Wine lovers talk about how a wine should tell a story, that it must communicate terroir. By drinking a glass of vino, according to this theory, the consumer should be able to learn something about the geography, soil, climate, and therefore the flavors, foods, and even history of a culture. For those of us who can't quite intuit these things from a mere sip, there are wine books, magazines, and websites (and, of course, the tasting-note cheat-sheets on the back labels). Now Francis Ford Coppola, the movie maven with the megawineries, is combining the grape juice and educational supplement in one package. They're called "Encyclopedia Wines." And they're weird lookin'.
My first thought is that these bottles show a startling resemblance to the design of the stories in the Epicurious "Around the World in 80 Dishes" series. Both the wines and the articles/videos highlight a region using the postage stamp metaphor. Both employ handwritten-like fonts, too, as exemplified by the "80 Dishes" and the "Italia Inside" (shown above).
As usual, Coppola has a grand vision: The wines (which I'll get to in a moment), are merely a starting point (or ending point, depending on your journey). Somewhere along the line, you're supposed to visit the dedicated website (www.knoWine.com) and explore the multimedia feast that awaits you. There are blogs, videos, a glossary, a calendar, a question-and-answer section, plus pages organized by country ( Germany , France , Spain , Italy , and Argentina ), varietal (Cab, Pinot Grigio, Tempranillo, Riesling, Malbec, and Torrontes) and, of course, a store. It's limited in scope but there's a lot there to slake a thirst.
The bottles, shaped like decanters, have what is billed on the knoWine site as the world's largest screw cap (why that's worth promoting, I don't know, and I didn't think it made pouring any easier). While the overall concept is admirable (educate the consumer with fun packaging), the execution makes these look like beakers from a science class. And I'd be somewhat embarrassed to pick up a bottle that was explicitly geared for beginners. Then again, I am not the target demographic: young wine consumers. (Presumably the consumer is young, not the wine.)
So what about the wines, you ask? I liked the only one I've tried so far: the 2006 Tempranillo. What struck me most, besides notes of tobacco, were the soft tannins and dry finish. Not bad for $15.
By James Oliver Cury
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