From geeking out on wines from the Canary Islands to describing wine with references to mythical beasts, WineChap.com's Talia Baiocchi is taking wine talk in a whole new direction.
I heard you’re a big fan of the wine that’s coming out of the Canary Islands. Where did that interest come from and what do you love about them?
I fell in love with the look of the islands. A quarter of the island is covered in volcanic ash, and they grow the vines in these holes. It’s a crazy, sci-fi looking place, and it’s somewhere that should never have had vines growing on it. It was one of the great wine producing regions in the 15th and 16th centuries—a favorite of Jefferson and Shakespeare. They’re some of the only pre-phylloxera wines left in the world. Long story short, they have a really fascinating terroir, all the islands have wine production and they all have different microclimates.
Any other wine-producing regions you’re really into right now?
Croatia—it has a fascinating terroir and I think we’re going to see a lot more wines from there in the next few years. There’s a lot of potential for Croatian white wines, they have a really interesting expression of zinfandel.
What are some of your favorite New York restaurant wine lists at the moment?
I think Eleven Madison Park has the best wine list in the city in that sort of fine dining category. Trestle on Tenth really flies under the radar. They have a small, geeky list of great European wines that are well-priced with a slim mark-up. Joe [Campanale] at Anfora, I think that list is getting better every single day. He picks wines that are special to him, which is a really groundbreaking and interesting way to organize a wine list. I think in the next year it will probably get even better.
What restaurant do you think would be a fun challenge to create a wine list for and why?
I think Thai food would be a challenge. I recently went to Lotus of Siam, and I think it would be interesting to come up with reds to pair with Thai food. The first thing that comes to mind is Riesling, something with sugar to counteract the food. But creating a rounded list of red and white for Thai would be fun to geek out on.
You’re known for classifying wines into out-of-the-box categories. What wines would you put in the following three?
Christmas Wish List (“reach”/fantasy wines): For me, it’s always vintage champagne. If I could have anything for Christmas it would be rich, aged champagne.
Biggest Groupie Wines (wines that everyone is obsessed with right now): Everyone was geeking out on oxidized whites. And then you have the high-end Burgundy faction, the fancy groupies that want to wax poetic. What’s hot among the community right now is anything from the Loire Valley, and Jura.
Hangover Cure Wines: Sherry is an awesome hangover cure—Fino sherry. Everyone should have a bottle in their fridge. A fizzy, low-alcohol red makes an awesome breakfast wine. I’m particularly a fan of Sangue di Giuda from Lombardia.
What wine would you pair with a Thanksgiving Leftovers Sandwich?
I’m going to go with a Riesling from 2009. A dry white that is more fruit forward and lush.
Have you seen those videos of people opening bottles of wine with a shoe? Have you ever tried it or do you have a favorite wine gadget at the moment?
I’ve never tried it. If you’re really desperate and in a bind, like you’re in the movie theatre and you have an inexpensive bottle, you just have to hammer it in. I don’t really have any wine toys, I’m pretty old school in that regard.
What is the one question you most frequently get asked about wine?
What should I drink when I go out to eat? It’s like, there’s a site for that, it’s called WineChap.com.
Box wine or Two Buck Chuck?
Box. 100%. Two Buck Chuck is just, no. There is a lot of legit boxed wine out there, wine that producers have as their every day drinking wine that they just package in a box.
Favorite wine descriptor?
I like using supernatural words, mythical beasts. Things like “glitter unicorn,” that people aren’t used to hearing when talking about wine. The professional vernacular doesn’t resonate with a lot of people, it throws them off. “Intense crunch" — bullshit, it looses people. I like making fun of the whole culture and the way people talk about wine. Being able to poke fun at that is important.
Most overused wine descriptor?
Hedonistic. It’s the worst. I don’t want to hear that word—what does that even mean? Robert Parker uses that. Also, “jammy” in a positive way, that’s sort of gross. I don’t want to eat my wine with a spoon.
If you could ask Robert Parker one question what would it be?
Why? Just, why? In all fairness, he’s done a lot of good, but I don’t agree with him in most cases.