Sunday, 19 February 2017

Polly Wants Prosecco! How Parrot-like Speak Can Prevent you from Enjoying Wine your Way

I remember one story about a parrot that was rescued from a very dodgy bar by a person close to me. She told me that, every now and then, the bird would yell "Get him out, he's drunk!" and burst into what sounded like a maniac's laughter.

I think it's fascinating when a parrot learns human words and is able to repeat them even without really understanding what they mean. It's not so cool or impressive when a person is the one doing this. And yet people yelp slogans, sayings and other common places on a daily basis about any topic that touches our lives. Wine is not an exception.

True, you need to learn your one o' ones before you can question them, but in a world that changes so quickly, being able to recite the 10 Beaujolais Crus like a trained tropical bird is not as important as trying to understand what makes them special, even if you keep forgetting Régnié and no matter how many mnemonic techniques you come up with to memorise it, it just doesn't stay... You know what, Régnié, it's not me it's you (this may or may not be vaguely based in a real story of studying frustration).

Anyway, I'm all up for trying to memorise the universe, but when it comes to parrot-like behaviour and wine, there are some pearls of wisdom that I find particularly dated and borderline prejudiced. I'm not exempt of them and I have eaten my slice of humble pie, like the time I refused to touch kindly offered Sherry because I'm not really a Sherry person, thanks. Words of a younger and dumber me (let's not go into the fact that this happened barely a few months ago). But my point is that after talking to the right people and trying the right Sherry, I completely came around and yes, I won't be chilling a full bottle of Amontillado to sip while watching House of Cards anytime soon, but I'll be happy to take a couple of glasses with Game of Thrones on (yes, the show I watch influences the wine I like to drink on the sofa but that's another story).

This takes me to a news story about an inexpensive sparkling wine called ProGrigio launched this week in Britain. The name, portmanteau of Prosecco and Pinot Grigio is a marketer's dream, and the tagline If you like Prosecco, you'll love ProGrigio, is composed of the stuff that makes candidates win elections.

It kind of reminds me to that episode of The Simpsons in which Homer accidentally hybridises tomatoes and tobacco into a new vegetable also named with a very catchy word: ToMacco.

As usual, Lisa was the only one in the family who wasn't too fond of ToMacco. Image via simpsonsworld
It tasted weird, and the plants were fertilised with "chemicals" to say the least (including Plutonium from Springfield's nuclear plant) but everyone wanted more of it. In the words of Bart, "it's smooth and mild — and refreshingly addictive." I wonder if Bart's tasting notes on ToMacco could be extrapolated to this innovation.

But my point is, that even while it's tempting to assume it's going to be of a certain quality, this is just the type of situation in which parrot-like behaviour becomes evident. I will assume it's only a matter of time until this product goes global (it already went viral) and Ireland will probably see some sort of me too on the shelves. I actually look forward to try it, not because I think it's going to blow my mind or it's going to be awful, but because after all this fuss, I just want to decide for myself.

Anyway, all of this babble was actually an excuse for me to draw animals talking about wine. So, here's a little comic with real phrases we all have heard plenty of times, so many times in fact that they've become parrot-speak.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Mainstream Vs. Boutique Vs. Natural Wine Lovers: How They See Each Other

I recently found an illustration by Cinismo Ilustrado which made fun of how carnivores, vegetarians and vegans see each other. So basically, meat lovers will see each other as "normal", vegetarians as "bunnies" and vegans as "E.T." (or basically, aliens) and so on. I thought it's possible to make a similar graph comparing the way different types of wine lovers see each other.

So, while it's not all primary colours here, let's say there are three main groups:

Mainstream: People that love wine in general and will drink a good glass without worrying to much about the backstage process. If it's tasty, it's tasty, isn't it that simple?

-Of course it isn't- Said the next type...

Boutique: Wine lovers that will value craft and small independent houses that work in an environmentally friendly way. True, sometimes a bit of chemicals are needed but as long as you don't abuse it and take good care of Mother Nature, you are in the good books. Are they right or what?

-Wrong! They're part of the problem!- Said the next type...

Natural: They're to wine what Poison Ivy is to Batman. The only sane people if you ask themselves, complete extremists if you take anyone else's opinion. And while there are different categories among those who stand for natural wines, the 101 is that chemicals are bad and if you use them your wine is poisoned.

So, inspired by the aforementioned artwork, here's a little guide on how do different wine lovers see each other depending on which one of these groups they identify themselves with...

How Mainstream sees Mainstream: The beautiful, cool kids. Why not aim for perfection, right?

How Mainstream sees Boutique: Bunch of hippies, some of them are kinda Ok.

How Mainstream sees Natural: You might as well join a cult. They'll be less weird.

How Boutique sees Mainstream: The plastics. Attractive but zero personality.

How Boutique sees Boutique: Creative and kind, just happy to express themselves.

How Boutique sees MainstreamTheir hearts might be in the right place, but they're eccentric nuts.

How Natural sees MainstreamSkynet meets BP oil spills and puppy killers.

How Natural sees BoutiqueThey seem "green" but among them they're a bunch of hypocrites with lots to hide.

How Natural sees MainstreamThe saviours of Gaia.

Obviously, it's not so divisive in real life (although I've heard pretty judgy comments from all types), Agree? Disagree? Let me know!


Saturday, 4 February 2017

Cat's Piss, Wet Dog and Musk: Are we Tasting Wine or Playing Jumanji?

Every time I hear someone saying a wine smells like cat's piss I'm immediately taken back to memories of an understaffed pet shop I used to visit ages ago just to play with the kittens. My love for kittens, just as my love for certain Sauvignon Blancs *cough, Marlborough, cough* made me endure the pungent smell, but at the same time, it prevented me from staying longer or having a second glass.

And as funky as it sounds, cat's piss is not the only wine aroma descriptor associated with animals that is included in the common tongue -pun intended- of sommeliers and wine people. "Farmyard", "Horse-y", "Game", "Musk" and "Wet Dog" are among the smells mentioned in tasting notes that would be more appropriate when talking about a zoo in the summer or an overcrowded gym.

These are not arbitrary or chosen by the experts to troll you, but the result of the presence of Brettanomyces, a type of yeast associated with aromas that you'd expect from a cage more than from a bottle. Love them or hate them, they're legit.

But why stop there? Dust your childhood books and grow your vocabulary of critters and their aromatic qualities. In order to help, here are a few animal wine descriptors I think the world could benefit from having...

Just imagine it...

Oh, I sense a delicate scent of raccoon fresh out of a bin-
Absolutely, very ripe-

While I'm not a fan of Brettanomyces, or Brett, for the pals, I have to admit that life would be dull if everything we could find in wine was citrus and berries.

It's kinda like in that film American Hustle, where Jennifer Lawrence's characters is obsessed with her odd-smelling nail polish. "Flowers and garbage", she describes it as. Great fit for a film where the glamorous and the trashy blended so well.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Reasons why wine people need to have a good poker face 🍷 😐

I'm barely acceptable at Texas Hold'em (am I?) but I like to think that I have a decent poker face.
I've had to develop one so I can avoid rolling my eyes at the wrong bureaucrat, raise an eyebrow when I hear something shocking or laugh at the face of someone telling me Riesling is going to be the next Pinot Grigio. 

Which takes me to wine. Most of the time, socialising around it will bring the most sincere smile to my face, but for those few times when my left eye wants to twitch and my jaw wants to drop, it's good to imagine that I have a Royal Flush in my hand and I'm trying to pretend I'm debating whether to stay or fold.

Here's a little comic I drew about some of the moments when having a good poker face around wine will make your life easier.

Can you think of another occasion in which a good poker face becomes handy for wine lovers? Feel free to send it my way! I could draw it next 😁

Let me know!  

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Yes, We Won the Geographic Lottery but that Shouldn't Be the Only Thing to be Proud About for Venezuelans

Most people point to their own when asked to find the best country in the world. I don't think there is such thing, as every place has their strengths and weakness, but I often hear/read Venezuelans exalting ours as the top of the top (yes, despite the current crisis, as judging the country for what's been like during the last few years is like judging a person's health taking only into account that critical week they spent in intensive care after a car crash).
However, when asked why do they believe that, you'll hear them frequently mention the stunning Angel Falls, the beautiful white-sand clear-water beaches and the world's biggest oil reserves. All those things which just happened to be there before the country was even formed.
I decided to do an exercise and do a Google Image search on the "wonders" of several countries...

Here's France...

And Italy...

This is Ireland...

What's my point? Well... The last three screenshots of searches feature a mix of cultural, archaeological and historical "wonders", And it's not just something you'll find when searching European countries...

This is India...

And below, Japan...

Again, beautiful natural landscapes with iconic buildings that show their rich, interesting culture and history. 

But you don't need to go so far to find more examples...

Peru seems to have a favourite wonder...

And Brazil also has an iconic image, alternating with natural sites...

Mexico also has a mix of heritage and wilderness...

Now, a Google Image search of "Venezuela wonders"...

The green, the untamed rainforest, the waterfalls, the beaches, more beaches, more waterfalls... Beautiful isn't it? I am not denying how amazing all of those are, but it'd be nice to see a cultural or historical landmark, something human-made that is worthy of getting a nod on the first page of a Google Images search, modern or ancient.
It's not like there isn't any human achievement to be proud of, the work of painters, designersscientists and athletes born in Venezuela is top class, Hey! Simón Bolivar features as the 72nd most influential people of the MILLENIUM according to Biography by A&E Network.
So yes, be proud (and do your bit to protect) the green and the wavy, but also show some love to the work of talented people.
It's like when someone says they love a person, and it's thanks to their lovely face and beautiful body... what about their personality and their intelligence?
This is by no means a rant, just an invitation to value the work of people too. Next time you recommend stuff to a tourist, don't only talk about the natural wonders, send them to a museum too or to a historical site. Maybe if enough people did that, the Google Image search would be different.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

To Which Harry Potter House Would Wines Be Assigned by the Sorting Hat?

Who didn't ask themselves in which Hogwarts house they'd be assigned by the old sorting hat that decided pretty much the next seven years of all the new students in Harry Potter's school?

Image via

In case you're wondering, here's a quiz you can take to figure out where you belong:

Which Hogwarts House Do You Belong In?

"Please don't send me to Slytherin"

Now, let's pretend wines were also assigned to different houses based on their traits... These are some famous wines, sorted into the four Hogwarts houses according to their characteristics [Thanks to harrypotter.wikia for summarising what the houses stand for so well]

Stands for bravery, heroism and chivalry. Its emblematic animal is the lion, its element is Fire and its colours are scarlet and gold.
Famous Gryffindors include: Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter.

These wines are bold and bright, full of flavour and made from noble grapes. Bordeaux wines -both reds and whites- will totally go to Gryffindor, as well as Argentinian Malbec and Californian Chardonnay.
Among the bubbles, this would be Champagne's house.

ONE TO TRY: Silver Palm Chardonnay - California - 13.5% ABV

Values hard work, patience, loyalty and family. Its emblematic animal is the badger, its element is Earth and its colours are yellow and black.
Famous Hufflepuffs include: Hengist of Woodcroft (founder of Hogsmeade), and Artemisia Lufkin (first female minister for magic).

These wines are crafty and usually come from family run vineyards, Albariño would be in this house for sure, and so would Chianti Riserva. Among New World wines, New Zealand wines would be sent here as well. Portuguese Port is also a Hufflepuff. Bubbles wise, Cremants are the chosen ones.

ONE TO TRY: Pirueta Albariño - Spain - 12.5% ABV

For this house it's all about intelligence, knowledge and wit. Its emblematic animal is an eagle, its element is Air and its colours are blue and bronze.
Famous Ravenclaws include: Luna Lovegood, and Garrick Ollivander.

The wines can be a bit quirky and a little bit light in body and/or flavour. They might be a bit missundertood by some, but those who get them know they are capable of great things. Beaujolais among the reds, and Rieslings within the whites. Most rosé wines would also end up here, probably sharing room with Prosecco.

ONE TO TRY: L'Ostal Cases Rose - France - 13% ABV

This house values ambition, cunning and resourcefulnes. Its emblematic animal is the serpent, its element is water and its colours are silver and green.
Famous Slytherins include: Merlin, Tom Riddle, and Dolores Umbridge.

Elegant and refined, Sancerre wines would be exemplary Slytherins and so would Torrontés and Sherry. Red wines would be mostly made from Pinot Noir, although Amarone would be a rare example of an Italian sent to this house. In the sparkling department, Cava would represent the house.

ONE TO TRY: Chanson Bourgogne Pinot Noir - France - 12.5% ABV

By the way, if you're in Ireland, all the wines are available at O'Briens Wines and all are under €20

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Ten Weird Things I've Been Asked Abroad After I Say I Live in Ireland

After discussing the random things that people tell me when I say I'm Venezuelan, I realised that it works both ways, so why not gather some of the comments, questions and "pearls of wisdom" that I've been given when people abroad learn that I'm living in Dublin.
I'll include those that I heard during the process of moving here over two years ago, when I told people the good news, and I realise that the Emerald Island is not as well known as I assumed and many looked at me like I just said I'd be flying to Neverland.
I won't name names, but be sure that at least one of those came from my loving parents.

1. What will you do if you don't speak Irish?: I'll speak English like pretty much everyone else.
2. Aren't you afraid of the IRA?: They look pretty scary in Peaky Blinders, but I fear most the un-organised Venezuelan crime.
3. Now that you're in Europe, you'll get to travel by train to so many places!: This one genuinely didn't know that Ireland is an Island (#Facepalm).
4. You better watch your drinking: You better watch your drinking everywhere.
5. The weather is horrible and it rains every day, you know that?: I've seen worst and you need the rain to have the green so I'll happily put up with that (it's not as bad as I though anyway, we do get some sunny hours through the year).
6. Do you know a lot of gay people?: I've no idea, I'm not going around asking to see their membership card.
7. They film Game of Thrones in Ireland!: Yes, miles away from my house. It's still awesome.
8. Is Ireland a part of the UK?: No. Northern Ireland is, and even though they're both part of the same island, they function as two separate states.
9. Is it true that you can't get the pill?: It's prescription only, which is weird, but it's widely available.
10. Do you eat potatoes every day? I increased my potato consumption in about 500% since I moved here, but I wouldn't go as far as to say I have them "every day".

Runners up: "Hey, I saw Ireland in that movie about a girl that wants to marry a guy", "I've heard Irish funerals are the best", "Do you like Guinness?", "Have you ran into Bono?", "Have you gone to Star Wars island?",

Ireland's "Mickey Mouse" is literally a Smiling Potato Man (photo via

Anyhow, I've said it before, Dublin has lots in common with one of the cities I grew up in, so adapting has been a pleasure and I'm happy to translate and to answer all of people's dumb questions, as long as they come from curiosity and not from the intention of annoying or sabotaging me.

Are you in Ireland? Do your friends back home ask you random weird stuff about your new home? Or are you Irish abroad and your new friends keep guessing weird stuff about your home town?