My Fellow Inebriates,

Sixteen bucks in our local booze shop and we had ourselves a bottle of PETER LEHMANN BAROSSA BRUNETTE (2008). We’d had some luck with Peter Lehmann wines before, mostly because they’re competently made and easy to drink, and we held this one to the same expectations. How did it measure up?

peter lehmann barossa brunetteIn fairness to Peter Lehmann, his BAROSSA BRUNETTE was upstaged by an Argentine Malbec we enjoyed immediately before it (review to follow). Although we have friends who would debate this, the LBHQ policy is to have the lesser wine first, moving from good to better (we can’t afford “best”). It’s very pleasant to savor one wine only to have it topped by another. This way you get to enjoy both wines—the first in ignorance of the second. If you have the better wine first, whatever follows is going to seem like relative crap.

Well, yes and no. Sometimes it’s just a shock to the palate. Sometimes that second wine isn’t necessarily lesser—just different. You have to let those taste buds shift gears and adjust. If the second wine is decent, this usually occurs within one glass. However, if the wine is relative crap, you end up bitching about it until it’s gone, wishing it were like the first.

This may have been what happened with PETER LEHMANN BAROSSA BRUNETTE. Following a Malbec that overdelivered with complexity and ripe fruit, the Lehmann offering came across as one-notish, industrial swill. Which probably wasn’t a fair judgment. So let’s address it on its own merits.

To do this we have to dismiss our impressions of the first glass. All of us (bears, parents, our friend R) were getting pleasantly pissed when we opened the BAROSSA BRUNETTE. Almost pissed enough to enter the basement for Guitar Hero embarrassment.

We will ignore the first glass. A Guitar Hero interval…

Just what we needed to absorb the first wine. The second glass is fair game.

Okay, so LBHQ (and guest) impressions were as follows:


Barnyardy…one-notish…mass-production…couldn’t get past the barnyard note


Industrial/standard…thin…turpentine/petroleum…ish. Didn’t really quite work…


Mass-market swill but not objectionable; I’m having more.


You guys really don’t have to finish it; I’ll take care of it.

The stuff is pretty standard and typical for its price range—certainly not a “find.” A 75:25 blend of Grenache and Shiraz and ringing in at 14.5% alcohol, BAROSSA BRUNETTE is earthy and dry with unexpectedly assertive tannins yet a surprisingly short finish. As much as we’ve been happy with previous Peter Lehmann buys, this one reeks of mass production and even has the sense of being constituted of leftovers. As R said, it doesn’t really quite work.

But there our criticism ended. We had alcohol to ingest and “Bulls on Parade” cued up. My dad kicked my mum’s ass; she is really never going to improve at Guitar Hero, but at least she has thumbs and can make the attempt. Between songs we dissed Peter Lehmann’s marketing team for the following ad copy about Peter Lehmann, the man himself:

Peter Lehmann logo

This wine is a testament to the man and his bravery to dream.

Even when you write your marketing copy in the third person, everyone who reads it knows you signed off on it. Or at least you should have, especially if you’re saying your product is representative of you and your bravery to dream.

I’d like to believe Peter Lehmann himself is blissfully unaware of the douchebag copywriting being done on his behalf. After all, the guy is 82 years old. If I were 82 I’d be hanging by the pool, and if I owned a vineyard I’d be wrecked all the time—too wrecked to care what anybody wrote about me.

Let’s hope that’s the case. But for any of you out there, let’s just say: Even if you write your ad copy in the third person, everyone who reads it suspects you signed off on it. So if you say you’re a “gifted innovator,” a “visionary,” or a “thought leader,” we generally read it as “dickhead.”

Note to anyone with a marketing bio: It wouldn’t hurt to self-deprecate a bit. Your work stands as its own testament, does it not? Don’t be a tool.

LUCKY COUNTRY SHIRAZ-GRENACHE (2009)—You deserve it, and so do my dad and Dan Ariely

My Fellow Inebriates,

By the end of his weekend bunkbed-building project, my dad was sweating. He totally deserved a beer. After all that effort, I thought he deserved something really extraordinary, but instead he chose a can of crappy (well, not crappy—at first I liked it, but then I had it again and I didn’t so much, expect that it’s good for getting gooned) beer. Seriously, if that’s what my dad gets for putting together a JYSK bunkbed set in under two hours, he has some self-esteem problems.

lucky country shiraz grenache 2009If it were up to me (and it never is) we’d at least shake the piggybank out for some LUCKY COUNTRY SHIRAZ GRENACHE (2009) from Australia’s famed Barossa Valley. Now, maybe the $17.99 price tag was a deterrent after my parents had shelled out $240 at JYSK. But how could it be? As financial ignoramuses (and they are), my parents should have been fully susceptible to the “anchoring” effect of just having spent a wad of cash. Spend $240 and suddenly $17.99 doesn’t seem like much. Ergo, there should be a bottle of LUCKY COUNTRY sitting at LBHQ right now, on its way to being empty.

It’s true—experiments have shown that consumers are highly suggestible when it comes to price points. Dan Ariely and Drazen Prelec did an experiment in 2006 in which they had MIT students bid auction-style on random items such as bottles of wine, computer accessories, and textbooks. But before they bid on a particular item, all students were asked to write down the last two digits of their social insurance numbers.  Then the auction took place and the students made their bids.

Dan Ariely obviously knows his stuff.

Dan Ariely obviously knows his stuff.

Weirdly, the students whose SINs ended in higher numbers (i.e., 97, 93, etc.), than students with lower-ending SINs (23, 16, etc.) ended up making higher bids for miscellaneous items. And not marginally higher—346 percent higher. Just writing those two SIN digits on a piece of paper had, the experimenters surmised, primed them to consider higher real-world numbers when it came time to spend actual money on an item at auction. Ariely and Prelec labeled these numbers anchors, and went on to point out that anchoring happens all the time, with all kinds of purchases. (These findings and plenty of other fascinating ones are detailed in Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.)

For instance, if you ate groundhog stew for dinner tonight, prepared from a roadkill specimen you found by happenstance for zero dollars…well. When you found yourself pricing ribeye steak at Safeway a couple of days later you might choke at paying $5.99/lb, deal of the week or not. Your groundhog was free, which tethered your mind to the idea that all meat could be free, and now Safeway’s offerings don’t seem so hot.

But if you recently spent $100 on an organic non-medicated turkey and wasted basted it with sparkling wine for Christmas dinner, now a $19 package of steaks doesn’t seem like such a burn.

Leaving me to reiterate: Where is our bottle of LUCKY COUNTRY???? Ripe and plump with Barossa Valley fruit and considerable tannins, this 2009 Shiraz-Grenache blend is promiscuous with blackberry, chocolate, and earthy notes. Its loose structure makes it a little sloppy going down, but so lush with black fruit that…who cares? It has depth if not definition, and the finish is lingering.

BarossaValleymapBarossa Valley is one of my favorite wine regions, and in our ‘hood $17.99 is a steal for a decent red from that part of Australia. If there are nicer wines from that area, they tend to cost $4-10+ more—the land of diminishing returns for buyers with budgets like my parents’. And let’s face it, we bought our bunkbed at JYSK, not Pottery Barn. Its price tag can only have ratcheted Dad’s spending anchor so much.

Another plus for LUCKY COUNTRY: You won’t find a critter on the label, marsupial or otherwise. Producer Michael Twelftree doesn’t go in for the mass marketing typical of Aussie wines. His wines are made the old-fashioned way, blended in small batches and minimally filtered. Which is to say, even if my dad had bagged a groundhog the other day, LUCKY COUNTRY wouldn’t have sprung to mind as an accompaniment.

Who needs food, anyway, people? Just get your mitts on some of this awesome and affordable Barossa Valley wine, and drink it as is.

GARNACHA DE FUEGO—The cure for the End of Days, but not Fluffy

When we bought GARNACHA DE FUEGO (2009), we did so just in time. Some dude was grabbing up all the bottles! Naturally this made us eager to hang on to our treasure and maybe even taunt the guy with the one bottle in our basket.

Ahhhh, the liquor store. The clinking! The tinkling! The samples! The atmosphere! The scent of empties being returned…I don’t accompany my parents there very often because they don’t trust me, but if my mum’s using her big patent leather bag I sometimes jump in just as they’re leaving. On this particular day I wasn’t just lured by the thought of thousands of booze bottles. I wanted to get the hell out of LBHQ. Scarybear had just mentioned that we were approaching Fluffy’s first Halloween in the house.

On this day last year, Granny was very sick, and Fluffy was with her. Far away in Ireland, he sat on a chest of drawers, observing Granny’s last days…waiting.

Fast-forward to today. Granny: dead. Fluffy: haunted by Granny, who didn’t always get along with my mother. Scary: preoccupied with the earth’s overdue magnetic field shift and needing to project his apocalyptic anxiety onto the easiest victim, yours truly.

Scooping that one bottle of GARNACHA DE FUEGO felt like such a score that I forgot about these problems. Spain has been lucky for us lately, $15.99 wasn’t painful, and 14.5% alcohol gets two paws up any day. Situated high in the hills of Calatayud (say that drunk), old vines produce grapes bursting with concentrated sweetness and depth. And when the guy ahead of you in the checkout is buying 15 bottles of the stuff, it’s a strong endorsement.

My dad was afraid of the silly label. True, it’s a little over the top, but at LBHQ we are much more leery of a wine label bearing wombats or chooks than one depicting “Grenache of Fire.” Indeed, the former type is more frightening than Fluffy’s paranormal antics and the great magnetic pole flip put together.

What Scary doesn’t realize in his countdown to December 21, the generally agreed-upon End of Days, is that a magnetic reversal would take tens of centuries to occur. It’s not like planes will fall out of the air or birds will start bonking into each other suddenly. The change will be subtle. Some scientists believe the shift is already in its early stages but is so slow as to be imperceptible.

North is magnetic by virtue of atomic majority rule in the planet’s molten core; more atoms face north than south. As individual atoms flip, eventually the dominant magnetism may shift to south, but a long and middling interval will precede any definitive magnetic south. During this time—and this is the potentially dangerous part—the earth’s magnetic field will weaken as its atoms’ polarities split roughly evenly between north and south orientations, leaving the planet more vulnerable to the solar flares that a strong magnetic field would deflect. In turn the ozone layer will be more susceptible to holes, although, as Scary should know from his other theories about Armageddon, by then we’ll have torched the whole protective layer anyway. We’ll (well, you will, and I if I shave my fur off) be running around with skin like crispy KFC, but not this December 21, people.

Scary is a total dumbass but at least he stayed out of the GARNACHA DE FUEGO. The “fire” may be a reference to the peppery spice that characterizes the wine, especially at rear palate after it’s dealt you much-welcome lashings of rich, earthy fruit with a nice acidic backbone. Considering the reported desolation of the Calatayud region, it makes some kick-ass grapes, which translate into a gorgeously balanced wine with just the right tannic profile. You could drink it with food, but if you’d prefer to get ripped out of your head, enjoy this quaff solo (especially if “solo” means you don’t have to share with Scary, Fluffy, or your dad).

The best thing about having a whole bottle of GARNACHA DE FUEGO to yourself is that you’ll lose all concern for magnetic shifts, tectonic upheavals, solar flares, and the like. But you might still worry about the occult potential of any possessed members of your household, especially on a night like tonight. I hear that when you’re really wrecked you become more susceptible to suggestion, and this was probably the case when I thought I heard Granny asking me if I had any cigarettes. I didn’t (holy shit, my fellow inebriates, I’m too flammable to mess with stuff like that, and where would I keep them—being ever-nude I don’t even have a pocket for a flask), but when I turned toward the voice, all I saw was Fluffy with his vacant eyes.

And how was YOUR Halloween?