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Walker Rowe
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Sparkling Wine Tasting in Alicante at the Restaurant del Sol and the Downside of Varietal Labeling
Last night I went to a wine tasting here in Alicante. It was a real eye opener. I will tell you why.
I am embarrassed, because I have an anecdote for every situation. And you have to discriminate so that you do not become a bore. So I grudgingly admitted to some people there that I know more than just a little bit about wine.
When it comes to wine, I have done it all. I wrote three books on wine, planted two vineyards, was a founding investor in a winery, and a wine judge. But I have given up all that now and have moved onto other hobbies, mainly because I sold my farm and moved away from Virginia.
Anyway, what opened my eyes was how in Spain, like in Italy and France, there are different grapes grown in each area. For example, in Spain they have grenache. And here in Alicante they grow monastrell. You will not find wine made from these grapes in, say, New York or California, because of what is known as varietal labeling.
Grapes suitable for making wine are called vitis vinifera. In the USA we have vitis labrusca and others whose taste is too strong to make drinkable wine. So there and in the rest of the New World and Australia they plant European varieties.
In Europe, wines are given names based upon where they are grown and not what grape goes into them, for the most part. So in Bordeaux they name wines based on the winery name, like, for example, Château Lafite Rothschild. By tradition, and by law (appellation d'origine contrôlée or AOC), that wine is a mix of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, and cabernet franc. And wines from Bordeaux are pinot noir and chardonnay, as in Champagne.
Those are the grapes that are native to those regions. So they should be the best suited for those soils and climate, as that is what is naturally growing there. Of course someone could have carried a planting there from some other part of Europe a few hundred years ago, but that is the basic idea.
But in the New World of the USA and Chile, no one names wines based on the name of the winery, although some try. It would be too difficult to sell that as the consumer does not know much about what goes into the bottle. So, to make things easy for people to understand, winemakers use what is called "varietal labeling."
Per law American and EU law, in order to put the words cabernet sauvignon, merlot, etc. on the bottle the wine must be 80 or 90% of that grape. What else goes into the bottle is whatever the winemaker thinks will give it extra color, texture, or maybe just what was available on the market that year. When New World wineries do make a assemblage (mix) of different grapes, they have to think up some name to put on the label that is not a varietal name.
This trend is unfortunate. Because it means that consumers in the rest of the world will never get to know European grape varieties like macabeo, tempranillo, petit manseng, monsastrell, etc. because the seller does not want to have to make the market. It is already difficult to sell wine in what has been called The Great Wine Glut, with too much product on the market.
There are some varieties that have broken through to become popular, like viognier, but in the USA wines are arranged according to grape type in the supermarkets. So a Spaniard would find no place to stock grenache.
But there is hope. In Virginia, which is where I had my winery, vineyards have only been planted since the 1970s. So winegrowers are not bound by tradition and experiment with everything from petit grigio to an American grape called Norton. And in California, zinfandel has become quite popular. No one knows its true origin, but it is vitis vinifera. And in Chile, there is a grape called pais.
So for my American friends, the next time you go into a wine shop ask for a Rioja from Spain. That is a Denominación de Origen Calificada, meaning the grapes that go into the bottle are, by tradition and law as well, what is mainly grown in that region. For Rioja, it is tempranillo and grenache.
A final comment. One reason you will not find a lot of Spanish wines in the USA supermarket is that the USA operates as 50 markets. In the UK one company can be the importer, wholesaler, and reseller. When I worked at Via Wines in Chile, we shipped containers of wine to the UK to be bottled and sold there. In the USA that is specifically outlawed: the same company cannot be the importer, wholesaler, and retailer. So a European or Chilean winery who wants to sell there needs to find an importer and representative in each state where they want to sell. Unless the winery is a large winery they are not going to spend time and effort and legal fees to do that. So you can find wines from one winery in Spain in one US state that you will not find in another. Only the largest wineries will sell their product everywhere.
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Topless (and bottomless) beaches in Spain

In Germany, office women lay topless in the warm sun during their lunch hour. There and in the Nordic countries men and women sauna together completely nude. It is considered bad form to stare and unhygienic to not sit on a towel.
Here, on the beaches of Spain, almost 100% of girls under 12 swim with only their bikini bottom. A friend from The Netherlands told me he could not understand why officials at his pool in the USA insist his 9 year old cover up. I told him I was not surprised that someone did not call the police and child protective services.
As for women who have reached puberty here, perhaps 20% of them go topless. One can understand that. The sun and the ocean makes one feel like they are crawling back into the womb with its warm caresses and relaxing sound. It makes one want to dive in naked, especially the women who are bound up by tradition and the Church to wear something so uncomfortable as a bra, an invention no doubt invented by a man.

Try to explain that to people in America, especially in deeply religious places like South Carolina, which is where I come from. In Myrtle Beach, just wearing a thong is enough to summon the police. And in Ocean City, Maryland women who want to go topless are currently fighting the city council, whose mainly male members have passed an ordinance outlawing that.

A great number of women in Spain and in Latin America wear thongs. People laughing at those call them dental floss and wonder why something with so little cloth can cost so much. It’s a matter of sexual attraction. In the Latin culture, it is the derriere that draws the man’s eyes. In the UK and USA it is the breast. When I first came to live in Latin America (Chile) I found it odd that models on TV and in the magazines posed with their butt turned toward the camera. But having lived in the Spanish culture 6 years now I get the point and my head turns with the rest.
Here in Spain they go further than baring the breast. Every town has at least a couple of completely nude beaches. (They call them “free” and not “nude,” which is really the point.) There you see the young and the old, the skinny and the fat. The only crime there would be to see a bloated male moving about like some kind of elephant seal. For that, he should be locked up.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Barcelona. The wind was blowing hard from the Southeast. So I went to the north side of the groin to swim in the lee where the waves were smaller. I literally had to step over naked people to get into the sea. There the water was calm and I could see fish with my swim mask. I cannot join the naturists. Were I to swim au naturuel and someone stole my keys and money I would have to walk back to town in the buff since I have not yet found someone to swim with.

But the freewheeling attitude in Spain is not the same in Latin America. Yes, the women there show much of their bottom, but as for their top, recent news showed 25 policemen surrounding three women on the beaches of Buenos Aires who dared bare their bosom.

There is much irony here when one looks across cultures. In my own, abortion is legal, while no where in Latin America is that allowed. Americans take it for granted and call it “reproductive freedom.” In Chile they would call it a “crime.” And you can get medical marijuana in almost every Latin American country and recreational marijuana is legal in Spain and Uruguay. But nowhere across the Deep South of the USA is that allowed. I think they still have the death penalty for such things in Mississippi, which is where our new Attorney General comes from.

All of this madness is enough to make one want to toss off their clothes and dive in naked, and do so in Myrtle Beach.
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Spain and Morocco Journal. 5 July 2017.
I’ve decided to live the life of a digital nomad for a few years. I am an American with permanent residency in Chile. But I no longer have anything tying me to Chile, so I am free to wander the planet, like a tern. The only restriction I have is I need to keep within 9 time zones of the clients I have for my freelance tech writing business, most of whom are in California. Otherwise when they are in the office I will be sleeping. As it is, when they come to the office I am still awake, but sleepy.
My plan is to bounce back and forth between Alicante, Spain, and Tangier, Morocco for a few years. The EU lets non-EU persons visit their continent for 3 months at a time. Then you have to leave for 3 months and then can come back. Morocco has the same policy.
I've picked these two countries for the reasons that I speak Spanish and French and I need the ocean. In Chile, I picked up the sport of long distance ocean swimming. It's the only form of exercise I enjoy. Riding a bicycle in a gym is boring. The only way to entertain yourself is to focus your eyes on the ass of the girl riding the bike in front of you. But on the open ocean you can set your sights on whatever you see on the horizon and go there.
So far I am extremely pleased with Spain. I thought I would have a hard time understanding European Spanish, because Chilean Spanish is so different. But I understand almost everything. Or rather I can make myself understood. Just like Chile, when people slip into colloquialisms, it is impossible to follow.
Having lived in the 3rd world for so long, it is refreshing to be back in the first. Here the outdoor cafes leave their furniture outside. In Chile they would lock them up, least they get stolen. And there is free WiFi everywhere. In Chile nothing is free. The country is literally under the thumb of greedy capitalists, many of whom, ironically come from Spain. The chicken producers and pharmacies engage in price fixing and the cell phone companies charge $0.25 USD per minute for the poor to make a phone call. Corrupt politicians have sold every fish in the ocean to industrial fisheries. And there are signs of poverty everywhere, like stray dogs on every corner. There are no stray dogs in Spain. In the USA, which is where I am from, if someone sees a stray dog they call the dog catcher. In Chile, people believe that to catch and sterilize a stray dog is to somehow take away its manhood. So the program grows geometrically.
Anyway my friends in Chile are not going to like how much I criticize their country. I don't like how much I criticize their country either which is one reason I thought I should leave. But there is so much to mock there that I wrote an entire book on that https://www.amazon.com/Avocado-Republic-Chile-…/…/B015L6BJC0
I have just arrived on the continent of the Conquistadores from the continent of their victims. Perhaps I will soon be full of criticism of Cristóbal Colón and his descendants. Perhaps soon I will be critical of this place too. But that will give me something to write about.
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Spain and Morocco Journal. 5 July 2017.
I’ve decided to live the life of a digital nomad for a few years. I am an American with permanent residency in Chile. But I no longer have anything tying me to Chile, so I am free to wander the planet, like a tern. The only restriction I have is I need to keep within 9 time zones of the clients I have for my freelance tech writing business, most of whom are in California. Otherwise when they are in the office I will be sleeping. As it is, when they come to the office I am still awake, but sleepy.
My plan is to bounce back and forth between Alicante, Spain, and Tangier, Morocco for a few years. The EU lets non-EU persons visit their continent for 3 months at a time. Then you have to leave for 3 months and then can come back. Morocco has the same policy.
I've picked these two countries for the reasons that I speak Spanish and French and I need the ocean. In Chile, I picked up the sport of long distance ocean swimming. It's the only form of exercise I enjoy. Riding a bicycle in a gym is boring. The only way to entertain yourself is to focus your eyes on the ass of the girl riding the bike in front of you. But on the open ocean you can set your sights on whatever you see on the horizon and go there.
So far I am extremely pleased with Spain. I thought I would have a hard time understanding European Spanish, because Chilean Spanish is so different. But I understand almost everything. Or rather I can make myself understood. Just like Chile, when people slip into colloquialisms, it is impossible to follow.
Having lived in the 3rd world for so long, it is refreshing to be back in the first. Here the outdoor cafes leave their furniture outside. In Chile they would lock them up, least they get stolen. And there is free WiFi everywhere. In Chile nothing is free. The country is literally under the thumb of greedy capitalists, many of whom, ironically come from Spain. The chicken producers and pharmacies engage in price fixing and the cell phone companies charge $0.25 USD per minute for the poor to make a phone call. Corrupt politicians have sold every fish in the ocean to industrial fisheries. And there are signs of poverty everywhere, like stray dogs on every corner. There are no stray dogs in Spain. In the USA, which is where I am from, if someone sees a stray dog they call the dog catcher. In Chile, people believe that to catch and sterilize a stray dog is to somehow take away its manhood. So the program grows geometrically.
Anyway my friends in Chile are not going to like how much I criticize their country. I don't like how much I criticize their country either which is one reason I thought I should leave. But there is so much to mock there that I wrote an entire book on that https://www.amazon.com/Avocado-Republic-Chile-…/…/B015L6BJC0
I have just arrived on the continent of the Conquistadores from the continent of their victims. Perhaps I will soon be full of criticism of Cristóbal Colón and his descendants. Perhaps soon I will be critical of this place too. But that will give me something to write about.
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