Sunday, September 9, 2012

Remy Martin VS

Remy Martin hinted that this bottle contained quality, but the VS should have tipped me off that this would be the worst brandy I'd ever have the misfortune of drinking.

Today I am departing from my usual themes again and delving into the area of sub-mediocrity, because I think this is an important enough subject that the world needs to know about. The world has been at least half-decent to me and so I think I owe it to the world to share my knowledge. Simply put, this post is about bad taste and where you'll find it.

AVOID REMY MARTIN VS PETITE CHAMPAGNE COGNAC. Seriously. Most appallingly overpriced bottle of disappointment. It burned on its way down. The nose gave me nothing, the flavor lacked complexity and its finish was long and painful.

It took the temporary throne on top of the toilet in my bathroom for the poor soul that hated himself enough to drink what was left.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Problems With Product Labels

Today, I stray away from my theme of wine to return to something that is closer to the mediocrity of our society.

One of my favorite snacks is Triscuits. They're crunchy, taste real and go great with cheese. My favorite variety is "fire-roasted tomato and olive oil." My weekly (or so) trip to the supermarket usually involves the purchase of a box, so naturally I felt my routine violated when Hannoford was out of my fire-roasted tomato the other week. I begrudgingly settled for a box of "roasted garlic."

Kraft gives an unhelpful description of ingredients.
These tasted pretty good, admittedly, but my true disappointment is with the product labeling. The eyes are first drawn to the brand name, "Triscuit," and then the variety "Roasted Garlic," but then below that, where we might expect to see some details about the roasted garlic, we instead see the rather vague, "natural flavor with other natural flavor." To me this sounds like the stupidest, most lawyer-generated label I've ever encountered. Correct my semantics if I'm wrong, but "natural flavor with other natural flavor" means the same thing as "natural flavors." Is it vitally important that we specify that there are two distinct natural flavors here without actually specifying what they are? Literally any small change would have made this better; even: "natural flavor with other natural flavors" sounds better than [this flavor with this other flavor]. Kraft might as well have said "two natural flavors."

What's even more confusing about this are the flavors themselves. The official flavor is roasted garlic, which I thought was one flavor, so where are these two distinct natural flavors coming from!? Kraft lies! It's not roasted garlic, it's roasted garlic and something else! Wait, maybe roasted is the flavor. Is that even possible? Who knows, maybe in this day and age, word-engineering, food-engineering and legal-engineering have created "roasted," a distinct natural flavor of Triscuit.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Favorite Burgundy

In my last post I gave an introduction to French wines and specifically the region of Macon. Wines that come from the collection of villages in that region will display the name Macon-Villages on the bottle. While other regions in Burgundy will do the same, some will just list the major appellation of Burgundy or Bourgogne. This means that the grapes came from different parts of the greater region. Sometimes, if only Burgundy is mentioned, it can suggest a cheaper, lower quality wine, but not always. In fact, my favorite Burgundy is such a wine. This brings me to my next recommendation: "Les Setilles." This label might be difficult to read; as I recall the 2008 was completely in French. The producer is Olivier Laflaive and it runs about $20. It is full bodied, very smooth and rich, without many tannins, not very sweet and without much acidity. You could certainly enjoy this with a rich chicken or seafood dish, but it's definitely the kind of wine that you could really enjoy on its own. I think this is an amazing Chardonnay. I will emphasize, though, that some people prefer sharper, more acidic wines; this is not one of them, but I still think a lot of people will enjoy this wine regardless of preference. For the price, I would say it is a great buy and I highly recommend it. The vintage I fell in love with is the 2008. I've also seen the 2009 and 2010 in stores. Generally vintages within a couple years of each other are comparable. Give this a try and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Introduction to French Wines and the Burgundy Appellation

Since last Fall, I have made it a point to explore the wines of France. Although I've still been trying many different kinds of wines, I have put a particular focus on France. You will find that there are many a great deal to be had with European wines, but I think that sometimes Americans are scared away by the confusing labels. Most French wines do not list the grape on the label and many other European wines are made with grapes unknown to Americans. People understand California labels. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or Sonoma Chardonnay is familiar. With a French wine, you'd just have to know that Macon Villages means that it is going to be a Chardonnay, because Macon doesn't really grow any red grapes, and because it is located in Burgundy, or as the French say, Bourgogne, the white grape must be Chardonnay. It's actually more pertinent to know that Macon really tells you a lot more than that the grape is Chardonnay. We know that a Chardonnay is usually a full-bodied white, often oaky, but Macon produces some very nice light Chardonnays that go well with seafood, particularly lighter dishes that might be overpowered by a complex, full-bodied Chardonnay.

Burgundy is a small region, but very dense with vineyards, so very few vineyards produce their own wine. Instead, they sell the grapes to more respected producers that can efficiently produce and sell the wine. Likewise, it isn't too difficult to pick out good whites. I recommend Louis Jadot and George Debouf. I thought both were very good and I recommend them if you're interested in trying lighter Chardonnays than you're probably used to. As a note, I found the Louis Jadot to be a little lighter-bodied. I've also had a Nicolas Potel that I thought was good, but it surprised me in its strong oaky flavor, uncharacteristic of Macon Villages, and much closer to a mainstream Chadonnay. Though I have not tasted  Jean Thevenet or Bouchard Aine et Fils, they are generally considered respectable producers of the region.

The final Macon-Villages I will discuss was from Pouilly-Fuisse (yes, again we go deeper into the region). While Macon-Villages is a collection of villages, Pouilly-Fuisse is its own village, and is more respected than the rest and so it has garnered the right to have its label put on the bottle. I tasted a Joseph Drouhin, one of the better producers in Burgundy, that was definitely one of the better Chardonnays I have had. It had a full flavor and taste, but finished smooth and light. A great blend of oak and fruit flavors and an attractive aftertaste that won't overpower food.

I hope that gets you started on your exploration of France. Next time I'll talk about some other recommendations.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Posting again & the Sideways Pinot Noir

Well, it's been eight months now since my last post. I simply haven't had the time to dedicate to posting, what with being in school and all. But now I'm settled in to life this summer, which I'm spending in Michigan's greater Detroit area working for GE. One of the goals I had for this blog was to branch off from its theme of mediocrity. And that's just what this post will do.

I enjoy a good Pinot says Paul Giamatti's character Miles from Sideways. Throughout the movie, he returns to this theme of the Pinot Noir grape - how it's such a difficult, finicky grape to grow, but its captivating but subtle flavors truly shine when the winemaker puts in his knowledge and attention. The Pinot Noir truly is a difficult grape to grow, but that doesn't mean every bottle you find will be expensive.

You'd be hard pressed to find another subject that can vary so widely from ├╝ber snobbish to simply humble. When too many people think of wine, unless it's a box of Franzia, it's a venture into pretentious territorry. In movies and TV, I see it constantly. The affluent flaunt their wealth by buying the most expensive bottles of wine simply because they are told it is the best - wine spectator gives it a 98 or something. In my opinion they enjoy throwing around their money more than they do drinking the wine. They are flaunting their ignorance. It is because of many snobs that I take crap for talking about wine the way I do. I truly enjoy drinking, and for that reason I enjoy raving about it, just like Miles. Yes, maybe he gets snobbish at times, admittedly it's difficult to avoid altogether, but I do recognize his sincere enjoyment of wine. 

In my opinion it is not acceptable to buy a $300 bottle of wine unless you can explain why it is better than the $20 bottle. The price tag is not an answer. Yes, the more you pay the more likely you are to get a higher quality wine, but that does not mean that there are not very good inexpensive wines. The other issue I have is when people buy really cheap wine because they think that decent wine is expensive. Not true. It's not worth it in my opinion to buy a $5 bottle of something that's complete shit when you can buy a good bottle for only a couple dollars more. Good wine can be very accessible, you just have to know what to look for. 

This brings me to my recommendation. Mirassou Pinot noir is one of the best values on the market today. I have paid as little as $7 and at most $11 for it. It is a good red by any standard, even up against many top rated wines, and excellent for the price. 

I consult many a list on good wine deals. Not all are good, but many are. Some may surprise you. The Mirassou certainly did. As I continue blogging I will uncover more of these gems for you. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Iced Tea (synergistic principles don't always apply to drinks)

A common theme that I've noticed with this whole tasting mediocrity endeavor is that the initial mediocre taste has never made me want to stop consuming. In fact, it's always been a feeling of reluctance mixed with curiosity.

I had another experience recently at the Bahama Breeze restaurant at the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey. I usually prefer my iced tea unsweetened, although sometimes I decide to be adventurous. I saw this flavor: Pomegranate Green Tea, one of the most unusual blends I'd ever seen, but I liked pomegranate juice and I liked green tea, so why not? I remembered that I had the republic of Tea's Blackberry Sage before; the uniquely-shaped bottle isn't easy to forget. I enjoyed that tea quite a lot. It was also unusual, but the blend was very well done.

I screwed off the cap of this pom infusion and took a sip. I didn't know how to react. I set the bottle back down on the table and paused for a minute. Then, I took another sip. Its flavor was captivating, but not in a particularly enjoyable way.

It was like tasting a dry Gin. When the liquid splashes against your tongue it feels as though there's nothing there, but your senses still capture the aroma. Well, it was like that, except quite opposite. The liquid was there alright, but the aroma sure wasn't. In fact, the flavor was quite bland. You would think that pomegranate green tea would be incredibly complex, but it wasn't, and I have a theory that will blow your mind. It was too complex. Yes, TOO complex. Congrats, Republic of Tea. You just took two very complex flavors, and I am sure a helluva lot of artificial, produced-in-a-lab flavors and created something that was just overly complex. The plethora of flavors combined into one robust scent of superb benignity. Yet, continuing with the theme of the blog, it was not terrible.

Maybe it was the slight sympathy I felt for the Replublic of Tea for trying so hard to make something wonderful (and failing miserably) that has prevented this drink from falling below mediocre on my scale. Maybe it's the never-before-experienced flavor, albeit not that good of one, that has me at the back of the crowd giving a golf clap for this bizarre concoction. So I say, give this drink a try. It will amaze you, but it sure won't leave you begging for more.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Cookie

Never before had I experienced a snack food that truly reveled in its mediocrity. The cookie was a Pepperidge Farm Soft Baked Captiva. Although I believe Pepperidge Farm intended the cookie to captivate me in a whirl of dark chocolate brownie bliss, the only thing that captivated me was its mediocrity. When I took the first bite I was a little surprised that it didn't taste as good as the other Pepperidge Farm cookies, but it didn't taste bad either. I couldn't describe any more and so I took another bite. Now at this point if it had been a bad cookie, anyone with any sense of taste or smell would have thrown the cookie away (yes I do have an excellent palate). But it wasn't a bad cookie. It certainly wasn't any good though. I'm not sure what it was, but the cookie began to grow on me. It's possible that deep down I actually liked the cookie, but I think it's more likely that it was such a curious feeling that I wanted to experience it some more. And so, I downed the cookie, relishing the mediocre flavor.

Now, I should probably give a little more background to this story. The cookies had actually been sitting in the back of my friend's Volvo for quite a while. Maybe it was the magic of the leather, early springtime sun and Swedish engineering, but I doubt Pepperidge Farm is capable of making the quintessential mediocre cookie. I mean, they're good, but they're not that good.