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The Punk Sommelier

Andrew Shernoff

[Editor's note: This is an unedited version of the column that originally ran in the 25th anniversary issue of Punk Magazine.]

It's been awhile between issues of Punk but a lot has happened in those few short months. The Ramones broke up; Johnny Thunders died, St. Mark's Place has became a punk rock mall and yours truly; the "Christopher Columbus of Punk" has become the "Punk Sommelier". I know you're probably thinking, "WHAT'S UP WITH THAT!! Wine isn't punk! Punk is throwing up on yourself from cheap beer. Wine is about pretense, ostentation and affection." .....Well you are absolutely right vomit breath!! ......But let me tell you something, the world has changed, It's punk 2000!!! ......rock and roll is dead and we all need some new pretentious balloons to prick. I look at it this way......

Music Business 1975 = Wine Business 2001

I approach the wine industry today with the same irreverence and passion I approached the music business back in the 70's. I said cut the crap then, and I say cut the crap now. In the 70's, it was pompous rock bands doing 20 minute drum solos that annoyed me and today it's some snooty know-it-all trying to intimidate you in a trendy fern-restaurant. Well it's a new morning people and you are either part of the problem or you are part of the solution. The punk sommelier manifesto.....Wine should be discussed in a language anybody can understand and wine should be affordable. But if you remember anything from this column remember this......

Price is not necessarily related to quality

Price is related to quality and demand. Once a wine starts getting popular the price will rise, but for most of your casual drinking you should be able to find an adequate bottle of wine in a store for under $20. And there are dozens of great choices in the $10 price range. One of my goals is to convince you to experiment, to dig a little deeper, it's the only way to discover where your tastes lie. Think of it this way......I discovered Muddy Waters after I heard The Rolling Stones and you probably never heard the Ramones until after you heard Green Day. If the only wine you drink is Rosemount Shiraz or Kendall Jackson Chardonnay you are the equivalent of a Creed fan about to discover Styx. I pity the fool. You can get the same pleasure discovering great wine as you currently get discovering great music and the research is way more fun. Here are a few ideas:

Interesting and reasonably priced white wines:

Albarino (the best white wine from Spain)
Fiano d'Avellino (from southern Italy)
Montagny, Pouilly Fuisse & St. Veran, Chardonnays from France)
Anything from Alsace in France

Interesting and reasonably priced red wines:

Barbera and Dolcetto (from Northern Italy)
Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno (from central Italy)
Salice Salentino (from Southern Italy)
Lirac, Vacquyras or Cotes du Rhone-Villages (from the Rhone Valley in France)
Anything from the Languedoc/Roussillon region (Southern France)

I'm often asked, what is the best wine?......That is a ridiculous question because there can be no best wine, only the most appropriate wine. And let me fine tune that even further by saying the most appropriate wine for your particular palate. A 1990 Chateau Petrus (a very expensive Bordeaux) would be exquisite with a rack of lamb but I'd rather have a $12 Dolcetto from Italy with a juicy hamburger. Now you can call me a uncultured barbarian, but on most days I actually prefer hamburger over lamb. And that's the point, wine should be for everyday consumption not just the special occasion.

There are a lot of factors involved in how you appreciate wine and the mind is a subtle but powerful influence. I've seen Masters of Wine describe the wine they think they are tasting rather than the wine they actually are tasting. The palate is a subjective instrument, so even though we may be tasting the same wine, we might interpret it differently and use different terms to describe it. Another important factor is the environment. A bottle of wine that tastes luxurious in a restaurant overlooking the Riviera could taste thin in a bar on Avenue B. That's right, you heard it here first, a good view makes wine taste better. But there is nothing more important for the enjoyment of wine than food. Wine without food is like sex without love. Alright, so sex without love ain't all that bad, but you know what I'm saying; trust your own palate...then shut up and drink!!!