Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wine From A Fisherman

I walked the rows in my local liquor store, searching for my wine past. I was looking for labels that I cut my wine teeth on. Those old standards that might be still there taking up shelf space.


For Wine Blogging Wednesday.

The monthly themed wine tasting by the planet's wine bloggers is celebrating four years of internet exchange. Today's theme: go back to your past. Find the wine that turned you into a winophile.

I thought back as best as I am able and I kept coming back to Paul Masson Pinot Noir which I ordered with considerable gravity at the Cliff House in Bellingham, WA, slightly underage and awash in the approving gaze of my equally naive co-horts. If it was good enough for Orson Welles, it was good enough for us.

Then there was that big date when I was 16. Stuart Anderson's Black Angus on Robson in Vancouver. I was out with Roberta. We has a bottle of Mateus.

I had also drunk many swigs of bubbly "Duck" wines. But I didn't really care if they were wine or not.

I suppose I could count the bottle of '61 Chateau L'Arossee that I won in 1981 and drank in 1984.

(Interesting, woody, elegant, faded fruit) But that didn't rock my world.

The wine that ultimately lifted the top of my head was 1979 Puligny-Montrachet I drank in 1983. But that's not what this is about. As far as I am concerned, this is about the everyday wine you drank on a regular basis because you thought it was good wine.

Now to see if it actually still is good wine. Or, is it as bad as you may assume?

I chose Gustav Adolf Schmitt Fisherman Riesling. A 2006 Rheinhessen qualitatswein that is pretty close to all the fresh, accessible whites I started on. They were very affordable. Even today, this wine was only around $10. But, really, shouldn't it be Fisherperson?

This was the wine that showed me how wine could be marketed. In fact, it was a kind of viral marketing.

I was working at a new restaurant in Surrey, British Columbia. A national fast food chain wanted to break into the upscale sit-down market so they came up with this concept called the Haven that they plopped down into the mud and cow pastures and tract housing and car dealers and gas stations that was North Surrey.

A wine salesman came in and led us all through a how-to-taste and how-to-sell wine seminar just before the grand opening. Then he created an incentive plan to sell some wine.


I could name the guy but:

A) I might be wrong and

B) It's still illegal to run such a promotion as it was then.

Basically, he told the dozen or more assembled servers that every time they sold a case of Fisherman, we'd get a bottle, or something like that. The weekly winner would be even more richly rewarded. He told everyone, in the same room and at the same time and subtly suggested that better waiters would win.

Oh yeah!?

Well, we sold it, we drank it, we strategized with our bus crew.

On some nights, looking around the 300 seat restaurant, you'd think that was all we had.

"Yes, sir, prime rib is the special tonight. Very good, sir, rare it is. Might I suggest a bottle of Fisherman Riesling? Excellent with your chosen dish, sir. Goes well with the lady's poached sole, as well."

We'd be cruising our sections, glance over at the neighbouring server and up would come a hand (or two) to signal his running total.

'Six? Shit. It's only 7 o'clock. He's full of it.'

The competition was fierce, open-ended and rife with emotion. There was hell when the bartender ran out.

"Whadaya effing mean, Clyde? How can you be out? Go get some!"

When the competition ended there was a visceral let-down. What was fun about selling it when there was no competition? Truth was, we still sold it out of reflex and the fact we had trained the regulars to order it and, I think, they liked it.

So this year's version?

A sharp hint of sulphur that did not blow off but was not particularly off-putting. It diminished and allowed peach and apple aromas to emerge. There was a slight fuel/mint background to the nose. The palate had some tropical bits like pineapple and passion fruit. Not as much apple or stonefruit as I would have imagined. The acidity and slight sweetness were well balanced. I suspect some kind of mouthfeel manipulation because there was slight 'coating' sensation in the finish. As Wannabe Wino might say, it clocks in at 11% alcohol.

On my ground-breaking, innovative new 1,000 point rating system: I give it a 633.

Worth having again. Simple, better very cold, drink with food and don't let your wine friends see you. Like riding a moped or dating a .... never mind.

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