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Today's Wine List

[Here's the Sunday column. Been on the road, sorry to have taken so long to post this. I hope everyone's having a relaxing and enjoyable weekend. I've had tons of fun, possibly because I've managed to stay away from the computer and the Internet and the various folks calling me scum. As for the little spat with Hugh Hewitt, everyone should take a chill pill. Let the rancor subside. In retrospect I shouldn't have been so defensive on his show: He may have been a little aggressive, but he was perfectly fair, and wasn't trying to trick me or hit me with a patriotism test. I'm sorry that I jumped to that conclusion. It's never good to presume the worst of someone you don't know. Dontcha think?]

Recently someone tried to teach me how to drink wine properly. There is much sniffing and swirling and sipping, but you're not allowed to swallow until you perform various gymnastics with your tongue while breathing, wheezing, gasping and coughing the wine all over the furniture.

But the hardest part, I find, is learning to talk about wine pretentiously. Everyone nowadays tries to imitate Robert Parker, the great wine critic. He's the "Wine Advocate," the man with the million-dollar nose, the most influential critic in the world. He has olfactory superpowers. He once told me during an interview that, walking down the street, he can smell more than 100 distinctive odors. He has a big head. At one point I asked him to stick out his tongue; the thing that emerged was like something you'd see wrapped in cellophane at the supermarket: beef tongue.

And it had this astonishing crevice down the middle. Parker compared it to the Grand Canyon. His tongue was something that, by itself, could have earned him membership in the X-Men.

He told me that, in a blind tasting, he can routinely tell not only the grape varietal, the country of origin and the region, but also the exact vintage, even the chateau. His sensory talents allow him to write with confidence in a manner that, coming from most normal mortals, would sound absurd. Listen to him describe the 1990 Montrose St.-Estephe bordeaux:

"The wine is remarkably rich, with a distinctive nose of sweet, jammy fruit, liquefied minerals, new saddle leather, and grilled steak. In the mouth, the enormous concentration, extract, high glycerin, and sweet tannin slide across the palate with considerable ease. It is a huge, corpulent, awesomely endowed wine that is still relatively approachable, as it has not yet begun to shut down and lose its baby fat."

Other wines have flavors of "damp earth" and "underbrush." When Parker doesn't like a wine, as in the case of a certain '79 cabernet, he'll write that it has an"intense vegetative, barnyard aroma."

This is all so impressive to me, since, blindfolded, I could not tell a '61 Chateau Lafite bordeaux from an '03 Goofy Grape Kool-Aid.

Unfortunately, many restaurants have wine lists that try to sound like Parker. Here's one from a typical mid-level American restaurant.

Today's Wines

All wines available by the glass in 4-oz. and 7-oz. servings, or by the bottle or carton. Prices, quantities, vintages, grape varietals subject to change without notice at sommelier's discretion.

Brut, Stigmata Opus V "Champagne"
Our sweetest, densest, cheapest sparkling wine. The bubbles sit in the glass in a lazy, decadent stupor. Often mistaken for gelatin.

Casa de Tulsa Chardonnay
Fat, porcine, bloated. A jiggly, obscene wine. From the famed vineyards of eastern Oklahoma, this has notes of corn, hay and soybean. Available in our con-venient "to go" tumbler.

Chateau Nehicola Pinot Grigio
Sputum-like, viscous, this wine is so sweet you can see the suspended crystals of sugar. Celebrated as the wine the baby rabbit is drinking in bed in Goodnight Moon.

Terry Bradshaw Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
Notes of aluminum, magnesium, tungsten. Oily finish. Case-hardened and blowtorched before aging at least three weeks in metal casks. The Official Wine of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ravingswood Chardonnay
Fruity, flamboyant, unbalanced, even deranged, this heavily mapled white wine will

make your skin crawl in a strangely pleasing way. It is alternately welcoming and hostile, tangy and saccharine, liquid and solid. Voted "Most Unhinged Wine" three years in a row at the NASCAR Viticultural Festival.

Le Boeuf Pinot Grigio
A wine so delicate and quaffable it is often mistaken for Gatorade. Best paired with a PowerBar or gulped at the end of a workout.

House Sauvignon Blanche
Old-fashioned, corseted, gnarled. A dry, parched wine, intensely wrinkled. The desiccation comes from years of evaporation. Pair with water or some other fluid.

Chianti Classico, Rocco de Balboa
A massively structured, bombastic, muscle-bound wine. Pair with raw eggs swallowed whole. You'll be tempted to eat this wine with a fork.

Valle Puttooti White Zinfandel
This is to fine wine as Dan Brown is to Shakespeare. Ideal for the damaged palate. Serious oenophiles will want to let this breathe in the glass for at least an hour, then pitch it into the flowerpot when no one is looking.

By Joel Achenbach  |  June 11, 2006; 2:13 PM ET
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