Poetics and the personal when it comes to gin, vermouth, and bitters.

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When you write about drinks for a living, people in your life eventually ask you to teach them how to make a martini. Sometimes they ask you to show them a “real martini” or a “proper martini” or a “gin martini.” But it all means the same thing. Even though your nerdy friends on Drinks Twitter spend a lot of time arguing about Negroni variations, the normal people in your life never really ask about a Boulevardier or an Old Pal. Even though you’ve written about dozens, hundreds, of cocktails, your friends usually don’t want to hear about your favorite…


Thinking too deeply about pairing food and drink is ridiculous. But no more ridiculous than life itself.

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I’ve been thinking about pairings. Well, I’ve been thinking about a lot of things during what was a disheartening holiday month — thinking too much, to be honest, along with talking too much, and creating too much useless drama. Wine pairings seemed a safe thing to ponder. I’ve always considered the topic of what to drink with what you eat to be one of the dullest in wine (Potato chips and Champagne! Olives and sherry! Sauternes and lobster! Asparagus and grüner veltliner!). Dull seemed to pair well with my mood. …


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Photo: Amber Janelle Brown

Hello there. I realize most of you haven’t heard from me in a while. Launching Planet of the Grapes at the beginning of this terrible pandemic probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. And so, as you’ve surely noticed, we’ve gone into deep hiatus/hibernation since early summer. But I’m planning to reboot and relaunch Planet of the Grapes in early 2021, with a broader focus than before. We’ll still talk about wine, for sure, but the content will expand to include more pieces about other drinks, food, and travel. I hope you will keep an eye out for it.

Among…


A new wave of France’s famed brandy embraces innovation

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“Welcome to the turn of the 20th century,” said my guide, Marielle Chopin-Pascaud, as I entered the tasting room of Bache-Gabrielsen, on a quiet street in downtown Cognac. As four generations of Bache-Gabrielsens stared down at me from black-and-white portraits, I sipped the double-distilled brandy that bears the name of this city and region. Blended from spirits dating as far back as World War I, the drink offered a complex taste from another era: rich, unctuous, with evocative aromas and flavours of well-worn leather, dark tobacco, antique furniture. …


Some thoughts on the 25th anniversary of Frances Mayes’ memoir of the good life.

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I have sat on Tuscan-brown sofas surrounded by Tuscan-yellow walls, lounged on Tuscan patios made with Tuscan pavers, surrounded by Tuscan landscaping. I have stood barefoot on Tuscan bathroom tiles, washing my hands under Tuscan faucets after having used Tuscan toilets. I have eaten, sometimes on Tuscan dinnerware, a Tuscan Chicken on Ciabatta from Wendy’s, a Tuscan Chicken Melt from Subway, Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden, and Tuscan Hummus from California Pizza Kitchen. I’ve watched my friend fill his dog’s bowl with Beneful Tuscan Style Medley dog food. This barely merited a raised eyebrow; I’d already been guilty of feeding…


A time for celebration, but also for reflection.

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Instead of Champagne last night, I opened a weird dry Oregon gewürztraminer. It seemed a fine way to toast the strange times we live in.

In 2018, I published a very long travel feature in the Washington Post Magazine, in which I visited a number of the Trump vacation properties around the world — including the hotels in Panama and Vancouver (both no longer operating), the golf courses in Scotland, the ruins of the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, the winery in Virginia. The editors wanted me to draw some sort of conclusion “through the eyes of a travel writer”…


It’s one of those little lies people tell one another.

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“Why do you dislike Santa Margherita pinot grigio so much?” This was a text I recently received from an ex. Not a recent ex, mind you, but one from half a lifetime ago. I was with M during grad school, when I was 23 and she was 20.

“Santa Margherita?” I replied. “I don’t hate it!”

“You wrote a whole article about it! How it was the typical basic wine to bring to someone’s house lol”

It’s true that I have written negatively about pinot grigio. First, like, a decade ago. Then, in a book, I wrote the following: How…


What realm of taste doesn’t have its certified expert?

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My training as a honey sommelier at the American Honey Tasting Society culminates with eight wineglasses filled with various honeys, lined up from light to dark. My instructor, Carla Marina Marchese, tells me that when we taste honey, we don’t do the ceremonial swirl — the wine expert’s ritual — before we sniff. Honey sommeliers smear. “Smear it on the sides of the glass like this,” she says, using a tiny plastic spoon. Once the honey is smeared, I can stick my nose in the glass to properly evaluate the aroma, then spoon a dollop onto my tongue.

Marchese is…


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Hello there. As promised, here is Planet of the Grapes’ first essay of 2021. It’s a short moody essay on pairings, in both wine and life.

On Pairings

Pairings are no more ridiculous than any other of life’s pleasures. The best ones are always unexpected and fleeting. And we recognize them mostly in hindsight.


The Indonesian classic is more than just chicken on a stick

Chicken satay
Chicken satay
Photo: iStock

Satay, by now, is so much a part of American food culture that there’s rarely a wedding or other catered event that doesn’t feature some kind of bland chicken-on-a-stick appetizer served with peanut sauce. I’m old enough to remember when satay started becoming popular in the 1980s, with the rise of Thai and fusion restaurants. It quickly went from unknown to one of the most accessible, crowd-pleasing “Asian” dishes that Americans enjoy. …

Jason Wilson

Editor, Planet of the Grapes. Author of Godforsaken Grapes, Boozehound, & The Cider Revival. Series editor of The Best American Travel Writing. jasonwilson.com

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