Pimp My Wine

Pimp My Wine

If you don't watch a lot of TV you may have never heard of the MTV show Pimp My Ride, where old jalopies are transformed during the course of the program into tricked-out dream cars for their respective owners. It's a bit like Extreme Makeover except for cars.

And if you haven't been hangin' 'round the 'hood, you may not know that “pimp” is no longer a derogatory term. Used as a verb it now means to customize or make cool, hip and stylish (but usually in a Huggy Bear sort of way).

In this article we'll explore the various ways that wines are currently pimped and try out some pimpin’ ourselves.

Tricks of da Trade

Pimp Hat

There's a whole posse of winemakers out there who've jumped on the natural or real wine bandwagon dissin' the wild manipulations we're looking at here. That's all fine and noble, but make no doubt about it: we're going to blast right past their horse-drawn booties so hang on to your hat (which would be a velvet fedora if you're truly with us).

The ways that wines are pimped:

  • Oak Barrels, Sheaves, Chunks, Chips, Dust, Essence, etc. Oak is the old school way to to get those great toasty vanilla, butter, clove and black pepper flavas. These flavas will vary depending on what type of oak and how its toasted. Barrels are legal everywhere but cost a lot of dough and slows down the process. The fastest way and cheapest method, oak essence, is contraband practically everywhere. Most of the new world (Australia, Chile, California etc) allows chunks, chips, and dust to get the great flava as easy as makin' tea.
  • MicroOxygenation MicroOxygenation replicates the way barrels let in a little oxygen to help the wine mellow and soften the tannins etc. but in a turbocharged way. I'm thinkin' Oak chips + MicroOxygenation= Barrique aging. Why let your wine chill in a barrel when you can be sippin' it today?
  • Cultured Yeast Yeast occurs naturally on the skin of all grapes which is basically how we first found out about fermentation. The old school still use this natural yeast to make their wines but are missin' out on a whole other world of flava like the cherry banana bubblegum found in most Beaujolais Nouveau. Without their signature Yeast 71B -- made in Holland from tomatoes -- they'd still be limpin' along like Beaujolais Oldveau. Those Dutch cats know a thing or two about better livin' through chemistry.
DJ Dr. Frank
  • Flavorings Totally illegal but who's goin' to know? A little cherry here, a little rasberry there and you're on your way to a major thermonuclear fruit bomb. Yo! Lady Jancis of Robinson's OCW1 states that illegal flavoring used to be easy to catch when they were isoproponal based but now that they're ethanol (the same alcohol in wine) based they're almost impossible to detect.
  • Chapitalization A big word for adding sugar to the grape juice before fermentation. Since all the sugar is fermented into alcohol, it's for makin' a wine more powerful not for makin' it sweet. Word up.
  • Reverse Osmosis Hi-tech lab method used to lower the octane on high alcohol juice. The opposite of Chapitalization. What's up with that yo?
  • Acidification Hot weather makes grapes very ripe with low acid which means low refreshment. No prob Holmes: a few scoops of tartaric acid will make it all better. Sad how global warmin's gettin' way too many wines hooked on acid.
  • Deacidification The opposite of Acidification and very rare these days.
  • Etc. If you really need to geek out see A comparison of legislation about winemaking additives and processes
Buildin' a Thermonuclear Fruit Bomb This is how we do it.
Wine Pimp Theory
“Thermonuclear Fruit Bomb” is a term from the OG2 himself - Mr. Robert Parker Jr. - that signifies a monster wine holdin' back no punches, with gobs of decadent fruit, board-feet of luxurious oak, etc. etc. Our goal was to take a tame wine and make it into one of those fantabulous bling-bling monsters. The experiment was under professional supervision by our own DJ Dr. Frank but can be tried in the comfort of your own home if you don't mind blowin' out your taste buds. Armed with Sinatrin 17 Natural Oak Flavor and Richie Brand Raspberry, Cherry and Cherry Brandy Flavor Packs we were ready to get down to some serious pimpin'. All these adulterants are readily available in any home wine making shop and all are completely illegal in commercial wine making so if the ATF3 calls, you don't know nothing' OK cuz?

Since it seems everyone's pimping these days it was damn difficult to find a pimp-free wine to work on. Most cheap wines these days are pretty much pre-pimped with some clumsy-ass oak or fruit jackin' yeasts. We had to go through the whole bottom shelf just to find a few inoffensive ones: a 2004 Bell'agio Chianti1 Star and a 2003 Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon AKA Two Buck Chuck1 Star. The Two Buck Chuck (4 X 50 Cent) was surprisingly low key but no match for the Chianti which became our blank slate for pimpin'.

  • Note on the base wine: Practically no aroma, very little flavor some indistinguishable fruit but good acids and no faults – technically vinous. Tasted blind it barely registered as a red.Pimpin
  • A few oak drops later: Uh, oh Dr. Frankenstein, it's ALIVE! No wonder everyone's pimpin' their wines.
  • Then the cherry flava: Very scary, very convincing – a definite improvement on the original. Who's zoomin' who?
  • Then the raspberry: Aroma convincing but the the palate is getting a little contrived.
  • Then the cherry brandy flava: Added to vodka and water, this one makes a cheap cherry brandy. Added to our pimped Chianti it makes a cheap tacky wine. Yo! Ciao vino. And we was just getting' started!
One From da Mac Daddy
Fombrauge as a Car
When we were lookin' 'round for some wines to pimp we came across this tricked out outrageous mutha from St. Emilion, the 2003 Château Fombrauge3 Stars. Holy lumberyard Batman! This dawg's throwin' off more oak than the Sinatrin 17! Yo! Fantabulous for serious pro-oak wine geeks (also known as woodchucks, beavers and termites - see the Compleat Wine Geek Glossary for more info) and probably the easiest way to get your year's allowance of oak without wearin' out your teeth. It also has loads of plump curvy fruit to make for some serious sippin'. Consulted on by da mac daddy of wine pimpin' himself – Michel Rolland - this one is burstin' with flava. Yeah a mad fly Emilion. Conclusion A little pimpin' can give a lame wine some bling but thermonuclear fruit bombs still must be made in the vineyard. 1OCW=Oxford Companion to Wine 2OG=Original Gangsta 3ATF=Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (yo wine is a weapon)

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  • Clark Smith as in The Clark Smith of Vinovation has a fascinating story about pimpin a non-alcoholic wine. Read how the real pros do it:


    Steve De Long on
  • Incidentally there is a comprehensive wine course, that mentions all of the above techniques, it has a wealth of information and is free and easy to use:


    Christopher Grigg on
  • A few years ago I was in Taiwan and I read a wine tip in a local English language paper. The best way to restore an off red wine is to add half a clove of garlic to a glass of wine. Apparently the process is not linear, just one clove will do a bottle. I’ve never tried it, but I would be interested to hear from anybody who has.

    Darby on
  • Ahhh, Steve, once again you make me jealous with a blog I wish I’d posted on my blog. A great way to introduce the novice drinker to the manipulations that go on “behind the curtain” at so many of their favorite wineries. Sadly, labeling laws and the ability to enforce them are waaaay behind the market.

    Dave Chambers on
  • […] Undir fyrirsögninni “Pimp My Wine” veltir De Long því fyrir sér á léttu nótunum hvernig megi breyta einföldu borðvíni í eikarávaxtasprengju og gerir tilraun á saklausu Chianti víni. […]

    Einfalt vín fær andlitslyftingu hjá de Long « Vín og matur: blogg on
  • It’s about wine cred.

    JP on

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