Have wine scores gotten out of control, with higher numbers across the board? Are we oversimplifying wine when we talk and write about it? Is it possible to determine your wine taste by taking an online quiz that asks you about coffee, tea and other things you consume? And should you trust the algorithm that recommends wine to you based on your quiz results?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Paul K, host of the podcast Wine Talks with Paul K.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
One of you is going to win a personally signed copy of Rex Pickett’s novel, Sideways, which was also made into a hit movie, as well as a bottle of Sideways Pinot Noir.
How to Win
All you need to do is comment on one of these posts before 7 pm EDT on April 21st:
I’ll select the winner randomly from those who participate. You get a bonus entry for every wine-loving friend you tag and if you re-share this post in your stories.
- What was Paul surprised to learn about Sideways from his interview with Rex Pickett?
- How did President Eisenhower inspire Paul’s father’s love for wine?
- How was Paul’s family connected to The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976?
- What led Paul’s father to the innovative idea to send wine through the mail?
- Why did Paul decide to join the family business?
- Which 15th-century piece of art inspired the Original Wine Club of the Month logo?
- How does Paul score wine differently?
- What type of conversations does Paul have on his podcast?
- Why shouldn’t you use online quizzes to select your wines?
- What do you miss by relying on algorithms to choose wine for you?
- How did Paul become fascinated with Burgundy wines?
- Why are grapes and wine deeply expressive of where they’re from?
- Which wine gadgets does Paul use and love?
- What should you be aware of when using a Coravin?
- Which wine gadgets should you be wary of?
- Why does Paul believe you shouldn’t try to simplify wine?
- Paul’s right that wine scores have got out of hand, with grade inflation across the board. I like the way he approaches tasting wines – it’s much more grounded for wine drinkers, especially when he factors in the price of the wine.
- I agree with Paul that there’s something so ethereal, so magical about the grape, among all agricultural products, that it does take you home, that can say this is who we are.
- To that end, I think there’s been an oversimplification of wine, as he says. It’s worth learning about. We don’t need to make it intimidating, but we do need to acknowledge its wonderful complexity and diversity.
Start The Conversation: Click Below to Share These Wine Tips
It’s impossible for there to be an algorithm – based on five questions – that’s going to profile your wine. - Paul K Click to tweet
What is it about the grape, amongst other agricultural products, that’s so ethereal, that takes you home, that takes you to the ground. - Paul K Click to tweet
Wine is the only product that we put on a dinner party table that’s still in its original packaging. We’re not keeping the stickers on the apples. - Natalie MacLean Click to tweet
I don’t see the value of trying to make wine simple because it’s not simple. It’s a complicated subject. - Paul K Click to tweet
About Paul Kalemkiarian
Paul Kalemkiarian is the host of the podcast Wine Talks with Paul K on which he interviews wine industry royalty as well as Michelin starred chefs. He’s also the owner of America’s oldest wine club, the Original Wine of the Month Club. His expertise in the wine industry spans over 30 years. His father invented the idea of wine in the mail in 1972 and they have been serving wine enthusiasts ever since.
- Connect with Paul K
- Wine Talks with Paul Kalemkiarian | Crazy good conversation with RAW wine founder and Master Of Wine Isabelle Legeron
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 85: How Did the Mega-Hit Movie Sideways Change Pinot Noir (and Merlot)? with Rex Pickett
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 37: From Champagne to Napa Valley: Wine Stories with Tilar Mazzeo
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 122: Wine, the White House & Presidential Pours with Washington Post Publisher, Fred Ryan Part 1
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 123: Wine, Politics and Diplomatic Entertaining with Washington Post Publisher, Fred Ryan – Part 2
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 39: Do Wine Scores Matter? Bloomberg Columnist Elin McCoy on Robert Parker
- My new class The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner And How To Fix Them Forever
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- Sign up for my free online wine video class where I’ll walk you through The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
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Paul K 0:00
But what is it about the grape, amongst other agricultural products, that’s so ethereal, that takes you home, that takes you to the ground. You don’t feel that way with pineapples or apricots, or wheat, but you do with wine. And there was a young lady in Armenia; her name was Juliana Del Aguila, and she said, What other product can you put in your suitcase, travel halfway around the world, put it on the table and say, “This is who we are”, that would be so expressive of where it’s from, you know, can’t be a widget, right? Can’t be a carrot. But it’s wine.
Natalie MacLean 0:35
It’s true. And it’s the only product that we put on a dinner party table that’s still in its original packaging. We’re not keeping the stickers on the apples.
Paul K 0:44
That’s a good point.
Natalie MacLean 0:45
Yeah, it is expressive of the land and the culture and everything else.
Natalie MacLean 0:55
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please and let’s get started!
Welcome to Episode 125. Have wine scores gotten out of control with higher numbers across the board? Are we oversimplifying wine when we talk and write about it? Is it possible to determine your wine tastes by taking one of those online quizzes that asks you about coffee, tea and other things you consume? And should you trust the algorithm that then recommends wine to you based on your quiz results?
Our guest this week has answers for you on all of those questions, plus some great wine tips and stories. And I’ve got a bonus for you in addition to this podcast. I’d love for you to join me for the première watch party of the video for this conversation that I’ll be live streaming for the very first time on Zoom, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube tonight at 7pm. Eastern. I’ll include a link where you can sign up for the Zoom tasting for free in the show notes. The video will show you the pictures and other visual elements that we discuss in this podcast. I’ll also be jumping into the comments sections on all four platforms as we watch it together so that I can answer your questions in real time. It’s like the Netflix version of the podcast! Plus you get to talk to me and ask me questions as we watch it together and you can see what other people thought of this conversation and answers to their questions. I want to let you know that you can also win a personally signed copy of Rex Picketts’ novel Sideways that was also made into a hit movie, as well as a bottle of Sideways Pinot Noir. All you have to do is comment on the social media post that I create about this contest. Just pick your favourite platform, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, and comment on my post before 7pm tonight. In the show notes you’ll find a link to these posts, the full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class, and where you can find me on Zoom, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at Nataliemaclean.com/125.
Now on a personal note before we dive into the show, you may have heard that William Amos, a Canadian Member of Parliament, was caught buck naked on Zoom during a virtual meeting of the House of Commons while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was taking questions recently. So I found this so inspiring, that I’m quitting pants. Yes, pants and I are going our separate ways. It’s been a good relationship. It’s one right now that I feel is too constricting. Especially with yet another lockdown. But don’t worry, I’m not going to go all willy nilly on our next Zoom or Facebook Live video show. I still love my yoga sweats and shorts. Okay, on with the show!
Natalie MacLean 4:44
I’m going to share some photos now. I’m going to start with the Sideways book.
Paul K. 4:50
Natalie MacLean 4:52
Here we go. So if you’re listening or watching this, you can win a copy. This is what Paul has generously donated for those of you who want to participate. It’s a personally signed book of Rex Picketts book Sideways plus a bottle of Sideways Pinot Noir. Paul, is that made at the winery that was featured in the movie?
Paul K 5:13
No it actually is made in Chile
Natalie Maclean 5:16
Speaking of costs, let’s keep it real.
Paul K 5:19
You know, he’s a character. He’s on the podcast. He lives in Southern California. I went to his house, sat with him in his living room. So I hadn’t seen the movie for a long time and I had never read the book actually. I read it for the podcast and I said, I read the first 10 pages and I put the book down, and I go; “This is not a novel. This is a personal memoir.” So the first question I asked him after we got through the introduction was, I sense this was about you. He goes, exactly. That’s what my life was. I was a down and out writer. I’d go to the local tasting bar late in the afternoon when everybody left but the wines were still open and I’d share the wine with the bartender and we start taking trips up to Santa Ynez. I made no money on the movie. The hotel is now called the Sideways hotel. The Hitching Post restaurant is slammed, you can’t get in. Those guys made all the money in this project.
Natalie Maclean 6:12
So plight of writers.
Paul K 5:19
Yeah, he did a play and then he went to Chile and made this wine; it’s very good. And I think he has a Sauvignon Blanc coming out now. And he’s written another book called Vertical. So not Sideways, but Vertical. And it’s about the second part of his life. It’s about a writer who hit a big on a movie.
Natalie MacLean 6:33
Oh, that’s great life; mirrors art or art mirrors life. I interviewed him a while back. He was kind enough to endorse my first book, Red, White and Drunk all over. But I told him his third book, you’ve got Sideways , you’ve got Vertical; you should go to Australia next and call it down under.
Paul K 6:47
Oh, clever. That’s really clever.
Natalie MacLean 6:49
He said, “I’m going to use that.” Okay, fine. But again, folks, you could win this. All you have to do is pick your social media, your favourite social media, Facebook, or Instagram or LinkedIn or Twitter and tag me. Just share a bottle that you’ve enjoyed lately. Alright. Let’s look at some more pictures. Paul. This is your father? All right. And maybe tell us a little bit about him. And obviously he’s tasting through?
Paul K 7:14
Well, my dad’s from Cairo, Egypt. He came here in 1949. He was a student in pharmacy at USC and his love of wine started in 1959 when he read an article about President Eisenhower serving American wine to Queen Elizabeth during her trip. It wasn’t a state dinner; it was a lunch. But Eisenhower was the first president to pour wine, American wine, out of the White House. Lyndon Johnson was the first to pour it at a state dinner and he poured the same wine: a Charles Krug Special Select Cabernet. These pictures are funny because one Christmas gift, my dad, I guess he was taking pictures for a brochure, and they’re all really, really stupid. But he did a collage of them. And that’s one of the collage pictures. I reproduced those pictures of myself in a recent photo shoot, and I’m going to give the same gift back to him. He’s 92 now, sharp as ever and still discusses wine with me. We discuss regions of the world. His stories are fascinating, particularly through the Judgement of Paris years, and the beginnings of Weissenfeld (?) and things like that.
Natalie MacLean 8:15
So Judgement of Paris. That’s that 1976 blind tasting where California and French go head to head and are judged by French critics blind, right?
Paul K 8:21
Natalie MacLean 8:24
And so how did that impact your father?
Paul K 8:27
Well, I tell you, so we have some pretty bizarre peripheral connections. For one, the winery that won the whites, the Burgundy that beat the French Chardonnays, was Chateau Montelena. Well, Jim Barrett was our neighbour, frequented the store all the time, I served with one of the sons, Bo Barrett was in my brother’s class in high school. You know, we weren’t close but we were definitely associated back then. As well. Patricia Gallagher, the woman whose idea it was to have a tasting of American wines in Paris, her sister live in Palos Verdes. Her sister and my dad, were very close in the business world of Palos Verdes. I just learned this recently when I was talking to Patricia on the phone. My dad used to travel to Napa all the time. He’d been to Warren Winiarski’s winery many times. In the early days Warren Winiarski actually stayed at my house. I can’t believe this; I’m talking to my Dad, maybe a year ago. He goes, “Oh yeah, Warren when he came to LA and he had no place to stay, he slept in your brother’s room.” I’m like,” What are you talking about?”
Natalie MacLean 9:24
A legend of California winemaking? Oh, my goodness. You should make a shrine to that in that bedroom
Paul K 9:30
Yeah, right; or something.
Natalie Maclean 9:32
Oh, that’s great.
Paul K 9:33
That’s another picture from the same tasting. I don’t know what he thought he was doing in these pictures, I really don’t.
Natalie Maclean 9:38
He was tasting through the club. What gave him that idea to send wine through the mail? Tthat was pretty innovative in 1972.
Paul K 9:45
It is. Being a retailer most of his career, he just got tired of the hours. That’s actually the store we’re going to paint behind me here. That display right there in that picture is one of the first sort of displays of the wines of the month for that month. That happens to be LA Times best something wines. But people left Palos Verdes, who had been picking up that monthly selection, just walking in the store and they’d left and moved out of town. There were a lot of aerospace engineers, and executives that lived in Palos Verdes. When they their jobs moved, they would go and they just told my dad to start shipping the wines. Back then, who cared! UPS would drive up, they’d through the boxes on it, he wrote that on a piece of paper, didn’t matter where it was going. You could throw 200 boxes on and manifest 150, nobody cared. And that’s how it started. So when he decided to get out of retail, and he still had this list of customers that we’re expecting to get wines, he opened a little wine distribution hub. There was a shop there and in 1988, he was a little tired. He had been doing it for a few years. And he asked if I was interested in joining him. And I thought you know, I could check this out. I’m been hanging around it a lot my life anyway; I was stocking the shelves back in the day. So I worked for him for three months, and we had a great time and one day we went to a tasting. It was a Bordeaux tasting; about 25 Bordeaux, we were separated. We were not next to each other. We went back to separate rooms. And he told me the scale 1,2,3S so I said okay. So we got in the car and we compare the 25 wines, we only were different on two of the wines. And he says, I think you’re ready to do this. So I’ll tell you my first two selections ever were Bella Oaks, the Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon and Dick Sanfords Pinot Noir . So I mean,
Natalie MacLean 11:32
Oh, nice choices.
Paul K 11:33
Natalie MacLean 11:34
Paul K 11:36
Low risk decisions to make but at least I made them
Natalie MacLean 11:40
Absolutely. A picture of you. I can see you’re having fun here is this. Where is this?
Paul K 11:45
Yeah, so this is a stage shot at our warehouse. We have a 12,000 square foot warehouse here, in Monrovia, that’s actually the overstock rack where the wines with less than a case are put on the shelf for sale. We do have a store here. We have a tasting room as well; hasn’t been open for months. So we had a little fun we; we had some fun pictures that day
Natalie MacLean 12:03
Yeah, I don’t know if this is another one of them. These cases, what’s in those?
Paul K 12:14
That’s our logo. What it is, actually, it’s a woodcut from the 15th century. It’s a German woodcut. And they did it, it was a set of panels from the picking of the grapes to the tasting of the wine, and that’s the tasting of the wine. So we adopted that as our logo. I found the book the other day, actually.
Natalie MacLean 12:31
Oh, yeah. The book. Oh, yeah.
Paul K 12:33
The book where we found that original drawing,
Natalie MacLean 12:35
I think, I think, it’s here. There. Is it this one?
Paul K 12:39
Yeah, that’s it. Essentially, that picture. That’s great. So that’s one of the three panels from a 15th century German woodcut and my jacket, of course,
Natalie MacLean 12:49
Enter jacket, is this your special tasting jacket?
Paul K 12:52
My wife, every time we go shopping, and I grab one of these bizarre jackets, she shakes her head at me.
Natalie MacLean 12:59
It’s great. Looks like you should have a cigar as well or something. So let me just go back here. What are you reading, wines of the Rhône? Oh, that’s Parker. Yeah. And what do you think of Parker and his influence on scores? And what’s your take on all that?
Paul K 13:13
Well, he was the original, you know, humble score. What do I say score giver? Is that a real word? You know, he did it without advertising. He did it for the love of the grape. I think it was 70 something he started. And so I’ve always respected his scores. The latest slew of scorekeeping; it can be summarised with the image when you walk into a supermarket in America, every single wine has a shelf talker, a little tag that hangs in front of the bottle with their sale price and some kind of score.
Natalie MacLean 13:47
Right. And most of them are over 90 these days.
Paul K 13:50
Yeah, they’re just big numbers. And I actually, when I score wines on my newsletter, I have an asterisk next to the score, the bottom, it says the score because there they are in the 90s. But it’s because this is a 98 amongst other $20 Cabernets. It’s so people, who wait you gave it a 98 but you know, Wine Spectator gave that 82. I’m like, well, but I’m not doing it like the Spectatator, I’m doing it amongst its peers. So how do you make a decision as a consumer, you walk into the market, and every scores got a 90 Plus, and then you taste it and say its not very good. So I think that whole scoring thing has just gotten a little out of hand, and highlighted by the following scenario, when there was a wine that came from a broker that I thought was very good. And not everybody submits their wines to the scoring systems, you know, it’s a lot of effort, you have to do it way in advance, and you know, people that make wine may not want to bother. So this wine was really good. And I just wanted to know if there was a score, I don’t care if they have scores, but I’d like to know if they do. And she says no, but do you want one, I go “What do you mean?” She goes “I can get you a score”. Is that all it takes? So she was going to call an MW or the master Somm and have him write a score. If that’s all it takes then what’s the value?
Yeah, exactly. Wow. Buyer beware
Paul K 15:05
Natalie MacLean 15:06
There you are with the podcast. That’s a great set. How long have you been doing the podcast?
Paul K 15:11
I think we have 100 plus episodes. I’ve been doing wine videos for 15 years, probably. There’s some pretty rudimentary things out on YouTube. But I’ve done 70 or 80 podcasts and you know, where we have a studio shot like this. There’s probably over 100 podcasts on online because I used to do 12 minute tastings. So a winemaker came to town; we stand by at a bar, and we taste their wines. And those were 12 to 15 minutes. And so those are all around; don’t know many of those, at least 100
Natalie MacLean 15:45
Wow,let me just see. I think I’ve gone through most of the pictures that are here. Who’s this?
Paul K 15:50
That’s Bo Barrett.
Natalie MacLean 15:51
Oh, okay. Wow
Paul K 15:53
From Chateau Montelena, yeah, we had a great chat. You know, you mentioned in one of your emails to me, like this is just a conversation, we’re just having fun. Well, this is a guy who, we grew up in the same neighbourhood, we went to the same high school, his dad and my dad, were friends. In fact, he said when they, I can’t remember when they won the Judgement of Paris, the the father left the law practice to go full time with the winery; I can’t remember which episode it was. He says, we had a bottle of Chassagne-Montrachet. I’m sure my dad bought it from your Dad’s store. So that’s pretty cool.
Natalie MacLean 16:26
Great, small town memories, that’s awesome. So you’ve mentioned this elsewhere, that there are some websites that will give you this survey, like do you like black coffee or coffee with cream in it, and therefore you’ll like Cabernets that are tannic? What’s your take on those kind of taste surveys to curate wines for somebody?
Paul K 16:44
Well, I think you probably know the answer to that
Natalie MacLean 16:46
I want to hear it from you.
Paul K 16:49
It’s horse hockey. It’s impossible for there to be an algorithm based on those five questions that’s going to profile your wines. And I’ll give you a couple of reasons why. And then another question like, why would you want that? Why would you want somebody to send you wines that they think you’re going to like in the sense of they fit your palate, rather than send you wines that are good examples of what they should be to expand your palate, right. So you’re sort of narrowing your palate by doing that. But it’s impossible, for instance, for an algorithm to know that a wine like the Canary Islands exists. So how’s it going to know to find it for you? But on the other hand, if you walk into your favourite wine shop, you said, What do you have that’s interesting, that has character like this, that I’ve never tasted. And they go “Come over here, this is a Canary Island wine, or this is from the base of the volcanic mountain in Puglia or this is, you know, Umbria. The other example of that same scenario; in Umbria, in Italy, they are growing ancient varietals now. They’re finding the DNA of these grapes that hadn’t been used for years, hundreds of years in wine, and they’re planting vineyards around them. They’re making extraordinary wines, I mean, complex, interesting things. That AI algorithm would never know that they exist, it’s impossible. And the interpretation, because, you know, you and I are going to taste a wine together, and we’re going to have an adult conversation about what we tasted and may not jive.
Natalie Maclean 18:13
Paul K 18:13
So what does that mean? What is AI thinking? How’s the AI interpreting what I think? What I think versus what you think? Right?
Natalie MacLean 18:20
Yeah, I have to agree with that. And I find those questions uni-dimensional. So black coffee, there’s obviously bitterness, you add cream or you soften the bitterness but there’s more to wine than just that element of bitterness. There’s how much fruitiness do you like, how much acidity do you like, you know, it’s a confluence of taste factors
Paul K 18:38
the weight, the finish, the acid, the character, but I think the most important thing was that, and I think I forgot who it was, another winemaker that told me this, like, why would you want that? Why would you want somebody to send you this stuff?
Natalie MacLean 18:48
The same stuff?
Paul K 18:49
The things it thinks you’re going to like?
Natalie MacLean 18:50
Well, it’s kind of like social media where many people are starting to tune in to just views that reinforce their own. And so you get this narrowing of opinion, but also narrowing of taste, which is not a good thing.
Paul K 19:02
It’s a really good point. It’s really good point.
Natalie MacLean 19:04
So is there something about wine that you believe that people would disagree with you about it?
Paul K 19:11
Wow. Tell you what. You listen to the podcast I did with Isabel Legeron. She’s the raw wine promoter. She’s in London. She’s an MW and she didn’t agree with anything I said. So it was a fascinating podcast. We differed on our opinions and some simple things but
Natalie MacLean 19:35
What were the main points of
Paul K 19:36
I’m trying to remember exactly what she was doing. But I just remember my sound engineer was like, she didn’t agree with anything you said. The raw movement is really about most basic of winemaking, like just absolutely nothing,
Natalie MacLean 19:51
No intervention. It’s even more or less interventionist than natural wines, isn’t it?
Paul K 19:56
Yes, yes, if natural wine exists. And to avoid your question; so the reason I met her was the author of the Hôtel on Place Vendôme, which is about the liberation of Paris through the eyes of the Ritz Hotel and the occupation of Paris.
Natalie MacLean 20:11
Is that Tilar Mazzeo?
Paul K 20:14
Yeah. So she was a raw wine maker until COVID hit and to the extent where she doesn’t disgorge her sparkling wine, so when you buy her sparkling wine, you get all this yeast crap floating in it.
Natalie MacLean 20:24
That’s a sludge.
Paul K 20:25
I never had a chance to taste it. But I was fascinated by the idea. That’s how I got a hold of Isabel Legeron. It was her group
Natalie MacLean 20:31
Tilar is a BC winemaker, right?
Paul K 20:33
Yeah. She’s on Vancouver Island.
Natalie MacLean 20:34
I’ll have to see if I get some of those wines. Anyway.
Paul K 20:38
She had 300 cases left over. They closed the doors.
Natalie MacLean 20:42
Oh, oh, that’s too bad. Do you mean they’ve shut down permanently?
Paul K 20:46
Natalie MacLean 20:48
Oh, dear, sorry to hear that. Well, Tilar has written some great books like the one on Veuve Clicquot. I interviewed her about that one, but not the Vendôme. Right. So okay, I’ll have to look up Isabel.
Paul K 21:00
Bright ,bright. MW.
Natalie MacLean 21:02
Hmm. Okay. Sounds interesting. Is there a wine that you consider a guilty pleasure?
Paul K 21:08
Yeah. My fascination now is to dissect Burgundy. And they’re expensive. And so it’s an expensive hobby. But when I tasted the wine at the French Laundry, and I started to curate for this customer, it exposed me to the idiosyncrasies and nuances of great Burgundy,
Natalie MacLean 21:29
Both the reds and whites?
Paul K 21:31
Natalie MacLean 21:32
Paul K 21:33
though I’ve had some amazing Chablis Grand Crus that were really fabulous. But there’s something ethereal about the monks in Burgundy. And if I was asked the question, how did these guys figure out with no technology, that two hectares across the street from these other two hectares are completely different places for what they grow? And the value of those wines. It is something that I’ve asked this question a thousand times and never got an answer because no one knows the answer, because there is no answer. But what is it about the grape amongst other agricultural products that’s so ethereal, that takes you home, that takes you to the ground? You don’t feel that way with pineapples, or apricots, or wheat, but you do with wine. And there was a young lady in Armenia; her name was Juliana Del Aguila, and she said, What other product can you put in your suitcase, travel halfway around the world, put it on the table and say, “This is who we are”, that would be so expressive of where it’s from, you know, can’t be a widget, right? Can’t be a carrot. But it’s wine.
Natalie MacLean 22:39
It’s true. And it’s the only product that we put on a dinner party table that’s still in its original packaging. We’re not keeping the stickers on the apple.
Paul K 22:44
That’s a good point.
Natalie MacLean 22:46
Yeah, it is expressive of the land and the culture and everything else. I just interviewed Fred Ryan, Wine in the White House, and that was what John F. Kennedy was after and all the Presidents, trying to display American art and culture, the best of American civilization and wine became a very much a part of that. You mentioned Eisenhower’s and then I guess Lyndon Johnson, but anyway, very true. So just in the homestretch here, Paul, thank you. This is terrific. Do you have, like a favourite wine gadget that you’d recommend to people, like something that’s essential? I mean, of course, a corkscrew, but is there anything else you’ve come across?
Paul K 23:27
So that was a very timely question. I did a TV spot years ago, in San Francisco, on aerators. They have value. People always ask that question. Are they more valuable than like a decanter with a nice fat bottom where there’s lots of oxygen getting into the wine? I don’t know. I just had to compare them. But I’ve done my own experiments with those things. I’ve took three bottles of Chardonnay, I gassed one with the nitrogen, I vacuum pumped one; and one I did nothing to, and one I did both to; I filled it with gas and then I vacuum pumped; that actually did the best. But last night when I couldn’t sleep, like normal, I actually ordered like, two in the morning, I ordered this thing that that showed up on my search, called rRepour. It’s a cork that you put in a bottle of open wine and it draws the oxygen out like a filter. Oh, and it says that it lasts two to three weeks. Now you’ve seen this Coravin. Distributors are using it all the time
Natalie MacLean 24:23
Yes, the needle goes through the cork. What are the weaknesses of the Coravin?
Paul K 24:27
Well, it doesn’t do well once the bottle is half empty.
Natalie MacLean 24:31
Ah, there’s too much oxygen in there?
Paul K 24:34
Yeah, I think it just can’t replace it all. So it doesn’t do well that way. So usually when the vendor brings me a wine, and we use the Coravin, if it has an off character, and the bottles weren’t half, he opens a fresh one. So that kind of defeats the whole purpose to
Natalie MacLean 24:47
Good to know
Paul K 24:48
But real little cans of nitrogen, one’s called Private Preserve, one’s called Fresh Works.
Natalie MacLean 24:51
I use those
Paul K 24:52
Yeah, that works very well. In the old days, and I have a bag here somewhere we literally sold marbles at my dad’s shop. So he would sterilise the marbles and if you didn’t finish the wine, you’d plop them into the bottle and the wine would come back up to the regular.
Natalie MacLean 25:11
I love it; that’s brilliant!
Paul K 25:13
And I went and ordered marbles online to see if I could recreate it, there was one device and you can’t find it anymore. And it’s really sad because it was very good. It was called the Wine Wizard. And the problem with it was packaging. It was like a blister pack on a liquor store wall. And what it was, was 2 opposing magnets, anything that had oak ageing in it, it would change, it would smooth out. It would work for the cheapest bourbon you could find, it would work with any oak aged wine. Put it on the top, pour through it. It was phenomenal. The poor thing just suffered from bad packaging and bad marketing and it died a slow death. I still have two or three at my house and I still use them because they really just soften some, you know, edgy wines.
Natalie MacLean 25:56
Maybe you can find it on eBay or something.
Paul K 25:59
The Wine Wizard, the Bev Wizard, I’m sorry. But I think people should decant, I think they should use some kind of aerator and pourer. It will change things, and in advance them a little bit if they’re little young and a little rough.
Natalie MacLean 26:12
Yeah, I always compare it to, like decanting doesn’t replace cellaring, decanting is kind of like heating something up in the microwave. It helps get to where the wine should be quicker, but there’s nothing that replaces slow cooking or whatever, the cellar, but going back to that thing, you said, the cork report?
Paul K 26:32
Natalie MacLean 26:33
How does that work? Like you’ve opened the bottle, you’ve got half left, you put this cork in the top and it’s sucking out the air?
Paul K 26:40
Yeah. That’s what it says. It’s good for; So here I am in bed, 2 in the morning with phone, trying to order a sample pack so I can test this thing. It sounded interesting. You know, you see gadgets all the time, there was one just before this from Australia, this was the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. And what it was a plastic disc, not unlike this one. You could stick a prong and it would go into the bottle and it would float on top of the wine. So their premise was, if this is floating on the wine, then there was no oxygen to get into that wine. And of course, if you tried to pour it out of the thing it just got stuck, I mean, it was really, I can’t believe that somebody spent the money to design and try to market this thing. Haven’t seen it since. But I try them all. If I get sample I try them. On my database, the database I have where I keep all my wines there was actually a database written for sale, it was never sold, it was the beta test, I’ve actually got 50,000 wines on there now.
Natalie MacLean 27:40
Wow. Wow. Well, I’m on the hunt for these solutions. I’m so glad you brought it up. Because anytime I do a tasting, say online, the number one objection is; it’s just the two of us here, it’s COVID, how do I preserve you, you want us to open four bottles. So I’ve been looking for all of these tricks in these devices. The other one I heard is save a half bottle of wine, keep it clean and then pour the contents into that half bottle and seal it again.
Paul K 28:08
That’s one of the old school ways to do it and its good
Natalie MacLean 28:11
It reduces the oxygen
Paul K 28:14
Or buy a Cruvinet(https://www.cruvinetsys.com), you know those fancy Cruvinets
Natalie MacLean 28:16
Cruvinet? What’s that?
Paul K 28:17
That’s the device that restaurants have where the wind is still chilled and you’ve just got a spigot.
Natalie MacLean 28:23
Right. Okay. And there’s Enomatic 2, something like that. Yeah,
Paul K 28:28
Yeah, that’s backfilling with argon. You know, when they bottle wine, they fill it with argon first, they purge it with argon. It takes about two seconds. And then the ullage is now gas instead of air.
Natalie MacLean 28:40
Alright, that gap between the cork and the wine once filled. Interesting. I didn’t know they did that, the argon fill first at the bottling and then the wine. Okay, cool.
Paul K 28:50
I saw the spiders get out of the bottles. We’ve had that, it’s like the worm the Mezcal. We’ve had spiders and stuff
Natalie MacLean 28:58
Really. Okay. So Paul, is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to cover now? I’m going to also ask you where we can find your club online and that sort of thing. But are there any other topics that we haven’t covered? Things you’d like to mention?
Paul K 29:18
Well, you know, I say this all the time as I think it’s important for listeners to hear. Because there’s a lot of bloggers and a lot of wine people who want to take the intimidation out of wine, we’re going to simplify wine. It’s not simple. This goes back to Isabel. She did not agree with me on this. But I don’t see the value of trying to make it simple because it’s not simple. It’s a complicated subject. You don’t need to be intimidated by it because everybody has more to learn. I have more to learn, you have more to learn, Emmanuel Kemiji, the Master Sommelier, who makes wine in Spain. He said, I went to Corti Brothers in Sacramento and Darrell Corti pulls out, one of the famous merchants of all time, pulls out a bottle of Armenian wine and he says to me now I got to learn about Armenian wine as a Master Somm because that’s my job. But I got to compete against it because the wines are so good value. So he’s a guy who studied this, got the highest value certificate you can get, and he’s still saying, I get to learn more. So don’t be intimidated by it, and learn as much as you want to learn. If you just want a good glass of wine, that’s great. Figure out which ones are the ones you like and stick with that or find a good curator and try other things that are the same calibre but if you want to understand Burgundy, like I’m trying to do now, great, there’s plenty of resources but don’t be intimidated by the fact that you’re not doing that. Because the value of it is strictly academic. The experience of a glass of wine is the experience of a glass of wine, it should make you feel something, it should root you somewhere, it should not be a buzz. You know, it is a buzz a little bit, I guess, but it’s not why you should be doing it; it is to shut down the at the end of the day, it is to experience some conversation with some friends, it is to have a whole new, like you say when like my customers text me from Italy, when they’re in front of the Parthenon, they say Okay, Can you get me this wine. I’m like, Yeah, but it’s not going to taste the same.
Natalie MacLean 31:06
Right. That’s true
Paul K 31:08
Wine is an experience.
Natalie MacLean 31:10
It is indeed and talking about it has been a great experience with you, Paul.
Paul K 31:15
Natalie MacLean 31:15
Absolutely. This has been great. So you said you know, keep learning about wine. Of course, one of the ways to do that is to listen to your podcast Wine Talks with Paul K. I assume you’re on all of the places where you can get podcasts like Apple and Spotify and all the rest. Okay, cool. All right,
Paul K 31:31
Pandora, iHeartRADIO, Stitcher,
Natalie MacLean 31:33
All of those places. Great. And then your wine club. Remind us again, the name of it, and the URL where we can find it.
Paul K 31:41
The URL is wine of the Month Club.com. The original, when you land there you’ll see my picture. I hope that looks good to everybody. And the way we’ve been running the show lately, because we’re learning that the customers want to be granular in their approach, they want to see things that are particularly, maybe regionally specific, or varietally specific, a certain grape. So I have three price sensitive clubs where you get two bottles for so much money. And then I have a whole bunch of special clubs like Napa, Bordeaux, Pinot, Sweet, Rosé, which is a hot product, you know, hot commodity right now. And every one of those goes through the same process. And it’s the same guarantee, which is you never pay for wine you don’t like. If I fail to meet your expectations, we’re going to fix it.
Natalie MacLean 32:25
Sounds like a good guarantee to me. Now you just have to branch into Canada.
Paul K 32:30
Yeah, well, we tried, we tried, really tried.
Natalie MacLean 32:33
I know we’re tough, we’re tough. You’d think there was a wall here or something but there’s not. But we have lots of us folks who listen to the podcast and who join us every Wednesday to watch the video. So they’ll all be able to take advantage of what you offer. Paul, thank you so much. I appreciate this. And I wish you all the best. And I’m looking forward to kind of turning the tables and chatting with you on your podcast.
Paul K 32:57
Likewise, I look forward to it. Thank you for the time; its morning here; late morning for you. But we’ll see you soon.
Natalie MacLean 33:04
Absolutely. Thanks so much, Paul
Paul K 33:06
Natalie MacLean 33:06
Natalie MacLean 33:13
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed part two of my chat with Paul K. Here are my takeaways.
Number one, Paul’s right that wine scores have gotten out of hand, with grade inflation across the board. I like the way he approaches tasting wines – it’s much more grounded for wine drinkers, and especially when he factors in the price of the wine.
Number two, I agree with Paul that there’s something so ethereal, so magical about the grape, among all agricultural products, that it does take you home, that it can say this is who we are.
And three, to that end, I think there’s been an oversimplification of wine, as Paul says. It’s worth learning about. We don’t need to make it intimidating, but we do need to acknowledge its wonderful complexity and diversity.
Just a reminder, you can win a signed copy of Rex Picketts novel Sideways , as well as a bottle of Sideways Pinot Noir, if you comment on the social media post I created about the contest. Just pick your favourite platform, Insta, Facebook or Twitter and comment on the post before 7pm tonight. I’ll select the winner randomly from those who participate and you get a bonus entry for every wine loving friend you tag or if you reshare the post in your stories. In the show notes, you’ll find a link to these posts, a full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class, and where you can find me on Zoom, Insta, Facebook and YouTube, Live on video every Wednesday at 7pm including this evening and next week. That’s all in the show notes at Nataliemaclean.com/125.
You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Devin Parr, who is named one of Wine Enthusiasts magazine’s top 40 under 40 tastemakers. We discuss clean wines and whether you should try them. If social media influencers impact the wine you drink, and if you’ve ever worried about drinking a little too much wine, we talk about that too. She joins us from her home in Southern California. In the meantime, if you missed Episode 39, go back and take a listen. I chat with Bloomberg wine columnist Elin McCoy about wine scores and the influence of the critic Robert Parker. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Elin McCoy 35:42
One of my favourite comments from a review of my book was that it was a story about power and how you get power and how you keep power. I think it’s very illustrative of that. I actually was very happy about with that review, because I felt that at the bottom, that was what my book was about.
Natalie MacLean 35:59
Yeah. The bigger theme.
Elin McCoy 36:02
A bigger theme is power, not just wine, but also I felt that it was very American. The kind of story that people like in America. You know, somebody comes out of nowhere.
Natalie MacLean 36:22
Rags to riches, like an E. L. Doctorow story like Ellis Island to fame.
Elin McCoy 36:27
Yes, this is an American mythos, if you will, the idea that you can come out of nowhere and by sheer dint of hard work and smarts and all these things, you can triumph and somehow Parker’s story resonated with a lot of people.
Natalie MacLean 36:50
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wine tips that Paul shared. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your class this week.
Natalie MacLean 37:13
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full bodied bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NataliemacLean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers!