Archive for the ‘Wine critiquing’ Category

Chambers Street wines follow up

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Ahhh, what a day. Made my way to Yankee Stadium this afternoon during what is the final season at the original Yankee stadium for a game against the Anaheim Angels who have in recent years dominated the Yankees. The Angels won the first two games of the 4 game series and the Yankees won yesterday. So today the Yankees needed a win to salvage a split of the 4 game series. Things started off poorly as the Angels jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Seemed like the beginning of another long afternoon at the stadium. But a solo HR by the newest Yankee; “Pudge” Rodriguez followed by some timely hitting by another recent Yankee acquisition, Xavier Nady and the stadium was rocking as the Yankees managed 8 runs over three innings to take an 8-5 lead. Two outs into the top of the 8th inning and things seemed great as Yankee reliever Edwar Ramirez was cruising. But in the blink of an eye the Angels loaded the bases and New Angel Mark Texiera hit a grand slam – Angels lead 9-8. On this day however Xavier Nady was not done and a 3-run homer plus some other clutch hitting and the Yankees scored 6 in the bottom of the 8th to retake the lead, 14-9, that would prove to ultimately be the final score.

Yankee wine

Following a great baseball game I went to the gym for a quickie workout and then went shopping to pick up some stuff for dinner. Quinoa with mushrooms. A salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, mushrooms, hearts of palm & yellow corn. And for the main, a pistachio crusted tilapia. (more…)

Wine scores – what to make of them

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Several months ago I wrote a post that touched on the issue of wine critics, the scores they give wines, and some other related issues (that can be found here) .  I’m not sure that I came to any concrete conclusions, but the subject briefly came up again yesterday so I thought I’d revisit.

A good friend called me & suggested I turn on my radio to listen to an interview with Neal I. Rosenthal, wine importer & now published author (“Reflections of a Wine Merchant”).  While Rosenthal had many interesting things to say during the interview, the interviewer mentioned the concept of score cards on retail shelves for wines, to which Rosenthal responded something not too subtle along the lines of loathing/abhorring/despising such score cards.

critic2.jpg (more…)

Wine bashing

Monday, May 12th, 2008

The California wine industry that welcomed a wine-novice Wine Tasting Guy with open arms is under attack. Alice Feiring, a warm woman whom I met & spoke with at length shortly after transitioning into the wine industry, is under attack. Wine drinkers everywhere are seemingly under attack. (more…)

What do you know about wine?

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

With Passover having arrived and large family (and extended family) meals (and seders) taking place I seem to have become somewhat of a clergy. As the wine is poured it is inevitable that someone around the table will announce the presence of The Wine Tasting Guy. At which point open confession begins. The two most common confessions being either “I know nothing about wine” or “I’m embarrassed but I only like sweet wine”.  I both love and hate hearing these common confessions.  I love them as they provide an indication that the confessor has an appreciation for wine, albeit one that has yet to be flushed out.  But I hate such confessions as they indicate an insecurity on the part of the confessor, something that likely resulted from an encounter with a dreaded “wine snob”.

I have preached many times before in this space that people need to trust their palates.  YES, trying new wines MAY lead to a palate that can/will evolve beyond the sweet stuff.  And YES, speaking (and drinking) with people who are more knowledgeable may lead to a better understanding of wine.  BUT…

Wine is food, or at least a lot like it in many ways. We get used to foods that are introduced to us as kids.  We either maintain an open mind and introduce ourselves to new foods and flavors or we don’t.  And we don’t seek out approval from others to decide for us whether or not we LIKE a food.  We try it and we either like it or not.

Wine is (or at least should be) the same way.  Try a wine & decide whether or not you like it.  That is all there is to it.  Forget the label, the price tag, the critic’s rating, or any nonsense some Wine Tasting Guy told you.  Nobody can tell you what will suit your palate.

I must confess that I do enjoy speaking about wine with those to whom it is of interest.  And I do not mind the aforementioned wine confessions.  I suppose this whole post has been about removing the pretension from wine so that more people would feel comfortable trying wine (or new wines) without having to worry about someone looking down their noses at them.

Happy open minded wine tasting!!


Blind Tasting

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

I just enjoyed another article written by Laurie Daniel for the San Jose Mercury News. This one titled “Blind tasting Can Be A Real Eye-Opener”. OK, the title is a little old-man-pun style, and the article was written citing some recent research done by Standford Business School and California Institute of technology (regarding how price influences people’s appreciation of wine)…but she sheds some light into wine appreciation. And as an advocate of blind tasting, I like to see other people touting its unique ability to force people to appreciate what it is the glass as opposed to its label, reputation or price tag.

I like blind tasting for a multitude of reasons. As someone who DOES NOT profess to having a master palate it is OK when in a blind tasting I pick a (supposedly) inferior wine over one priced much higher or said to be much more highly regarded.

I also like blind tasting as a result of an experience from my time working in the lab at a Napa custom crush. There was a producer who made their wines there that consistently had trouble maintaining the natural balance of their wines. They would doctor the heck out of their wines just to get them into better balance. Yet these same wines carried a triple digit price tag and a reputation to match. Proof that marketing, a high price tag, or for you conspiracy theorists – paying off critics, is enough to “fool” consumers. (One of the many reasons why I STRONGLY advocate tasting wine YOURSELF and buying wines YOU like – not those you are told you should like).

The last reason I’ll mention here as to why I am such a fan of blind tasting has to do with my affinity for Israeli wines and my STRONG belief that they are STILL under appreciated. We Israeli wine people joke that simply being “Israeli” means that critics will (subconsciously??) deduct 3-5 points from their scoring of the wine. Oh how I would love to set up a blind tasting for well known critics and sneak a few Israeli wines in with some other New world wines.

Bottom line, read the Laurie Daniel article, and know that when you are contemplating that $100 bottle vs. the $30 bottle, yes you may enjoy the $100 bottle more – but it will only be BECAUSE it cost you $100 and NOT because you were drinking a better wine…

Now how do you go enjoy that $500 bottle of Bordeaux after reading that…????….SORRY!

Happy drinking!


What makes a good wine?

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

What makes a wine GOOD?

Is it a high score from a critic?

Is it a technically well made wine (proper balance of tannins, alcohol, acid, fruit, etc.)?

Is it a wine with a nice mouth feel?

OR, is it simply a wine that YOU like?

OBVIOUSLY, this is a loaded question. I think presented with this question in a comparable multiple choice format, 99 out of 100 people would say – well of course it is a wine that YOU like.

But I am raising the question as i wonder if this is a question many winemakers & wine consumers need to really examine.

With regards to consumers, this question is both complicated and straight forward. Complicated in that I don’t think too many people would admit that they buy wine based on price or scores, but it is a sad reality. Wine consumers have SOOO many choices, how does one narrow those choices down? Start by eliminating wines out of your price range (too high) or whose price tags lead you to believe they can not be any good (too low).

You can then narrow it down by deciding between red or white, eliminating wines from countries you might not be interested in (DO NOT eliminate Israeli wines) or whose labels you don’t like (silly but frequently done). Skip wines made from varietals (grapes) you are not interested in (or are out of fashion ie. Merlot), or a host of other reasons that make sense to you. Easy right? Well, you probably still have several thousand wines left to choose from. OK, I’ve gotten a bit carried away, especially since this was not the intended direction of this post. And while any method you choose in picking a wine is right, I’ll simply say that while variety is nice, I would recommend tasting wines and finding ones YOU LIKE. One of the best ways of doing this is attending wine tastings and going to Wine bars to find wines, styles & wine producing countries you like.

As to where I INTENDED to go with this email…the wineries and their respective winemakers.

I completely understand that as idealistic as it would be to have a winemaker who makes wine THEY like as opposed to one they can sell, that winemaker might find them self out of business very quickly. Obviously they have to make a wine they can sell.

OK, then what? Do you make a “Parker Wine” (a wine made in a style known to be preferred by influential wine critic Robert Parker)? Do you make a “Lab Wine” (one whose PH, TA & other technical aspects are all where they “should” be)? Do you make a wine you think you’ll be able to sell? Do you make a wine YOU like? Or do you make a wine you think your peers will like?

This is a question I won’t even attempt to answer. But I raise it having recently read about a winemaker in California who admitted to falling into the Parker trap. He was making a very ripe, heavily extracted, high alcohol wine. And he found himself getting high scores, selling a lot of wine, and shopping a lot for OTHER PEOPLE’S WINES. He has since declared that he is getting back to making wines he can enjoy that are to be lower in alcohol & less ripe. I wish him a lot of success. While I think that his “Anti-conformist” attitude might help to initially garner some loyal customers, in the long run a lower score might hurt overall sales.

I feel like I opened up a big can of smelly worms and am now walking away… I’m sorry – I’m tired and have football on my mind. I know I resolved nothing here. I suppose just some topics to ponder and revisit in future posts. Or maybe I reintroduced something for both consumers & winemakers to think about…and maybe they should each ALSO consider what the other thinks about when either making or purchasing wine.

Have a great week everybody. And drink whatever BLEEPIN wine you want to drink!


Blogging from the Israel Wine World

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to blog about tonight and two controversial issues come to mind, relating to the following two topics:

1 – Internet sales of wine

2 – Wine ratings/reviews

The first, internet sales of wine has come up as there is presently a very exciting project underway to sell Israeli wines online. While I believe that the project will ultimately be successful I have urged my contacts to be realistic in their expectations. It has also come up in the “wine world” of late given a little controversy surrounding and how the CEO has been very vocal in pointing out that there are many retailers illegally shipping wines throughout the US.  This was written about in Wine Spectator in an article “ Conducts Sting Operation Aginst Other Retailers“.  I’ll blog about this further as it becomes more relevant.

Wine ratings & reviews has come up as everyone in Israel has an opinion when it comes to the recent Wine Advocate review of israeli wines. I can probably write a book on this topic just based on conversations I have had the last week here in Israel. BUT, what I want to touch upon is something a bit more controversial (and interesting). It was expected, and realized that many of the wines would receive scores a few points lower than the wineries would have liked – OR, then local wine critics have given. At the same time something UNEXPECTED HAPPENED, there were a few wines that received scores higher than people here are used to seeing from the specific winery. How could such a thing happen??? Lower scores, OK – it was expected. But higher scores????

N O, accusations were not made. BUT, it was pointed out that there are WAYS of “tricking” wine critics. Especially when the critic is not familiar with the wine AND/OR the wine is not available in the market where the critic resides (so they can’t simply go to the store and buy a bottle). One such method can be perpetrated when the winery, during the barrel aging process, discovers that one barrel is responding particularly well to a given wine. Rather then blending that barrel in with the rest of the batch, the barrel might be bottled separately, and those bottles might be put aside for personal use AND WINE REVIEWS.

Again, there were no accusations & knowing many of the winemakers & wineries I do not believe that this took place. I am simply blogging about something which COULD take place and that is much more interesting than telling you about how great the winemakers are, how beautiful the country is, and how darn COLD it has been here since I arrived.

OK, enough controversy stirring for me for one night. Have a fabulous weekend wine drinkers of the world. I will be enjoying lots of Israeli wine this weekend with all kinds of special friends. I suggest you do the same!!!


Wine critics – what good are they?

Friday, December 28th, 2007

This is a scary topic for a post. It is pretty much a catch-22. If I love critics I am a suck-up & a “score-whore”. If I hate them then I am a non-conformist joining the ranks of those who say down with “The Man”. And anywhere in between and I am an indecisive, politically correct, good for nothing.

Real generally…

Wine critics are GREAT. They help us weave our way through a daunting maze of products and help us to determine which of these products are worth our time.

Wine critics are BAD. They know nothing about us yet tell us what we should like, should not like, what brands we should value & patron, and whose wines we should not dare touch with a 10 foot pole.

I’m writing about critics today as a topic came up on a message board I frequent. Interestingly enough, not too many people on the board (at least initially) seemed to pick up on this “issue”. The board is moderated by Daniel Rogov, Israel’s preeminent wine critic. Rogov began a post about several wines he reviewed by stating the following…

Although many of the wines I re-tasted during this two day voyage (17 and 18 December) showed a high level of consistency between this and earlier tastings, some showed so dramatically different and almost invariably better that one cannot help but wonder in a few cases at least precisely what happened between tastings. Among the possibilities – wines coming into their own, wines that have been somehow “doctored”, separate bottlings from different batches or even different grapes.

This last statement was what i found most disconcerting. Do wine critics and the scores they give have such an influence in todays society that wineries will resort to misrepresenting themselves so as to gain a better review or higher score – assuming this will result in their selling more wine or gaining a better reputation??? Don’t the consumers who ultimately buy said wine know enough that if the “REAL” product is crap they will know it and NOT buy it. To take things a step further, the consumer and their ultimate realization that the wine does not live up to its review might even resent the misrepresentation and speak BADLY about the wine.

And what about the critic? Given the apparent POWER that critics have in determining a winery’s ultimate success or failure has led many a critic to be reviled and loathed by wineries whose products did not receive positive reviews. Does the associated jealousy & hatred justify providing the critic with samples which do not properly represent the product the critic thinks he/she is reviewing??? Should the winery not consider their disappointment & think of the credibility the critic will lose???

We are living in an age where the PURE has become UN-pure. Athletes in America’s “past time” (baseball) take steroids or other artificial enhancers so that they can hit more home runs or pitch the ball faster. CEO’s & politicians lie, cheat & steal so that they can accumulate greater wealth & power.

I LOVE WINE. Its purity. Its simplicity. Its diversity. Its inebriating effects :-)

MUST wine be another means for people to lie, cheat & steal to accumulate more fame, fortune & wealth? Saddens me…but I suppose that is life. Wake up and smell the casis, mocha & licorice Wine Tasting Guy… WINE is a business like any other. Play by its rules or be stuck drinking that Australian Wine with the critter label or that Californian wine with the nickname that starts with a “two” and whose second & third words rhyme with Fu… I mean “truck’.

OK, it ain’t that bad. But drama sells. I promise to revisit the whole critic issue in future posts. But for now, next time you pick up a bottle of wine at a shop and consider purchasing it because some critic said it is a 92 and is elegant, with silky something & velvety something else – think twice… and consider trying it for yourself before making the investment.

Happy wine drinking!!!!