Monday, June 21, 2021

Dan Berger: All the Same?

 Shortly after I began writing a wine column in 1976, a friend teased me about my avocation.

    We were journalists working at the Associated Press, and he probably didn't mean to be disparaging when he said, "All red wines taste the same." Not a very journalistic approach.

    Since I had never known him to take even a sip of wine, I assumed that he reflected millions of others who had the same observation, which was they never saw much difference between any of the red wines to which they had been exposed. 

    I didn't think much about the remark at the time, though I found it naive. But he may have been right. In 1976, many of the wines were homogenous. There probably wasn't an awful lot of difference between the numerous varietals to which we were all exposed.

    By the mid-1980s, as wine quality began to improve markedly, I began to see major differences between cabernet, zinfandel, pinot noir, petite sirah and many European wines from districts that previously had only been rumors, such as Cahors, Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley and Tuscany.

    My friend's remark made an impact in one way: I began to seek terms that separated each of the different grape varieties. I wondered how each fared in different regions of the world.

    His remark made me realize that someone who wasn't paying attention might easily draw the same conclusion. And it became evident that the distinctive aromas and flavors found in one grape variety differed from those in other grapes. 

Sure, there were similarities between a winery's cabernet and that same property's merlot, but it was occasionally evident that that particular house dictated the style of both and liked those similarities.

    I also knew that subtle differences may matter for wine lovers, but I saw esoteric distinctions as inappropriate for a newspaper wine column. To keep things simple, I ignored geeky explanations and focused more on issues directly related to how people purchase wine. 

     Inexpensive wine's main responsibility is to taste good. The more we pay for a wine, the more distinctive it should be, I believed. At upper echelons, cabernet and merlot should have unique elements. Indeed, winemakers and growers now know that, ideally, they shouldn't be grown in exactly the same locations, but in places better suited to maximize each variety's best attributes.

    Cabernet, for example, prefers warmth and, at its best, has traces of dried herbs in its aromatic signature -- sage, thyme, even tarragon. Once many also displayed traces of bell peppers, but in later years, that element was disparaged by some wine critics who felt it to be inappropriate.

    By contrast, merlot prefers slightly cooler climes and has more black olive, green tea and leafy aromas.

    Contrast that to the strawberry of pinot noir, the earthiness of shiraz, the gooseberry-lime of sauvignon blanc or the gardenia-carnation of gewurztraminer. 

    Over time, I developed terms for each grape variety, and although they often didn't describe the exact aromas or tastes, they allowed me to make distinctions about how closely each wine came to its theoretical paradigm.

 But a varietal glossary wouldn't work because each region has its own unique expression for each grape variety. This changes from year to year, giving meaning to the notion that vintages differ. Nor do two adjacent vineyards always make similar wines. 

    Today, I'd never agree that all red wines taste the same, though high-alcohol reds can be alike. Many 15%-16% alcohol wines can have an almost raisinlike aroma. The best expressions of varietal character often show up in lower-alcohol wines of about 13%. A few are far less than that.

    Wine of the Week: 2019 Clean Slate Riesling, Mosel ($12): The classic lime, tropical fruit, pear-tangerine aromas in this German white wine help to define this grape alluringly. Recently, drier versions of riesling have found a great following worldwide, and some of the best now command prices from $50 to $150 a bottle. This delightful, slightly sweet riesling has a prototypical aroma, only 10.5% alcohol and is a delight to sip on a warm patio.  

To find out more about Dan Berger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at


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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS