Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Hate Fortified Wines



I am heading back to San Francisco this week to spend a couple days with "fortified wines" for the never ending WSET Level 4.  These are not magnums of Night Train or Mad Dog, though I would understand why one would come to that conclusion.  Fortified wines are not exactly in fashion right now.  The only people that drink fortified wines are British sea captains and elderly pensioners that offer foggy remembrances of The Great War while staring off in the distance.  Fortified wines are ports, Madeiras, sherry, and fabulously obscure wines like Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.  That is exactly the sort of thing I would like to have a fit ordering at a restaurant which would have no chance of actually having it in stock.  This would be great to order at a restaurant that specializes in chicken wings.  "Excuse me?  Miss?  Can I have a glass of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise?  You don't know what that is?  Umm...  Look...  I really have a taste for a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, and if you don't come out from behind that bar with at least a decent quality Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, I am going to FREAK.  THE. FUCK. OUT.  I don't want a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise every day, but I do want a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise on this particular day.  How can I say this delicately?  I know...  You had better come up with my Muscat de Beaumes de Venise RIGHT FUCKING NOW!".

The key to this is that I will horribly mispronounce Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, maybe like "Moose Kat Dah Bew Mez Da Venice" said very slowly in an Appalachian twang.  It would be good if I was holding a pistol too.  No one would ever know that I had mispronounced it as there is no one in the United States that has ever actually encountered a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise before anyway.  It is sort of like one of those transparent deep sea fish with huge mandibles that exist in theory, but no one has ever seen.  If you do ever see it, you will poke it with a stick and say "Look at that thing.  Huh.  What is that?  It's a what?  A Muscat de Beaumes de Venise?  No shit.  You drink it?  Is it good?". The odds of me seeing one again after this weekend are almost none.  Unless some wiseass pours me one at the exam.

These fortified wines are interesting, though they are a complete relic to another age.  Take Madeira for example...  The last great era for Madeira was when the Founding Fathers decided to get lit up after writing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  Madeiras are made to last forever in horribly hot conditions, so a sweltering late 1700s Philadelphia summer wiped out the ability to preserve other wines that might be somewhat refreshing in the heat.  Therefore you had a bunch of guys in wool overcoats and wigs knocking back fortified wine in 88 degree humidity.  Not the ideal in my mind for a Madeira, but I suppose it would have been better than warm gin.  "Whew am I sweating my ass off in this wig!  Whattya say we walk over there in these shitty wooden shoes and have ourselves a nice big pull off that warm Madeira over there by Ben Franklin?".

I had a Madeira from 1787 once.  It is pretty amazing to have what is an agricultural product from a time when there was no such thing as powered ships.  To consume a grape from hundreds of years ago is incredible no matter how callous you are to things.  I have my doubts that people from 2325 are going to say, "I had a Dr. Pepper from 1997 once.  It was amazing.  You could almost taste the grunge rock in it.".  They used to make the Madeiras by throwing them in cask and then having ships sail around the globe with them in their holds, something in the combination of the heat and constant sway of the ocean making the wines even better.  That might be bullshit, but it would have been a fabulous sales line.

I am dreading working through the sherries.  Sherry is a wine everyone has heard of but no one actually drinks.  I ask everyone I know if they have ever known anyone that drank sherry.  I don't ask if they themselves have drunk sherry as this answer is obviously "no".  From what I have been able to gather, sherry is drunk by two primary consumers.  The first are widowed English women that pour themselves enormous glasses of this highly alcoholic wine in deference to their doctors that have told them they are allowed one (1) glass of wine a day.  Though they will consume enough alcohol as in a half bottle of Barbadian rum in that glass, they feel better about themselves with this system of their one (1) glass of sherry.  "Edith seems a bit tipsy out in the garden.  Are you sure she has only had one little glass of sherry?"  The other consumers are waxed mustache hipster bartender types.  There is nothing the waxed mustache crowd likes better than finding something old, obscure and so out of fashion than to be re-made as completely red hot and in fashion.  Giant wheel bikes.  Flintlock pistols.  Overalls.  Rye bourbon.  Harpoons.  Olde tymey banjo music.  Sherry.

I am pretty sure that 91% of all sherry produced in Spain is purchased back by government subsidy after the realization is made that there is no chance of it ever being sold through to consumers.  As the unemployment rate in Spain is something absurd like 40%, I would imagine that where they make sherry in southern Spain, that The Old Sherry Factory the only potential employer.  You can't shut it down.  "I am so proud of my sons.  Javier makes the sherry at the winery, and Ricardo drives the truck over to the river where they pour it out.  They are good boys."

I know that as we taste the 17 varieties of sherry this weekend there will be some guy at table near me with an ironic beard that will make a big to-do about how much he and his friends love sherry, especially before they listen to Eskimo folk music 78s at their restaurant in Brooklyn.  I have already braced myself for this and am ready to absorb it.  These WSET exams are all about being ready for any wild ass eventuality.  Some guys are into sherry.  They are filthy animals that probably also like candy corn.  As we know, real men are into Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.

The one thing I do like is port.  I started drinking port in my 20s as I thought it would be an annoying thing to know about.  (See: Sherry, Brooklyn hipsters)  I remember one night with my Uncle Jack Ford as we lurched around New York after our dinner at Windows On The World looking for a good bar to get a port in.  We finally found a place with old wood paneling, brass rails, and cranky bartenders.  I remember he told me about when he was in Nicaragua on "business" and his "co-workers" got machine gunned in the outhouses behind some rustic backwoods rum bar.  That's a good story, and one that should really be told between two men and a bottle of port.  I only regret we were not aboard a British Naval Vessel.

We will see what happens this week.  After trying 38 different spirits on my last trip, I was stunned to discover I liked certain rums, peated scotch, pisco and rye.  God only knows what I will discover an affinity for this week.  I just pray it isn't sherry as I don't want to have to grow an ironic mustache and learn to pedal a big wheeled bike from the 1800s or become a 1920's British sea captain.  In either case, the mustache wax costs alone would kill me.  

2 Comments:

At April 14, 2016 at 10:05:00 AM EDT , Blogger j said...

rye bourbon rules though its so good. im now mad that hipsters are ruining rye and driving the price up look what happened with pbr that shits expensive

 
At April 15, 2016 at 10:16:00 PM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

Most of that fancy "artisan rye" is actually made in an enormous factory in Indiana and then bottled somewhere else. Fact.

 

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