Saw a plug for The Goode Wine Guide, Jamie Goode’s three part tutorial on wine ‘…from Britain to Bulgaria’, and it occurred to me that the lucky star under which the limey Londonese lecturer wound up with a name like ‘Goode’ is the same star that went all supernova and spattered space sputum all over my name.
You see, my birth name is Shite.
Of course, when I look at a map of Europe, which most Americans can’t even find on a map, it strikes me that I too could write a tutorialer-type guide to wines from Britian to Bulgaria; easy peasy considering that to get from London to Polvdiv as the crow drinks, the only countries you need pass through are Belgium, Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, and let’s be real, kids—how bloody hard could it be to write a primer on Herzegovinian Žilavka considering that nobody has ever heard of it?
Naturally, the only drawback is my stupid name, because who is going to line up to pay real money for ‘The Shite Wine Guide’?
(On the off chance that you are wondering, my nom de plume ‘Kassel’ is a sort of Stockholm Syndromesque attempt to distance myself from my Hassidic heritage and to develop a manly Germanic identity; a traumatic bonding with the Master Race who drove my grandparents Lipshitz and Bat Shitva Shite from the Hesse-Kassel ghetto in 1942, a meggillah on tsain iz ois putzel, ‘God watches over fools and lab rats’…)
Well, it is not all about real money, is it? I know a dude on Dequindre who will launder any bogus bills you care to throw my way.
‘The Shite Wine Guide: From Britain To Bulgaria’
Britain: Always ready to exploit any Achilles heel anywhere on the planet (i.e.; conquering India, temper tantrum over the Falklands, ‘Beatlemania’), England now fancies itself a credible wine region thanks to end-of-the-world global warming. Tell you what, Inselaffers: First make a red wine reddier than your coats at Lexington and a white wine whitier than your flag at Yorktown, then get back to me.
Belgium: Flemish wine is a bigger oxymoron than Flemish literature, graphic novels and Diktus und Jasmientje Go to der Kindergarten notwithstanding. In a land where the tallest mountain is below sea level and it rains 366 days annually even when it is not Leap Year, it is understandable that their only exportable wine is made from fermented mussel shells.
Germany: Ah, Aryan ancestors, primal fire, columns, banners ‘n’ searchlights: Führer befiehl, wir folgen dir! But stick to riesling, because everything else you make sucks, including world war.
Austria: Part of Germany, so shut up. Oh, yeah; grüner veltliner: Woo frickin hoo.
Slovenia: The slavering Slavs of Slovenia slithered into winemaking long before the French, Italians or the Germans, and the names of the twin vine-vaunting valleys of Sava and Drava dance from the tongue easier than the wines: Try pronouncing Cviček, Rdeča Zlahtnina or Ljutomer-Ormož after a bucketful of Dišeči Traminec.
Croatia: Another old, old, old wine country who has had more than 2,500 years to come up with names than a funky white boy from northwest Detroit could pronounce. And what did they wind up with? Bogdanuša mladinka. Crljenak kaštelanski. Grk. Croat wine naming wonks, I am good with ‘Dequindre’ but I don’t know where to go with ‘grk’ other the sound I make after a night of binge drinking while choking to death on my own throw-up.
Bosnia-Herzegovina: Wines from war zones have their own unique charm, from Bekaa’s Musar to snake wine from Saigon. B-H is no exception. The country is mostly mountains, with the wines coming primarily from the extreme south, near Dalmatia, where you need to keep an eye out for large packs of spotted Disney dogs.
Serbia: I like Dusan Jelic, who is from Belgrade, so I will not mention all the crap that comes down in his part of the world, only his silken, lovely, consistently 150 point wines which you should immediately go out and buy with any counterfeit money you have left over after ordering The Shite Wine Guide. There, Dusan. You owe me.
Bulgaria: And finally, the end of the road. Bulgarianese wines, mostly grown in five regions which sound more like Star Trek bad alien races than wine appellations. In fact, I am pretty sure that I remember watching the Earth-Danubian War of 2056, the Sub-Balkan Conflict during the 127th episode of Star Trek: Voyager, and I would bet my bottom counterfeit dollar than Khan was a Thracian.
There it is, plonk puppies; learn anything? Didn’t think so, but I did warn you. My guide was conceived in shite and unto shite it shall return, es iz nit geshtoygen un nit gefloygen, ‘May your cured Nova suffer no relapses’.
Anyway, if you want to actually learn something about wine, better you should go to a maestro, not a maelstrom-monger like moi: For four hundred dollars, Ian Blackburn will turn you into ‘well educated member of the wine society of Southern California and a Junior Wine Executive (JWE)’ in four short weeks. Corkbuzz Wine Studio offers multiple courses taught by ‘top-tier industry professionals’, and the International Culinary Institute of New York offers a $10,000 ‘Total Immersion Sommelier Training’ where everything is provided but the requisite skin-diving equipment.
And of course, there’s good ol’ Jamie Goode, who has a PhD in biology, while all I have is a methyl red pH balance of 1.2 due to my excessively ascerbic wit, acid reflux disease and violent flashbacks from all the LSD I dropped while Jamie was going to plant school.