CONCHA Y TORO WINEMAKER’S LOT 148 CARMENERE—Perfect for the antepenultimate Day (unless your mother is going to rip your heart out by “gifting” it to one of the kids’ teachers)

Scarybear says when we see the flash two days from now, we have to immediately fill the bathtub with water. He read that in The Road. Scary adds: Isn’t it typical of our parents that they haven’t bothered to stock up on water or provisions for the coming Apocalypse?

DSCN2776I’d been ignoring the countdown to Armageddon because it’s been feeling like Armageddon already. Plus we’ve had things to do, like planning P’s birthday party at Captain Kid’s indoor hellmouth fun centre, trying to figure out why the middle section of our Canadian Tire Christmas tree doesn’t light up, and getting ready for our holiday road trip to Vancouver Island. What with Santa breakfasts, mall shopping, and the fact that every other kid at school has decided to have a birthday party this week, things are pretty freaking busy at LBHQ. Oh yeah, and there’s this big dump of snow this morning—a phenomenon our city is totally unready for. Traffic is a disaster, there are only a handful of snowplows in the entire Lower Mainland, schools are closing (OMG! Nooo!), and if we get half a foot more of it they’ll declare it an official emergency (like, for real). Yes, we are f#cked when it snows in this part of the world, because it so rarely does. We don’t know how to drive in it, we don’t have the tires for it, braking hard on a skid seems to be a natural Vancouverite intuition, and half the drivers don’t need to be on the road—they’re trying it out for the sheer novelty of it.

Scary says we’re really screwed now because Mum won’t drive to get provisions. This is true—if there’s one person you don’t want operating a car in the snow, it’s my mother. But at least, Scary says, we’ll have snow to get water from when everything goes dark on Friday.

Scary’s obsession with water is starting to freak me out. He seems to have narrowed down his apocalyptic speculations from many (collapse of the vacuum, solar flares, asteroids, rogue black holes, gamma rays, volcanism, magnetic field reversal) to one: nuclear annihilation.mushroom cloud

I wish Scary would read books that weren’t about the end of the world. I would happily lend him a bartending guide or some Nabokov if he’d have it, but he won’t. (Maybe he will in two days, but he says it will be hard to read by candlelight, and that reading will be an absurd luxury anyway.)

Right now, Scary says, it’s important to do Meaningful Things. Society is ending, and we have to treasure those things that are Important. For example, Scary is going to binge-watch Stargate, because that was always his favorite.

“Well,” I said, “I’ve been saving a bottle of CONCHA Y TORO WINEMAKER’S LOT 148 Carmenere (2010). That would be perfect for Apocalypse Eve, wouldn’t it?”

“Wrong, weirdo,” he said. “That would be dehydrating. On December 22 we’re going to be rationing water. Don’t expect any extra because you’re hung over.”

Who made Scary the boss of the Apocalypse, I don’t know. How does he even know that wine would dehydrate us? I had no idea myself. Let’s investigate this, my fellow inebriates.

Does alcohol cause dehydration?

OMG, apparently people have known about this for years. Shakespeare mentions it in the Macduff-Porter scene about erections:

PORTER

‘Faith sir, we were carousing till the second cock. And drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things.

MACDUFF

What three things does drink especially provoke?

PORTER

Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes. It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.

He said "cock."

He said “cock.”

Alcohol does make you pee. But why?

The diuretic quality of alcohol is still not fully understood. According to Dr. Karl:

After all, beer is about 95 per cent water and only five per cent alcohol. And the liver converts that five per cent of alcohol into roughly the same mass of water and some carbon dioxide.

So if you drink 200 millilitres of beer, the end result is 200 millilitres of water. But you don’t urinate just 200 millilitres of urine. No! You urinate a total of about 320 millilitres of urine.

What the hell? Dr. Karl says that for every shot of alcohol, you pee an extra 120 mL. Where does it come from, my fellow inebriates?

Alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to regulate water levels.

Ordinarily your pituitary gland releases ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) to keep water in the body (based on electrolyte levels and so forth) so you don’t get dehydrated. ADH curtails peeing. But alcohol reduces your ADH production, sending you on multiple bathroom trips. Even if you try to catch up by drinking water, you don’t get to keep that water—most of it will get tinkled out, and you’ll still end up dehydrated.

And, according to Scary, it’ll be your fault if you get hammered the night before Armageddon and end up thirsty. Smart survivalists like himself will be hoarding water and looting grocery stores. (“Idiots like you, LB, will be looting liquor stores and HMV.”)

OMG, Scary is mean sometimes. I do realize there won’t be any electricity. But liquor? Liquor could have its uses.57911_469184923103527_1148624302_n

That bathtub of water is going to get pretty crappy pretty fast. At least it won’t have traces of bathroom cleanser in it, though—it doesn’t occur to Mum to scrub it very often. We just have to get the kids to stop peeing in the tub. Still, within a couple of days of the blast, that water will have all kinds of floaties in it. We’ll be wanting some beer then, I reckon.

But beer’s dehydrating, isn’t it?

Not if you’re already dehydrated. Then other bodily regulatory forces will override the dehydrating effects of ADH, to a point at least. And beer is 95 percent water, so you’ll get to keep at least some of it. “Yeah,” says Scary, “but water would be better, douchebag.”

Okay, so what about our bottle of CONCHA Y TORO Carmenere? Maybe we should drink that tonight rather than on Apocalypse Eve.

But OMG, according to my mum, it’s not our bottle. “That’s for V’s kindergarten teacher.”

Holy crap, we’re giving our wine away to teachers??

“We really like V’s teacher.”

This is the end of the world.

Concha y ToroWe’ve had this CONCHA Y TORO Carmenere before, and it is luminous. Inky and full-bodied, it wafts generously layered aromas of black cherry, espresso, leather, and floral notes. Decadently concentrated yet incredibly complex, this Carmenere is epic on the palate—supple and smooth, structured and long-finishing. This wine is a powerhouse of fruit orchestration, commanding your attention from first to final, reluctant sip (if you had an absorbent paw, you could get the last of it that way, knowing no one will be operating the Maytag after December 21). And at a $20 price tag, this CONCHA Y TORO offering is all the more magnificent.

Personally, I think V should be doing long division and reading Beowulf if we’re giving her teacher this particular bottle.

“LB, don’t be a dick,” said my mother.

“He can’t help it,” said Scary.

Advertisements

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?

The pre-apocalypse gin shoot-out!

I can’t remember where I found this poll. Oops.

If I thought my friend Scarybear was in the minority for thinking that we’re nearing the End of Days, well, perhaps I was right, but it’s not a small majority. This freaks me out a little. I’ve been reassuring myself with the thought that Scary’s an idiot, but he’s got solid backup in this poll and others like it.

When he mentioned the sun had just ejected a massive coronal flare, now speeding toward our little planet, with the potential to duplicate the Carrington Super Flare of 1859, I got really worried and started trying to distract myself with various projects, some of which ended badly.

Scary seemed to be enjoying the idea of all our electronics getting fried despite his reliance on the TV to bring him shows like Dexter and Breaking Bad. His contemplation of disaster seemed even more enjoyable because it freaked me out, my fellow inebriates. I even forgot about my DTs for a while.

And then the brilliant Christine showed up with her canvas bag and effectively banished all thoughts of Armageddon. There was no one in the world I would rather have seen at that moment, and what’s more, Scary vamoosed (being afraid of women), taking with him all notions of solar ejecta and electromagnetic havoc.

Which left us free to do the LBHQ Gin Shoot-Out in peace.

Although Christine had brought Scotch, cask-aged beer, red wine, and a honey hefeweizen, she was perfectly game to get into the gin first. We decided to be scientific and sample the different brands two ways:

  • straight up
  • in identically prepared G&Ts

I’d been envisioning a tableful of gin—seven varieties, perhaps, especially because it was my dad’s birthday—but encroaching old age hadn’t helped my dad find his gin-drinking inner child; nor had the attainment of 47 years triggered the sort of midlife crisis makes a man rush out and blow his whole paycheque on gin. So I had to settle for three brands:

  • GILBEY’S LONDON DRY GIN ($11.88/375mL)
  • GORDON’S LONDON DRY GIN ($12.69/375mL)
  • BOMBAY SAPPHIRE LONDON DRY GIN ($13.99/375mL)

GILBEY’S LONDON DRY GIN

This is a Canadian product my parents told me I couldn’t review unless I managed to get a free sample. But at $11.88 per 375mL, it represents the bottom shelf, and the Canadian bottom shelf at that, so they relented for the sake of contrast. For this, our first Gin Shoot-Out, we wanted three distinct tiers, and something needed to be at the bottom. Our other choice would have been a big jug of POTTER’S, also Canadian, but my parents didn’t want to pony up $36 for 1.14 litres. They said we wouldn’t want that much. Hellloooo???

Straight up

No two ways about it, GILBEY’S is rough. Jagged and pointy, front-end palate abuse with no backnote to speak of, the taste lacks not just subtlety but almost the entire array of flavors that make gin so famously nuanced. It’s a little like being shivved in the tongue, drinking this ragged stuff. Perhaps it would appeal to drinkers of cheap vodka with its lack of complexity and harsh edge. You couldn’t possibly get down a martini made with GILBEY’S, not unless you were very committed to drinking that martini. I would do it, of course, but only if I didn’t have GORDON’S and BOMBAY SAPPHIRE winking at me from across the table.

Gin & Tonic

GILBEY’S is much more tolerable with tonic and a big squeeze of lime. But it’s still edgy—sort of like chewing tinfoil or being yelled at. I thought it was okay, and I would do it again.

GORDON’S LONDON DRY GIN

We’re already fans of GORDON’S at LBHQ; it won us over just last week. The best-selling gin in the world and James Bond’s gin of choice, GORDON’S is a solid, traditional gin.

Straight up

Back to back against GILBEY’S, a straight sip of GORDON’S provides a flood of juniper-infused relief. On the tongue it expands with complexity, although citrus and juniper jump to the foreground. Highly sippable, GORDON’S would make an admirable martini.

Gin & Tonic

Ahhhhhh! Yes! This is what GORDON’S was made to do. With its firm citrus backbone and juniper chorus, GORDON’S owns the gin & tonic. Its personality punches through the tonic nicely and coordinates well with a lime twist. Maybe we’re all primed to delight in a GORDON’S G&T because so many bars mix with GORDON’S by default, but none of us were disappointed by its generously layered flavors. What Christine said about gin in general, “It tastes like more,” couldn’t have been more true with a gin like GORDON’S.

BOMBAY SAPPHIRE LONDON DRY GIN

We haven’t had this at LBHQ for many years. My mum grew up with BEEFEATER, practically the antithesis of BOMBAY SAPPHIRE and famous for clobbering the drinker with not unwelcome lashings of juniper. BOMBAY SAPPHIRE strives to be more delicate: a premium but still affordable gin with a more floral profile. As such we expected it to win the martini category but possibly not the G&T category, because its subtle notes might get lost in a mixer.

Straight up

Ahhhhhh! Yes, indeed, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE tinkles across the tongue with delightful botanical essences, none outstripping the others. Of the three gins, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE is the lightest and most playful sipper. With just a whisper of vermouth it would make a perfect martini.

Gin & Tonic

Here we found ourselves divided. My mum thought her BOMBAY G&T was divine; Christine liked hers but preferred GORDON’S; and my dad departed from all reason, describing his BOMBAY G&T as “dusty.” What he meant by that I couldn’t pry out of him. I live in a house full of synaesthetes who don’t know how to describe flavors except in terms of sounds/colors/textures, and I guessed, when my dad said “dusty,” that he was applying some sort of metaphor—that perhaps a G&T made with BOMBAY SAPPHIRE felt venerable somehow; perhaps it threw him back to a past life in which he was a British colonial pounding tonic for its anti-malarial quinine and getting pissed on gin as a side effect. But he said he meant it literally—that it tasted like dust. So I guess we have to take my dad to the doctor.

Results of the Shoot-Out

Here’s the breakdown (lowest being best):

  1. most favorite
  2. second favorite
  3. least favorite

Resoundingly, the bottom-tier gin got waxed in the Shoot-Out. But the whole exercise illustrates the law of diminishing returns. Once you get past the bottom shelf (which, with a mickey, it costs about a dollar to do), you enter a realm of highly competitive products, the best of which often comes down to subjective tastes. For the 375mL size, the three products we reviewed were about a dollar apart. At $11.88 GILBEY’S got trounced. At 76 cents more, GORDON’S represented a whole other echelon. But adding $1.30 for BOMBAY SAPPHIRE didn’t make a significant difference; it was almost a toss-up, with GORDON’S emerging the winner by one point.

Whether this will play out with three other gins, we just can’t know. We can’t know until we do it. But there’s a Shoot-Out Part Deux in the future. If Scarybear’s ideas about global annihilation are wrong and there is a future.

Photo: Reuters/NASA