Archive for March, 2012
I don’t mean here that if you lick a wine expert (something I do not recommend, unless you happen to be Heidi Klum and the wine expert you plan on tasting is me) they taste like chocolate-covered hazelnut while you taste like a dog coming out of the rain.
I mean, are wine experts hard-wired to taste wine in a fundamentally different way than you are, physiologically?
Sound crazy? Well, crazy or not, that’s the conclusion suggested by results published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, from a study performed by John Hayes (assistant professor of food science) and others at (WE ARE!) Penn State. Even NPR jumped in on this action despite the study results not having been repeated yet (see “Most Of Us Just Can’t Taste The Nuances In High-Priced Wines” – not that they’d stoop to using an incendiary title that insinuates the conclusions as unalterable scientific fact or anything gimmicky like that…).
The coverage of the study at PSU.edu is pretty sparse, and open to some rather gaping critical holes, but assuming the results hold up to further scientific scrutiny they will bolster the controversial position taken by Master of Wine Tim Hanni (and others) that individually we perceive wines differently based on a number of factors, some of them physical.
To the tape, quoting Mr. Hayes (emphasis mine):
“While learning plays a role in their expertise and other factors matter, such as how they communicate their thoughts and opinions on wines, some wine experts may have an innate advantage in learning to discern small differences in wine.”
The most interesting thing about this study? For my money, it’s the further implication that reviews from wine experts are actually even less helpful to the general public than previously thought…
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[ Editor’s note: While the following article contains a serious view on – and producer recommendations regarding – recent Napa Valley Merlot vintages, it employs a facetious style that may or may not offend you, depending primarily on whether or not you posses a sense of humor. If you are easily offended and/or have misplaced your sense of humor, please take care in reading the article. Also, if you’re a Merlot-hater who disagrees with anything that you find in this post, then you are wrong. And probably a jerk. Oh, crap… did I just offend you? Sorry… ]
Last year, I had a run-in with Napa Valley Pinot Noir at a multi-vintage perspective tasting held by the Napa Valley Vintners Association at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. It was… not a fun experience. In fact, it was sort of like having your palate beat up in a bar fight, with cigarette ashes poured over it for spite afterward, only slightly more dignified.
So it’s with much relief that I tell you the 2012 version of the NVV perspective tasting was substantially more pleasant, and gave me the opportunity to go through a blind tasting of three different vintages (2007, 2008 & 2009) from nine different producers. I skipped the overly-crowded Cabernet tasting entirely (hey, the Premiere Napa Valley auction was the following morning, and there’s only so much big-ass Cab I can handle in a 24-hour period) and went straight for the substantially less-well-attended tasting of that most-maligned of reds, Merlot.
After that short PNV Merlot immersion, I’m here to tell you a few things… but I want to start with this:
Merlot-bashing is for douchebags.
Seriously… over-generalizing to the point of hating on anything in the wine world is just plain stupid, because nothing contains more exceptions to prove the rules than the wine world. Hating on Merlot because a fictional character in a movie that is eight friggin’ years old (the movie, I mean, not the character… an 8-year-old bitching about wine in a major motion picture wouldn’t even be funny, it would just be weird) said that it makes sucky wine (and this is a character who actually drinks Merlot at the end of the same damn film)…? Well, that move is just so douchebaggy that we’d need to farm out design work to third-world sweat tech shops (hey Apple… are you listening??) in order to raise the manpower required to create enough instrumentation to measure the enormity of the douchbaggy-ness…
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- 08 Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): It’s painted with the lush brush, and the result is big but certainly artistic. $48 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 10 Breggo Pinot Gris (Anderson Valley): Sort of like a killer Mai Tai, only prettier, more elegant, & a hell of a lot more complex. $24 B+ >>find this wine>>
- NV Langlois-Chateau Cremant de Loire Brut (Loire): As if we’d liquified a slice of toasted pear-&-almond bread; in spirit, I mean. $19 B >>find this wine>>
- 09 Mt. Beautiful Cheviot Hills Pinot Noir (Cheviot Hills): A peppery, pithy, floral, ripe berry shot across the Pinot world’s QPR bow $23 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 08 De Loach Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast): Lip-smacking red berry compote, gutt-slapping amount of “round in the middle.” $18 B- >>find this wine>>
- 08 Fleur De Lyeth Red (California): Walking a stewy, plummy line & teetering, but bonus points awarded for having balance to recover. $11 C+ >>find this wine>>
- NV Laurent-Perrier Brut (Champagne): Round, elegant, floral, fruity, ready to roll; good luck finding a better aperitif for the $. $39 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 08 Ceretto Asij Barbaresco (Barbaresco): Hey even that ass-kicking Selene vampire from Underworld had a softer, feminine side, right? $43 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 10 Paul Jaboulet Parallele 45 Rose (Cotes du Rhone): Bring on the Provençal fare any time. And bring on the the dancing girls, too. $12 B >>find this wine>>
- 07 Terra Valentine Marriage (Spring Mountain): Bad name belies pretty, intense, juicy, grippy, stony & totally overachieving juice. $75 A- >>find this wine>>
- 07 Terra Valentine Wurtele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain): Dead sexy (& brambly, & jammy) & not afraid to flaunt it. $65 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 07 Terra Valentine Yverdon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain): A mountain girl, but she’s more than ready for the ballroom $65 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 09 Terra Valentine Amore (Napa Valley): NV Sangiovese that (by some minor miracle) hasn’t totally given up its tasty Italian heritage. $35 B >>find this wine>>
- 10 Terra Valentine Riesling (Spring Mountain): From Napa, but in pithy, floral spirit it’s practically by way of Clare & Eden Valley. $34 B >>find this wine>>
- 07 Corison Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Sort of like owning a trained black panther; dark, piercing & gorgeous. $98 A >>find this wine>>
- 06 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Sporting the firmness, depth & tension of a good Clancy novel; crack the covers in 7 yrs $75 A- >>find this wine>>
- 07 Ladera Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (Howell Mtn): Full of wonder (as in, wonder Y other Cabs cost more w/out being as tasty) $70 A- >>find this wine>>
- 08 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): It knows that you like it spicy, and delivers; perennially one of NV’s best bargains. $41 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 09 Entre Nous Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville): Graphitic, dark & generous in perfectly-ripened plum fruit; keep an eye on these guys. $115 A- >>find this wine>>
- 09 Entre Nous Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley): Herbal, racy, refreshing & totally complete (& a complete steal for the money as well). $34 A- >>find this wine>>
- 10 Red Newt Cellars Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes): Key limes, citrus peel & a side of mineral water delivered to your door (or glass). $18 B >>find this wine>>
- 08 Rodney Strong Knotty Vines Zinfandel (Northern Sonoma): Capable, spicy old vines brawl with oak; emerge bruised but victorious. $18 B- >>find this wine>>
Welcome to the Weekly Wine Quiz!
Based on feedback from ever-so-vocal-and-intelligent peeps just like you, I do not supply the quiz answer directly in the post – you will need to tune back in later in the comments section for the answer. So you can put your answer in the comments for potential bragging rights later (not that you’d gloat… too much…).
This week we’re kicking off the next WWQ theme, which has to do with a geeky topic that we all hate to face as wine lovers but chances are we cannot, alas, entirely avoid: stinky wine faults. Sooner or later you’re going to run into one of these, so you might as well embrace the fact of the stank and know the enemy!
“Taint” Too Good
Sometimes good wines just go… bad! Meaning, of course, that chemical faults can often ruin an otherwise perfectly good bottle of vino. Do you know which chemical compound causes what is known as “cork taint?”
- A. mercaptans
- B. 2,4,6-trichloroanisole
- C. Butyric acid
- D. Sulfur Dioxide
Cheers – and good luck!