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The Myths of the Palate: An Interview with Tim Hanni, MW

Vinted on October 26, 2010 binned in best of, interviews

Master of Wine and Certified Wine Educator Tim Hanni has been lighting up the on-line wine world this week.

More specifically, what’s been lighting up the wine world is the release of a report of highlights from a study of wine consumer taste preferences that Tim has co-authored with Virginia Utermohlen, MD.

Titled “Beverage preferences attitudes and behavior of sweet vs. tolerant wine consumers,” the sixteen page report is getting a hell of a lot more than sixteen pages worth of discussion, as it draws conclusions from a series of studies that focus on the market of wine consumers and how they taste – conclusions that challenge the conventional notions of how (or even if) wine can be judged objectively and empirically, and just how wrong the wine industry might be getting it in how wine appreciation is taught.

In summary, Tim’s report might just be the hot topic of the wine world right now, with several wine personalities from Jeff Lefevere to Steve Heimoff to Jancis Robinson chiming in with their (mostly fascinating) interpretations of Tim’s results.

As you might expect from someone who has been in the wine and food biz for over thirty years, and who was one of the first Americans to become an MW, Tim is not shy about is views. In fact, he’s been an active participant in the fray and debate about the results of his study since its announcement (for a great example, see GoodGrape.com’s take on the report, which is one of the best overviews on the topic published to date, and contains fascinating tête-à-tête reading in the comments from Tim and others).

Clearly, based on the reaction to the report so far, Tim’s views – and the manner in which he presents them – can be polarizing. As Tim put it in one of our email exchanges, “It is intriguing to me how the idea that people are different and that the topic of sweet wine and defense of sweet wine consumers can generate so much hostility.”

Are the debates missing the point?  Maybe.  According to Tim, it’s not whether or not sweet wines are better or whether or not those that prefer them are superior tasters, but that there are significant differences in how we taste wine and food that is important: “This is a quote from Jancis Robinson MW from 4 years ago,” he told me, “when I had my scientific mentors, Dr. Chuck Wysocki from Monnell Senses center, Michael O’Mahony form UC Davis, present data and conduct demonstrations at the MW symposium in Napa:

The main point of the session was to suggest that there are all sorts of populations of people who will perceive wine differently, thanks to our own sensitivities and preferences, and that the wine business is crazy to act as though one message, or even one sort of wine, suits all.’

I had the opportunity to ask Tim about the study, his work with Virginia Utermohlen, and his views on how to bring the power back to the wine consumer people.  Whether you love or loathe Tim’s take on wine tasting preferences, few would challenge Tim’s passionate zeal for championing the empowerment of wine consumers, and I suspect few would find the following interview responses from Tim anything less than fodder for compelling wine conversation.

Enjoy!…

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Alive And Kicking: Has NY Wine Come Of Age?

Vinted on September 22, 2010 binned in best of, commentary, wine review

Ten years ago, on a trip with friends to New York’s Finger Lakes wine country, I bought a few bottles of bubbly.

I was not a pseudo-wine-pro back then; I was an avid consumer (that term still applies!), and the majority of my vacation travel was centered around wine exploration.  I had a budding interest, passionate zeal, and I knew what I liked though I would have had a lot more trouble telling you why, or explaining how, a wine I liked got to that point.

It was one of those gorgeous sunny Autumn days that was quickly turning into a chilly Autumn evening (no sun = no heat) and most of the Finger Lakes tasting rooms were closed or moments-away-from closing; we happened upon what was then a joint-producer tasting room featuring only local sparkling wines.

I knew what I liked, and I really liked the 2000 Chateau Frank Brut that evening.  So, my girlfriend and I bought some.

Ten years later, at the surprise 50th birthday party of one of dear friends (who helped us greatly in getting through the tough times leading up to the recent loss of our Weimaraner, Samson, and to whom we gave a bottle of 2007 Quinta do Vesuvio so you know we love her), I had occasion to open the 2000 Chateau Frank Brut – Dr. Frank is one of the birthday girl’s favorite wine producers (alongside the most recent offering of Chateau Frank’s non-vintage Riesling sparkler, Célèbre Cremant).

And it rocked.

The fruit had started to subside a bit, but what remained was bready, lively, and wonderful; still fresh, still food-friendly, still (in the words of Simple Minds) Alive & Kicking.

An apt comparison, it turns out, for the state of NY wine in general…

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Do You Care About Vintage Charts? (Wine Spectator Giveaway)

Vinted on September 20, 2010 binned in best of, giveaways

You may have noticed that Wine Spectator has been advertising here on 1WineDude.com. I know, right?  The temperature in Hell may just have gotten a couple of more degrees below freezing.

WS are pushing their new iTunes vintage chart app, and part of that push involves a month-long ad stint here and on other on-line wine publications/blogs. Me being me, I asked them to sweeten the deal and as such this week we are giving away a one-year subscription to Wine Spectator (print or on-line), a $49.95 value

I think I just heard teeth chattering by another lost soul in Hell… [though I should note, before you or the FTC send me any flaming e-mail, that this post is not sponsored, I worked with the WS reps to concoct the giveaway idea].

Anyway, here’s how the giveaway works:

  • Leave a comment here telling everyone what you think about vintage charts: are they useful? overrated? essential?
  • In one week, I will randomly select a winner from the commenters to walk away with a one-year Wine Spectator subscription!

I’ll kick things off by talking about my view on vintage charts – but first, I probably need to clear the air about how I view Wine Spectator in general, because right now that air seems to be a little smoky

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Silver Surfer Sighted near Napa! Constellactus (“Devourer of Wine Brands”) Approaches Earth!

Vinted on August 30, 2010 binned in best of, commentary, Inebriated Press

Special Report from the IP (Inebriated Press) – Constellactus, devourer of wine brands, appears to be heading towards Earth, with dire consequences for the planet’s wine industries.

Fueled by the mysterious “power cosmic” and a recent rise in market share, Constellactus Brands – devourer of wine brands and the largest wine producer in the known Universe – is expected to reach Earth in a matter of days, say world scientist and wine industry analysts.

“At this point, we know Constellactus is coming and we strongly suspect that he is interested in the wine brands of Napa,” Napa Valley Vintners Association Executive Director Linda Reiff told reporters yesterday at a hastily-organized press conference held at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, CA.  “What we don’t know what brands here will survive – if any at all.”

The wine industries in Napa and Sonoma have been sent into near-chaos this week after multiple reports of local sightings of The Silver Surfer, Constellactus’ primary brand ambassador.  It is widely believed within the global wine industry that the appearance of the Silver Surfer heralds doom for the independent wine brands of that local area.  When pressed about whether or not the Sonoma wine industry – which has yet to respond publicly to the coming threat – should also be concerned about the coming of Constellactus, Reiff responded, “I am not aware of a wine industry in Sonoma… but if they are making wine there, then they ought to be very, very concerned right now. All we know is, wherever the Surfer goes, two weeks later that wine industry dies.”

Constellactus is widely feared throughout the known Universe for its seemingly insatiable ability to devour a planet’s entire population of wine brands, in some cases leaving the Profit and Loss statements of those brands a mere husk of their former selves and laying waste to their market positions.

The Surfer was last seen on Sunday, flying low across the sky in the Carneros region which straddles both the Napa and Sonoma American Viticultural Areas (AVA).  At first mistaken to be a plane or some type of experimental aircraft, the Surfer eventually slowed down his flight to the point where it could be photographed and confirmed to be the harbinger of its galactic master, Constellation.  The Surfer was largely unresponsive to the mass of reporters seeking comment and asking questions about the intentions of Constellactus, pausing only on Sunday afternoon to address the media with the cryptic statement, “All the wine that you know, is about to end,” before speedily taking flight towards the East…

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