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Drinking With Purpose

August 27, 2022 Leave a comment

Drinking with purpose.

Okay, so what are we talking about here?

First of all, we are talking about wine. Usually, we drink wine for pleasure. Of course, sometimes people drink just for the buzz, to forget, to relax – there are many reasons why people use alcohol, but wine (I hope) stands a bit apart from the rest of the alcohol. Wine helps us to converse with friends, create memories, enhance our food experiences and simply derive pleasure from the simple moment of existence. Then what is this purpose I’m talking about?

Wine is the product of passion. At least this is how we, wine lovers, want to see it. Wine also enables passion. Not even passion, but passions. It solicits passions. Wine is surrounded by desire, obsession, exclusivity, mysticism, glamor, science, greed, mystery, art, and devotion, it evokes all of these and many other feelings and emotions. Wine allows everyone to find their own passion.

One such passion is collecting. Yes, some people are collecting the wine. In a lot of cases, they simply do this to feel superior to others, as they have something which other people want but can’t have. We can leave this aside, as this is a boring aspect of wine. Collecting unopened bottles is not the only thing to collect around wines.

The wine offers lots of artifacts. People collect unique bottles. People collect unique labels (hundreds of thousands of different wines are produced every year around the world – and many labels can change every year – think of an endless potential here). People collect champagne and sparkling wine bottle caps – this hobby even has an official name, placomusophilia. Peope collect corks and screwtops. I collect grapes and experiences.

Many, many, years ago I came across The Wine Century Club. No, you don’t have to be 100 years old or drink 100 years old wines. It is all about grapes. Anyone who tasted 100 different grapes (obviously, in wines) – don’t have to be individual grapes, blends are totally fine – is welcome to apply to become a member of the club. The application is honor-based (well, if you lie, your palate would be cursed forever – who would want to risk that), and you get the certificate sometime after you submit the application. Tasting the first 100 grapes was relatively easy. By the time I was done with the first 100, the club was already offering the 200 grapes level (Doppel), then 300 (Treble), 400 (Quattro), 500 (Pentavini), and now even 600 (Hexavin).

After I passed the 100 grapes level, hunting for the new grapes became an obsession, which I thoroughly documented on this very blog. I had friends reaching out and asking if I already had such and such grape. I spent countless hours looking for the grape information online, trying to figure out what grapes went into this particular wine from this particular vintage. Hunting down new grapes became drinking with purpose. I didn’t care if I would like the new wine or not – if it had the grapes I didn’t taste before, that was all I needed.

As I mentioned before, I collect not only grapes but also experiences. Wines are made in all of the 50 states in the USA. Wines are made at least in 60 countries around the world, maybe more. I have a personal goal to experience (read: taste) wines of all 50 states. I also would love to taste wines made in all the different countries around the world.

This is how I collect the grapes and experiences. And this is how drinking with purpose happens. A wine from the new state or a country – yes, please! The wine with new grapes? Yes, pretty please!

Recently, I managed to find a few wines with grapes I never had before. Not only that but one of the wines was made in the region which was new to me, so the two proverbial birds were killed with one stone – err, bottle. Here are the quick notes on these wines:

First, two wines from Eastern Europe. I never had the wines of Bosnia and Herzegovina, so this was a new country I was able to add to the list. Both wines were tasty, and Tikveš Belo was probably my favorite wine out of these 4. New grapes are marked in bold:

2015 Čitluk Winery Blatina Bosnia & Herzegovina (13% ABV,  100% Blatina)
Brickish red
Plums, dried fruits, medium intensity
Sour cherries, soft, round, medium body, good acidity, soft tannins
7+, not sure how it was stored. It is still nice, simple, and easy to drink, but probably on the decline.
8, on the second day. Interesting transformation – tertiary aromas are gone, plums, cherries and sage on the palate, nice, round, pleasant.

2020 Tikveš Belo Special Selection North Macedonia (11.5% ABV, Smederevka, Riesling, Marsanne, Roussanne)
A light greenish hue
A hint of gunflint, Whitestone fruit, medium intensity but very confident nose
Lemon, a hint of grass, salivating acidity.
8, this is a beautiful food wine, will compliment a wide range of foods.

It is my second time drinking Armenian wines. I was really looking forward to Yacoubian-Hobbs white, but the wines ended up being a disappointment. The Armenian red was quite drinkable. In any case, when you drink with a purpose, you don’t complain.

2018 Yacoubian-Hobbs Dry White Wine Aghavnadzor Vayots Dzor Armenia (14% ABV, blend of Voskehat, Khatuni, Qrdi, Garan Demak)
Golden color
Stewed fruit on the nose
The palate had some stewed plums, it was overwhelming and had no acidity. The wine was devoid of balance.
N/R, Maybe a bad bottle? Cork broke while I was opening the wine using a standard waiter corkscrew. But the wine didn’t seem oxidized, maybe heat damage?

2019 VinArdi Estate Blend Dry Red Wine Armenia (13.5% ABV, 40% Areni, 35% Haghtanak, 25% Milagh)
Dark Ruby red
Wild berries on the nose
Wild berries, dried herbs, medium+ body, good structure, good acidity, excellent balance.
8-, easy to drink

Now you know all about my wine obsessions. And I get to increase the counter you see on the top of the page from 561 to 567. Little by little…

By the way, there is no stopping in sight. While I’m trying to close on 600, there are people in The Wine Century Club discussing the 800 mark. Talk about obsessions… Enjoy your wine. Cheers!

Pleasures of Obscure: Enjoying the Journey

February 6, 2020 2 comments

Many moons ago I got bit by the bug of collecting the … grape experiences. Back in 2007 or so, I discovered The Wine Century Club. The word “century” here is used for its exact meaning – a 100. In order to become a member of the Wine Century Club, one has to fill up the application and specify how many grape varieties he or she had tried – as soon as you hit the 100, you can send the application to the designated email address, and your membership certificate will be mailed to you.

The club works on the complete honor system, but there is a legend that if you will lie on your application, your palate will be cursed forever – I don’t know if anyone tried to play the system, but I definitely don’t want my palate to be cursed, so I never tried.

When I started this blog back in 2010, I was at the 200 grapes level – so-called Doppel. I carefully documented my journey to the 300 mark (a Treble Member) under the category of Treble Journey. Since that time I managed to reach the 500 level (called Pentavini) back in February of 2016 (exactly 4 years ago) – and this was the last post on the subject of The Wine Century Club – however, I continued documenting my “rare grape” discoveries throughout the posts (that is yet another category in here), and I still hope to reach the 600 mark (called Hexavini) in my lifetime, even though the process became considerably slower at this point. There are more than 1,300 grapes used in the winemaking today, but it doesn’t mean that wines made out of those grapes are readily available, easy to find, and inexpensive.

While reaching the highest possible number of grapes tasted is the goal, my main joy is in the journey itself. There are multiple fun aspects of that journey. First, you get to drink unique and different wines. When taking a sip of Kharkuna or Prunelart, you have no preconceived notions. You can’t say “ohh, it doesn’t taste like Cabernet”, because it is not Cabernet. You now have to decide if you like or don’t like this specific wine in your glass – you have nothing to compare it to and be disappointed by comparison (“ohh, this $30 Cabernet tastes like crap compared to $20 bottle I had last week”) – you have to make a simple, binary decision – 1. I like it. 2. I don’t like it.

Secondly, you get to play a part of the wine sleuth – you need to find information about the grape, you need to find out if Ull de Liebre is a new grape for you, or if it is simply another name for Tempranillo, and you need to verify and compare your sources – lots and lots of fun, I’m telling you.

Ultimately, the list of grapes you tasted is yours and only yours, and you have to make some decisions – for example, will you count clones or not? Is Sangiovese Grosso the same as Sangiovese? Is Ink de Toro identical to Tempranillo, or should it be considered a different grape? What are you going to do about all of the Pinot Noir clones, which many producers, especially the ones in Oregon, love to tell you about? The journey of every grape geek is unique and different – and fun.

As I mentioned before, my last post on the subject of The Wine Century Club was 4 years ago. At that time, my “grape count” which you can see on the top of the blog, was standing at 518. During these four years, I managed to add another 37 varieties, now reaching the 555 total.

Here is another interesting tidbit for you. Only a month ago, I managed to finally complete the original (!) Wine Century Club table, by adding Arvine Grosso (original table, which you can find on the top of the page here,  had 184 varieties listed and had both Arvine and Petite Arvine) to the roster, so this was one of the triggers to this post.

I’m honestly not a hurry, I really enjoy this journey. I have another 3-4 wines made out of unique grape varieties, waiting to be open. Will I ever reach 600? I can’t tell. But I can tell you that I’m thoroughly enjoying each and every rare grape encounter – yes, you can call me a grape geek.

In case you are wondering, below is a full list of all 37 new rare grapes added to the collection over the past 4 years. Have you ever been bitten by the grape bug? Cheers!

Read more…

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