By Celia Strong
I know, I know. Not real wine-sounding is it? But, over the years, you must have noticed that different generations have all had their own slang expressions. The slang for teenagers in the 1950’s was not the same as the slang for the decade after it..or two or three decades after. Whatever age you are when you start picking up and using slang expressions, it’s the slang of your generation that you always remember. Expressions that range from ‘Cool’ to ‘What up?’ Whatever the expressions were for your age group, they make sense to you, partly because you had all the peripheral information and stimuli from which they came and partly because you used them as an everyday expression. No matter how many years (decades) pass between the birth of your slang expressions and now, your slang is still current for you.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky and in touch, you get to pick up on a newer slang expression from a newer generation. That happened for me a year or so ago, and I was so excited to learn it. It was really cool.
But, more about my new slang in a moment. Let’s look at some wine information, quickly, before we all forget about the purpose of this column. Our wine this week is a red blend from California. Officially, it is called a “field blend.” A field blend is an older practice that occurred naturally because of a lack of scientific data, meaning before DNA. Grapes would be planted in a given vineyard. These vines would come from wherever, but usually close-by vineyards. Without DNA, which gives us precise varietal identifications, some varieties have similar looking grape bunches, vines and leaves; and, many were mistaken for other than what they were, so more than one variety would be growing in one vineyard.
In smaller vineyards, and before mechanized harvesters, all the grapes would be harvested together. Because they really didn’t know and because it was easier and cheaper to not do it another way, all the different grapes would be fermented together. Making field blend wines was easy and often made better wines than any of the individual grapes would have. Nature did the blending for the winemakers. But, nature did not let any personal style come into play, like more of one grape and none of another. An example of an old field blend is Châteauneuf-du-Pape. They are still allowed to use up to fourteen varieties to make this wine, which are mostly reds but also a few whites. These were all the grapes that grew in their town, and the blend was easy… it grew that way. And, it was delicious and pretty pricey.
With modern technology, winemaking blends are purposefully much easier and generally considered better than an old fashioned field blend. A winemaker’s blend is his style and price of wine. He can make it as unique or as similar to another wine as he wants. One winemaker or winery can make a whole selection of different blends. However, each variety is fermented separately and subsequently blended. There is total control over the finished wine. And the blend may change from year to year just to keep the wine tasting the same.
Remember the ‘house cuvée’ in Champagne? In California, Ridge Vineyards owns a vineyard named Lytton Springs. In was planted between 1900 and 1905, with about seventy percent Zinfandel, twenty percent Petit Sirah and ten percent Grenache and Carignan. For California, this is considered a pretty traditional field blend. (And Ridge still makes this as one wine).
One last thing about field blends. Their initials are F B. F and B is an abbreviation for ‘food and beverage,’ and it refers to all kinds of positions and jobs in anything to do with drinks and food. We will come back to these initials. You’ll see.
Now that we’re all acquainted and comfortable with what field blends are, we can start to get to our wine for this week. And, yes, it is a field blend. Surprised? Let’s hope not. Our wine is made by a group called The Dirty Pure Project. I call them a group, because somehow, that just doesn’t sound like a winery name. Besides their name, everything else about them is not normal either…not normal in a good sense. Not normal means they don’t use conventional grape varieties or growing areas or blends or styles or names for their wines.
Once these producers decided to make wines, they chose not to do expensive, boutique style Napa Cabernets or costly, small appellation Pinot Noirs, etc. With all the options California has to offer to winemakers, this group chose to make a red wine based on Grenache, using grapes from the Central Coast area and a white wine from Vermentino grown in Lodi…totally off the beaten path. In keeping with their unconventionality, their finished wine bottles do not have foil or plastic around the necks. It’s an extra step, messy and expensive an ecologically not good. You get the idea.
Our wine is their 2012 Red Field Blend. Made from eighty-nine percent Grenache, six percent Barbera and five percent Lagrein, definitely an unconventional grape. Personally, I’ve never heard of it before, and I suspect have never drunk it before. Lagrein, pronounced ‘la green,’ is a red variety from the northeastern corner of Italy. Its wines have dense, dark purple colors with black raspberry, plum and baking spice flavors, a lighter style body with some acidity. But, this wine, our wine, has a special name, besides Red Field Blend. It is called F Bomb. And, now, calling our wine by its name, the F Bomb is a deep, dark red color with black pepper, white flowers, baking spice, blackberry jam and ripe strawberry flavors. And a great velvety texture. For those of you who have children or grandchildren of a certain age, you may know the slang meaning for F Bomb. I only learned it about a year or so ago. (And, the person I learned it from remembers it too). Finding a wine with that name is about like the first time you got a bottle of Fat Bastard wine years ago. Remember what fun it was just to ask for that particular wine? That’s how I feel about the F Bomb. Now that I know the slang, I just love this wine…its name and also how it tastes.
We all know a great name or a great label doesn’t matter in the least if we don’t like the wine. We may like names and labels, but we do have to swallow it if it’s in our glasses. Fortunately, the F Bomb tastes great. For $14.99, it is the bomb. F Bomb. Enjoy!