The Friday Report: Good year for Fraser whine |

The Friday Report: Good year for Fraser whine

Jon DeVos
Staff Photo |

For a few years, my younger brother and I overlapped at Arizona State where we cultivated our appreciation for fine wines. We crafted some amazing vintages ourselves during our time there.

To become a successful vintner, one only needs a few hundred acres of land located in a temperate clime, rich in clay and calcium with a mix of dark slate and quartzite left over from Paleolithic times. The land should sit above a bed of free-draining sandstone or limestone to allow the grape’s aggressive roots to dig 50 feet down into bedrock to find water and nutrients. A hillside in the south of France overlooking the Riviera would be perfect.

Well, we didn’t have that, so we boosted a couple of empty five-gallon carboy jugs off the back of an Olson’s Water truck and sprung some of our parent’s college savings on a case of No-Name Frozen Concentrated Grape Juice. We added water and split the mix into the jugs, tossed in sugar and yeast and stretched a balloon over the neck of each jug. It takes a pretty big balloon but you could use any similar thing you might find in a fraternity. For instance, we used a … well; actually, a balloon works fine.

Brothers Ernest & Julio Gallo said, “We’ll serve no wine before it’s time.” Brothers Jim and Jon de Vos said, “That time is when the balloon pops!” This usually took a couple of weeks which was coincidentally about the time it took us to consume the previous vintage. Our undergrad neighborhood critics effused praise, declaring it to be the finest decanting of the most exquisite grape of the year, which is exactly the same review they awarded last month’s batch.

Man has been drinking fermented fruit juice for more than 9,000 years. It was clearly for the intoxication because the concoction tasted terrible. Exposure to air quickly oxidized the wine into vinegar but people choked it down anyway, often wrecking the family horse on the way home.

The Journal of Wine Economics analyzed over 6,000 blind tastings. The results were clear: If the judges didn’t know what they were drinking, they preferred cheap stompings to high-priced squeezings. Even practiced palates picked the more expensive wine only half the time, matching the flip of a coin. When the price of the wine was casually displayed, their pick turned heavily to the “good stuff.”

You like Pinot? It takes a bunch of food coloring to get that rich, smoky, oaky, buttery flavor that aficionados are searching for. Otherwise why would they consistently choose the dyed Pinot over the natural color?

An oenophile (rhymes with “weenie pile”) is an experienced wine drinker who’s a couple of steps away from the gutter. Oenophiles describe wine with adjectives too obscure to sip, saying things at parties like, “Why can’t a person find a powerful mouthfeel Zin with a constructed, mid-fruit palate and an earthy, red-brick finish for under 20 bucks a glass?”

Jörn Kleinhans, owner of the Wine Elite Sommelier says, “For most consumers, it is hard to justify spending a large amount of money on wine.”

Don’t be put off by the fact that dirt and ground shark bladders are used to clarify most wines. Product labels are supposed to tell you what’s in them. But wineries don’t have to list many ingredients routinely found in their products, such as clay and ground crab shells, both heavily used in wine processing. Sweeteners, oak powders, sulfites, dyes, flavorings, and preservatives are regularly added, but seldom noted on the label.

And about that label: Last week one of the world’s most elite wine dealers, 37-year-old Rudy Kurniawan, got thrown in the slammer for 10 years and fined nearly 50 million bucks for selling cheap wine with forged labels. Somebody called him on it when they noticed a misspelled French word on one of his laserjet masterpieces at auction where his lot of 78 bottles was going for $700,000.

Hopefully they only clarify wine with bladders from sharks that had a happy life.

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