doctor ordered here...the latter having the added bonus of having 15% + alcohol content which also acts as a sleep aid.

Peppers can be a bitch as far as pairings go and add pickled to it, well now things are getting treacherous. Just gonna go with that chick on the can looks pissed so you had better get her something she really, really wants to drink, maybe a few shots of Reposado? Maybe she will forget why she wants to cut your heart out.

Easy, Muscat. Will induce vomiting which causes weight loss.

Who the fuck cares?! These are bacon wrapped hot dogs...the only thing as brilliant would be angel tears.

Caymus Special Select as the residual sugar is a perfect match for Green Flavor.

Duh, Champagne...preferably Boo Pecoche or Moet. (Sort of a cheater pairing) 

Jury is still out on these, just looking at them induced gagging but in a pinch maybe ChocoVine because if you are going to barf it might as well me coco scented? 

Now this is all about aromatics, as in your personal aromatics. Consider your signature scent when thinking about this pairing. Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and super botanical Gin is always a refreshing choice.  Have fun and experiment!

A good, even great writer is just that, a good or great writer doesn’t mean they know fuck all about wine. Let them edit your journal but maybe don’t let them be in charge of dictating what you put in your mouth! You just want to suck back wine with whatever you have on the table, dude, do it. I encourage any and all wine drinking but pounding a round wine in a square plate ain’t doing any of us any good and it sure as hell isn’t going to help prove or inspire the wondrous and possibly life changing moments that are the rare and breathtaking instances when you have that little sliver of this washed down with a winey splash of that. I guarantee, no Girl Scout Cookie, breakfast cereal or chicken wing pairing will ever unlock the magical gate to that secret garden.

Truth be told, those little palate staining, groan inducing bits of perfection are almost too much to take all the time. Just like we can't lock ourselves in a room and make love every second of each and every day, we can't and shouldn't be seeking perfection on the food and wine front, like every meal. We need to cherish them when we find them. Savor them and NOT reduce them to some bullshit game of Old Maid or Go Fish. The wines and all of us, we deserve better. 

Just freaking sayin'


Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
I hate it when you're funnier than me.

I loved the food and wine pairings here, except I didn't see anything that was actually food. I do have one further question. Is there a wine I should start cellaring now for when I'm on Ensure? And why don't TV dinners come with wine pairing suggestions? It doesn't really matter, since I suck 'em frozen, but just curious.

I am in complete agreement that "wine writers" who churn out that crap should be forced to actually eat and drink their stupid suggestions until they puke their hearts out.

Dammit, it's one of the things I forgot to include in my "Things Not to Post on Your Stupid Wine Blog" piece. But you've done it much better than I could have.

I love you, but fuck FaceBook.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
No one is funnier than you are Love and this was just me puking my heart out.

The writer that was doing the Buffalo chicken wings "article" actually tried to argue with me a bit about my objection to her post, "Facebook friends, what are your favorite wines for Buffalo chicken wings and no beer or cider" query. Her telling me her editor assigned her the article because "People want to read those things" but failed to respond when I asked her who she thinks is stuck trying to untangle the mess that those types of articles make. I mean, why not do an article on great beers and hard ciders for chicken wings? Do the consumer some actual good rather than send them out looking for sweet Riesling, because it is the only thing that didn't taste like hot garbage with the spicy wings...the beer would actually be a win. Idiot. Plus, I wonder how many of people that read that article, (if anyone does in fact) know that they pairings suggested by this "wine writer" are actually recommendations from her Facebook friends? I don't fault her writing, she's actually quite talented in that arena but doing stupid pairings shoots down her credibility, by like a lot. Of course she was the same one that defended the use of "Burgundian Grenache" so...maybe I just keep her in my feed to get me all riled up.

Okay, so now to your pairing questions, (sort of my gig now you know) for the frozen dinner, that's an easy one, Eiswein of course. Silly, For the Ensure I think i would help to know which flavor of milky chalk you are asking about, I mean if I am to use my powers for good I need ALL the information. So help me help you Baby.

I love you so!

Jenny Woolf said...

Wonderful piece. This could become a meme. I felt sick just looking at those pictures of that stuff. I can't believe people actually eat it.

My favourite wine is Oyster Bay, but I'm not a wine writer so I can't tell you why.

Samantha Dugan said...

Well welcome and thanks for taking the time to read my late night rant. Yeah it was pretty interesting going through the center of the grocery store for me. I don't do the majority of the grocery shopping at home, and when I do I go in for meat and produce, sometimes eggs and cheese. So that middle part, freaking unreal. It was sort of a ghetto store too so this isn't even the worst of it....they had like 4 aisles of frozen, pre-made food! Crazy to me.

I am a big fan of Sauvignon Blanc as a variety. I tend to drink them from the Loire Valley in France and some from California, like the Quivira. I adore them for their brightness, zingy acidity and mouth puckering tang, sort of like that Ron Washam guy above.

You don't need to know why you like them lady, just that you do. You ever want to have a foul pairing, just to see that there is such a thing, pair that Oyster Bay with some Roquefort blue...shudder. Man, talk about two great tasting things that ruin each other.
Thanks again for reading!

Unknown said...

I feel your pain. As bad as the pairing articles that are floating around the mediasphere have been recently, the sheer arrogance and condescension of the editor telling the writer "people want to read these articles" is what I found most retch inducing. That's the kind of bulls**t worldview that gives us stuff like the fuck-a-duck-and-teen-bride-family-values show and Faux Noise.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samantha Dugan said...

John My Dear Brother,
Yeah, I thought the same of the editor but the force with which this woman was arguing me let me know she was into it...but maybe a little ashamed that I called her out on it. If you are putting your name on something then you need to stand behind it, period. I know you as a man and you always do, same goes for me so I don't think we should give these hacks any sympathy. I know plenty of fantastic wine writers that never stooped to such stoopid. Nice to see you kid.

Thomas said...


John is correct. I don't write much for online editors because they usually don't want what I write--it isn't, I am told, "what people want to read."

According to online editors (most of whom weren't born until after I had gone bald) in place of information, they want a list of five or ten; in place of facts, they want gossip; in place of wine, they prefer bullshit, because the real story just isn't sexy.

So, while the "wine writers" may in fact be what you say they are, it's the editors who seek the shit that are to blame. But then, what can you expect from people who also refuse to pay for good writing--or any writing?

In this "information age," the first casualty has been information.

By the way, while in the Air Force, stationed in Greenland and confined to the barracks for three days during an arctic storm, I learned that the best pairing with K-rations was a complete bottle of anything with alcohol in it.

Unknown said...

That was really funny. Although I would have paired mainshevetz with the gefilte fish

Samantha Dugan said...

I was speaking of self publishers as much as any, like bloggers and the like. Or those Palate Press people...who reads that crap, I mean aside from other bloggers? I know not one of my customers do. Yes, I hold editors just as much to blame but where are the wine writers with integrity and that are willing to fight and resist the dumbing down?! Can you see Eric writing a piece on like Halloween Candy and wine pairings? I'm just so over it and I refuse to defend those hacks. If you are writing shit articles for no money, you are in fact part of the problem. I get offers from those sites all the time, "We would love to have you as a contributing writer" of course they offer to pay me with exposure....fuck you. I'll expose myself thank you very much, least that way I won't have to write "Margarine & Wine" pairing articles. Dammit, I am all riled up again! Pass me that bottle and a K-ration.

Oh come on, that's so old school. So traditional. Might have to revoke your hipster card for that suggestion....ohhhh, unless you were going for retro, which is totally hip. Nice to see you kid.

Thomas said...

Calm down, Sam. You are beginning to sound like me.

If I had taken advantage of all the exposure I was promised for free writing I could have a massive case of skin cancer but no money to pay for medical treatment!

Marcia Macomber said...

Bet you were ready to put the skewer right through that guy's head!

Loved your pairings. Totally trumped the chicken wings, scout cookies, etc.! I had the same reaction you did looked at the lady on the can of pickled peppers: They must be pretty dreadful; she seems pretty upset about them.

Ron stole the best line: The best of your pairings is that those things really aren't food.

I like the 'knickers in crunders' posts!

WineKnurd said...

Thomas once made a wine with Vouvray grapes. WineDoody said it was sexy and GV had a stroke on air. Which is why he doesn't make wine anymore.


Samantha Dugan said...

Was talking to a free lance writer yesterday and she is one of the rare ones that is NOT selling her soul and we had the same thing to say, "No thanks, I'll expose myself".

Long time no see lady! Ron always wins best line, always. Thanks for popping in.

Wine Knurd,
Well that clears everything up! Thanks.

WineKnurd said...

Hey Sam, as I was feeding my 3 month old daughter "rice mush" this morning I couldn't help but chuckle as I recalled your article and what wine I would pair with it. I think the weak, unoffensive, bland flavor of the dish is best served with similarly subtle wine, like the youngest possible vintage of Dominus.


Samantha Dugan said...

Well what self respecting parent wouldn't feed their 3 month old daughter a 100 point wine?! I mean, don't you love her and want to give her the very best?! Good thing they went and doubled the price, mid vintage, to slow down demand so you can still get her some! I think your pairing is spot on. Perfect.

Do Bianchi said...

permasmile... I know that feeling...