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What's new in iJamming!...
Thu, Dec 4, 2003
The 'Other' Cabernet Grape Takes Root In New York
Part 1: The Basics/Regions
Part 2: New York Wines
Part 3: Loire Wines
Part 4: Conclusions
Last of The Summer Rosês: Goats Do Roam, Vin Gris de Cigare and Rose of Virginia.
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured wine region 3:
Featured wine region 4:
Featured wine region 2:
The Geography
The Villages
Featured vine:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.

Now with updated reviews
Featured wine region 1:
Featured wine web site:
What wine fans and music devotees have in common.
Featured wino: TIMO MAAS
Featured party wine:
CLINE's Cotes d'Oakley
And how Cline does it
Featured wine web site: VIGNOBLES BRUNIER
The full iJamming! Contents
When I traveled to Sydney for the Millennium, it was primarily to see in the Millennium with my very best friends. But I made no secret of my intention to taste as many down-under wines while there as possible. When I returned from an overnight stay in the Hunter Valley carrying almost two dozen limited-production bottles (most of which made it home to New York in suitcases!), my life long friends Denise and Natalie, who enjoy their wine but don't pay excessive attention to it, seemed rather bemused by my new obsession. "So is this what happens when record collectors grow up?" they asked. "They move onto wine?"

I guess so. Since returning from Australia and further indulging my wine obsession to the point of cataloguing my cellar as meticulously as I once did my vinyl shelves, I've been adding up the reasons why wine collecting is just like record collecting. Though I've been doing so with tongue somewhat in cheek, it's also a genuine attempt to self-analyze what drives us obsessives. Most of my conclusions have been tried out on fellow grape-loving graduates from the school of seven-inch vinyl, and have met with approval and agreement. Let me know if you think of more.
1) Love of labels
A record label and a wine label are in essence just sheets of paper stuck to their product to provide necessary information. But they can be so much more than that. The great record companies - Sun, Motown, Def Jam, 2Tone and so on - have always had distinctive labels that could be recognized while revolving at 45rpm across a crowded house party; their consistent use of a template doubling as a guarantee of quality that encourages some music fans to buy anything on that label. Great wineries work in exactly the same fashion; I have become so familiar with the labels of my favorite producers that I can often spot what I want these days from the very center of a wine store. And while both wine label and record label must still provide important information, iconoclasts in both fields seize in this necessity an opportunity to challenge convention and express individuality. Stand up Randall Grahm; whatever DID happen to Dave Robinson?

2) Passion for Producers.
The same way a music devotee will happily spend hours discussing the tactics and techniques of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, Chinn and Chapman's glam rock factory, Fatboy Slim's remix Midas Touch or Steve Albini's deliberate obtusity, wine disciples quickly move beyond the label and the vintage to discuss and obsess over the producers themselves. Certainly, wine-makers with their own domaines or chateaus tend to be every bit as much the auteur as any artist Producer you care to name (they even autograph bottles at wine store tastings just as musicians do at record store appearances); like many working in dance musics, these trend-setters may be working on several projects at once, their name often appearing more prominently on the label than that of the varietal/vocalist - though, just as in music production, some ultimately prefer anonymity. And make no mistake: the most fanatical wine producers take the same risks as controversial music producers, sacrificing immediate popularity for 'art' that will stand the test of time. A newly-released bottle of Bernard Faurie's Hermitage is much like the latest Speedy J record; difficult to grasp at first attempt, it will no doubt be a whole lot more rewarding in a decade's time.

3) Elitism.
Admit it, whether you started out collecting baseball cards, stamps, comic books, coins, records or wine, one of the reason you did so was to say to your fellow enthusiast, "I have this and you don't." One-upmanship is a natural human (alright, male) instinct and it's pointless to fight it. And just as there isn't a single record collector who won't occasionally buy something just because it's got an individually numbered sleeve, so wine collectors are suckers for limited productions. I came back from my Hunter Valley trip particularly proud of my Château Pato Shiraz (120 cases, all produced, bottled and cellared in one barn by a mother-and-son team), and my Lake's Folly Cabernet Sauvignon (bottle #226, no less). Fortunately, these are both great wines to boot. At least they're meant to be. What I know for certain is that you'll never see them in the stores.

4) Knowledge of content.
It's cool to have a rare record by a good band; it's even cooler to have a good rare record by a good band. Similarly, it's one thing to possess a rare wine from a renowned producer, but it counts for a hell of a lot more if it comes from a good vintage. By this I mean, while the completist in me is happy to have a copy of 'Dogs' by The Who, I'm far more proud of owning the (more widely available) 'I Can See For Miles' mono 7", because it was a classic. And likewise, I may want to buy one of everything Domaine Les Gouberts in the southern Rhône produces, but I know full well that the 1996 and 97 vintages were not a patch on 1995 or 1998, and I'll spend and store accordingly.

5) Investment in one's obsession.
Many is the poor- by which I mean financially impoverished - record collector who has justified spending his rent money on that rare original Rough Trade Smiths single under the belief that it can always be resold for a profit. Wine fans who have moved onto the cellaring stage take similarly unproven comfort from the conviction that they're guaranteed a good return on their investment, even though gut instinct tells them they'd pay for their child's college fund a lot quicker if they just left the money in a savings account. It takes a lot of studying, listening, patience - and it especially requires good storage conditions - to ensure a collection doubles up as investment. But part of what drives collectors is the gambler's adrenalin as the roulette wheel spins - the HOPE that you've picked a winner.
The upside of occasionally paying too much for your hobby is, of course...

6) The love of a bargain.
Record collectors spend whole weekends at stoop/boot sales or record fairs, and entire seaside holidays in smokey second hand stores, in the hope of coming across a dusty but underpriced copy of 'Anarchy in the UK' on EMI. (Hey, it happened to Elvis Costello!) Similarly, wine enthusiasts can not walk down a high street - especially on a holiday - without popping into a local merchant praying to unearth an equally dusty and underpriced gem lurking at the back of the shelves. I live near a couple of wine stores that are not quite cool enough to know that they have the good stuff, but are just cool enough to stock it. I've walked out of one with decade-old vintage champagne at decade-old prices, and out of the other with a case full of a '98 Châteauneuf du-Pape that bigger stores sold out of months ago. In addition, wine buffs know that there are hundreds of wonderful wines out there at under ten bucks; whenever I see one of these gems at an even lower price than usual the only thing that stops me buying a case is the fact I don't actually need it. And often, even that doesn't stop me!

7) Paying too much attention to the critics.
You think musicians and their fans pay too much attention to reviews? You haven't met the wine world. There are far less publications in wine than in music, which gives each of them greater individual power than in the music world, on top of which, given that it's harder to taste a wine before buying it than it is to hear a record before purchasing, their word is taken much more seriously to begin with. A rave review in The Wine Spectator or the Wine Advocate not only sends those magazines' readers straight to the store, but the wine's producers quickly print up "shelf-markers" announcing their product's new status as a 'Best Bargain' or 'Cellar Selection,' and showing off their rating on the controversial 100-pt scale. What's interesting is that in both music and wine, fanatics claim to pay no attention to the critics, though the heated debates on web sites and bulletin boards reveals the exact opposite.

8) The need for accessories.
Record collectors spend small fortunes on cleaners, cartridges, amplifiers, and even gold speaker cable. Wine collectors are an equally sorry bunch. They need coasters, angled bottle holders, wine racks, new-fangled corkscrews and are increasingly given to purchasing different glasses for every varietal. It gets worse: the richest wine collectors buy refrigeration units that cost several thousand dollars to keep their 'investment' at a steady temperature. Then again, record collectors commission carpenters to manufacture heavy duty album shelves specifically to fit their bedrooms or basements. Consider it a competition in anal-retentive behavior!

9) The temptation to hoard.
I've known many a record collector buy a brilliant rarity at an affordable price and in mint condition. Do they then play the bloody thing? Not likely; that might damage its value. It's worse in the wine world, where millionaires buy cases of fabulous vintages with perfect provenance at auction only to hoard them in their cellar until such times as they decide to resell them for a profit. These speculators are little better than ticker scalpers or stock pickers and should be treated with similar disdain.
Fortunately, when all is said and done, there are still enough people out there who love their hobby for....

10) The sheer hedonistic thrill of it all.
There is nothing in the world like immersing your senses in something beautiful. Whether you're in the mood for a pop single and a party wine, or you wish to celebrate your birthday with a classic album and a vintage Bordeaux, music and wine not only tweak the senses like almost nothing else available to us, they make the perfect marriage. No wonder people move so effortlessly from the one obsession to the other.

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iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2000.
Randall Grahm: One of the first California 'Rhone Rangers,' whose infectious lunacy and devotion to "Producing wines and wine labels that will scintillate the sensibilities of the most jaded" has won his Boony Doon winery a fanatical cult following. Sample wine names: Grenache Village, Cardinal Zin. Sample label notes: "An unusual affinity for leather, chains, and confined spaces makes our Big House suspect in most gated communities."
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Dave Robinson: Founder of the now defunct Stiff Records, one of the premier independent labels around the British punk rock movement, whose slogan "If it ain't Stiff, it ain't worth a fuck" won loyalty previously unknown among record companies. Mind you, putting out records by Elvis Costello, Madness, The Damned and Ian Dury didn't hurt either.
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