If you’re a geek, you probably like to think. Conventions annoy you. New things intrigue you. Puzzles beg to be solved. If you’re a geek, you might reward experimentation, loathe limits and have a soft spot for the uninhibited, the unexpected and the unexplored.
So when a geek wants to close her laptop and open a good bottle of wine, what’s something she could really go for?
I’ve been getting into wine lately — I like how it puts demands on all my senses — and ended up debating this very question with a guy named Jameson Fink. Fink, who’s worked eight years in the wine service industry, writes a celebrated wine blog and chats with newsmakers regularly on his Wine Without Worry podcast.
We thought we’d have some fun with it. So on Tuesday I met Fink at Bottlehouse, where he works, for an impromptu tasting at the rustic restaurant and wine shop. Four wines, four appeals to geekiness and the perspective of a special guest who knows a lot about both geeks and wine — Eric Levine, founder of Cellar Tracker, the popular online wine hub.
Here are the bottles Fink picked for the tasting and what’s behind their geek cred:
2012 Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini (Santorini, Greece)
Why it’s geeky: It didn’t take no for an answer.
Wine is made from grapes. Everyone knows that. But if crazy wind and weather on the Greek island of Santorino would make grapes fly off the vines, do you pack it up and move somewhere else? Not if you’re Sigalas. The winery weaves its vines into protective baskets to keep them safe from the island’s wild weather. Fink mistook them for shrubs when he visited last year. “It’s a unique wine, grown in a unique way,” he said. Plus, it’s a problem solver. If this wine could code, I bet you’d want it on debug duty.
How it tastes: “It’s not shy,” Levine said after a swirl and a swallow. Mouthwatering with a burst of citrus, it makes you “pucker up up your mouth in a good way,” Fink added. Levine immediately wanted to pair it with a Greek salad. Also: This wine evolves. Get two bottles — one for now, one to drink in a year.
2012 Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Bianco Sicilia IGT (Sicily, Italy)
Why it’s geeky: It’s a puzzle created by a prodigy.
“So. Why’d you pick this one?” I asked Fink, swirling my glass. “Smell it and you’ll see,” Levin said. More floral than a bouquet, this wine is challenging, interesting, smart. And like some of the most compelling tech products, it carries the aura of its young, visionary creator. Arianna Occhipinti made her first wine at 24 and is leading a new generation of great winemakers. Neither Fink nor Levine has met her, but “everyone who has met her is utterly charmed,” Fink said. “You think of the stereotype, white wines are supposed to be refreshing. But this one demands to be thought about.”
How it tastes: The active ingredient here is a grape called Moscato. “Peaches and mandarin oranges just blast out of the glass,” Levine wrote in his tasting notes. The floral smell, or “nose,” impressed all three of us. And Levine even got a bit of road tar or pine resin — funky elements that add complexity to conventional notes.
2011 Weingut Willi Bründlmayer Zweigelt (Austria)
Why it’s geeky: It’s big — literally — and unexpected.
Most all bottles of wine are 750 milliliters. This one is 1 liter. Go big or go home, right? The screwcap bottle is another shrugging defiance of convention. “There’s something in that that appeals to me,” Fink said. This wine’s got more to go around, and it’s not your standard Austrian fare. If you drink an Austrian wine, it’s probably a white one made from the Grüner Veltliner grape. To Fink, reds like this are an underappreciated treat.
How it tastes: The word here is earthy, particularly on the nose. “It’s more dirt and stem meets juicy strawberry,” Levine observed. But fruit flavors — “boisterous,” Levine called them — dance their dance on the palate.
2011 Domaine Piron-Lameloise Moulin a Vent Vieilles Vignes (Beaujolais)
Why it’s geeky: It’s the underdog.
A wine maker named Georges Duboeuf put the Beaujolais region of France on the map with Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine that’s become such a Thanksgiving phenomenon — released the third Thursday of November every year — that it came to dominate the whole region. But there are ten “Crus” in the northern half of the region that make a different kind of wine, and venturers off the beaten path won’t be disappointed. “Cru Beaujolais gets swept under the rug because people don’t explore beyond Beaujolais Nouveau,” Fink said. “Within something that’s well known, there’s a secret to discover.”
How it tastes: There’s a lot going on here and it takes its time. “Dark and brooding,” Levine called it. Licorice on the nose, solid fruit flavors and though I wasn’t a huge fan at first, I liked it more and more with every sip. To Fink, it gives the bang of a n expensive Burgundy Pinot Noir for a lot less buck.
Thanks to Jameson Fink for picking out the wines and leading the tasting, to Eric Levine for joining in and sharing his perspective and to Bottlehouse for hosting us. That was fun.
Find Levine’s full tasting notes from the geeky wines tasting on Cellar Tracker, where he’s jotted down more than 5,000 tasting notes in over a decade. Wine drinkers are using the site to track more than 45 million wine bottles worldwide. I’ve linked to the Cellar Tracker page for each wine listed above.
As for them, you can find all four wines listed here at Bottlehouse, where a different “geeky wines” flight is on the menu, and most local wine sellers
And, by the way, for all of the wine geeks out there, let us know what your favorites are?