Vino & Veritas: Pouring pinot down the drain

BY DUNCAN CHAISANGUANTHUM

Michael:

Today’s grape, pinot noir, holds a reputation among winemakers for its fickleness. Other grapes such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and especially zinfandel, tend to produce consistent, reliably good wines. Pinot noir, on the other hand, can really vary from bottle to bottle and vintage to vintage. Personally, I have poured many bottles of pinot noir down the drain in my lifetime and, if you ever become a pinot devotee, so will you.

But do not let this detract you from buying and trying pinot noir. Great pinot noir can be exceptional. Wonderful ones I have enjoyed are highly drinkable, have seductive flavors like strawberry or raspberry, are often slightly sweet on the nose and mouth, and complement foods like game and duck marvelously. As a general rule, pinot noir tends to be lighter in color and body and less tannic than cabernet or merlot. Pinot noir also generally contains medium-to-high levels of acidity and similar levels of alcohol.

For the person initially trying pinot noir, I offer one piece of advice. Have a bottle of pinot noir the next time you are at a restaurant, particularly a French one. (If you are at a French restaurant, red Burgundy is wine made in the Burgundy region from the pinot noir grape. The French religiously classify wine by region and strictly condemn the practice of using anti-freeze in winemaking.) I make this point for two reasons. First, pinot noir goes exceptionally well with many different kinds of foods. I know one wine snob who believes that if you are ever at a dinner table and are selecting the bottle of wine to pair with everyone’s entree, your best bet is pinot noir. Secondly, the inconsistency in the quality of pinot noir should be controlled for somewhat by selecting a bottle that presumably has passed muster with the restaurateur.

1999 Givry 1er Cru Les Grand Prétons ($22): Speaking of wasting wine, we hope Duncan’s kitchen drain enjoyed this Burgundy more than we did. From initial whiff to finish, the wine was highly acidic and tart. Slightly tannic with hints of currant, leaves and sugar.

1999 Maya Sonoma Valley – Kunde Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir ($20): This bottle was much more enjoyable. A musty nose of citrus and tangerine flavors. On the palette, there were hints of strawberries and oranges. Initially sweet but finished bitterly.

Both wines were purchased at Harvard Provision Co. (NOT with a fake I.D.)

Duncan:

Since Mike took the opportunity last column to harp on an expression, “quarter of (some time o’clock),” which makes sense to everyone but him (I love ya, Mike, but it’s true), I have decided to seize the day and kvetch about mispronounced and misused words that make my skin crawl.

First and foremost is the mispronunciation of “nuclear.” Let’s all say it together: “NOO-KLEE-UR.” When President Bush says “NOOK-YOU-LUR,” I want to put my foot right through the television. Look at the word. There is only one “u” in it. Please do not add another.

Second, and only somewhat less annoying, is the common mispronunciation of “coupon.” The proper pronunciation is “KOO-PON,” not the vulgar “KYOO-PON.” I can think of no instance in the English language wherein the letters “cou” are pronounced “KYOO.” An automobile with two doors is a “KOOP,” not a “KYOOP.” Anyone ever heard of a “KYOO d’état?”

Third, never say “irregardless.” Rather, use “regardless” or “irrespective,” synonyms and fine words both. When you add the prefix “ir-” to “regardless” I believe you undo what you mean to say. Merriam-Webster online, however, disagrees and assures me that “irregardless” is indeed a word and is synonymous with “regardless” – but still counsels strongly against its use. Regardless, drop “irregardless.”

Fourth and finally, please be wary of the ubiquitously misused and sloppy “I could care less.” If you mean to say, “I don’t give two good hoots about X,” then say, “I couldn’t care less.” That contracted little “not” makes all the difference. If you insist on employing “I could care less,” then you’d better damn well qualify (or quantify) it. For instance: “I could care less, I suppose, but only about the Green Party.” A winning example, to be sure, but for blessed economy’s sake, stick with “I couldn’t care less.”

Of course, as regards the subject matter of this column, you probably couldn’t. Touché!

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