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Have You Ever Had A 16 Percent ABV Wine That Was Really Balanced?

Vinted on September 25, 2012 binned in commentary

With all my talk recently about alcohol not being anywhere near as important factor in quality wine as overall balance, I asked myself a tough question in the wake of that talk, and I couldn’t come up with a good answer.

When was the last time you’ve had a wine that was over 16% alcohol that seemed balanced?

Personally, I drew a total blank.

There literally isn’t one dry, still wine (non-fortified… Ports for example are definitely not included in this mini-analysis) I can recall that clocked in above 16% abv that on the whole felt compellingly balanced to me.

Anyone? Buehler? Buehler???

Of course, part of the reason for this is likely due to the fact that I just don’t record abv when I review wines… but I might starting doing exactly that, if only for experimental and self-education purposes. And the number of 16%+ abv still wines out there probably isn’t all that large, the majority probably clocking in somewhere between 12% and 15% abv when you’re talking still, dry fine wines. But having said that…

While I’ve also had plenty of juice in the 15%+ range that were great – big wines, no doubt, but also damn good ones –  of the wines that I can recall that clocked in somewhere in 16%+ booziness range, none of them were great, balanced offerings. In fact, most of them were way off the mark when it comes to balance; boozy, raisined, overly pruney, and a chore to drink.

So I’m hereby amending my previous diatribe, adding that there may actually be logical limits to balance. And while I won’t ever go on record as saying that great, balanced still wines can’t be made in that abv range, I sure as hell think it makes the job of achieving greatness that much harder.

What about you? Have you had a dry wine over 16% abv that you thought was balanced? Shout ‘em out!

Cheers!

Getting Hip At The Washington Post, And Raiding The Wine Expense Account With Ornellaia At Playboy.com

Vinted on September 20, 2012 binned in commentary, kick-ass wines, Wined Down (Playboy.com)

A couple of weeks ago, I cropped up in two totally unrelated places on the “Global Interwebs” – Playboy.com (which you expected, right?) and The Washington Post (which, admit it, you didn’t expect).

The Washington Post article, titled Some wineries adding a little hip to swirl, sniff and sip routine, was one of those rare instances where I was interviewed for a wine piece and then was actually quoted in the finished work. The quotes I’ve given to reporters have been so… well, probably so damned odd that my contribution to most wine-related article interviews seem to hit the cutting room floor more often than they do any column space. [ UPDATE: the original WP article link is DOA, but looks like Yahoo! News also picked it up so changed links to point to that version. Sorry! ]

I thought it worth mentioning because this particular AP article focused on wineries that were bucking the status quo in order to make trips to their tasting rooms more fun (imagine! the audacity!); the author had nice things to say about recent efforts in that space by Raymond Vineyards, Judd’s Hill and Brooklyn Winery, and at one point quotes me:

“The wine world’s about eight years behind everything with the exception of bottling lines and production techniques,” he says with a laugh.

The thing is, I don’t really recall laughing about it (at least not on the inside); if I did, it was I-work-in-an-office-and-this-Dilbert-strip-is-funny-but-it-also-really-hurts-because-life-in-my-office-is-really-like-that funny. I honestly believe that the wine world generally functions that far behind most other industries, and as amazing as the wine biz is, that lag is one of the most painful things about trying to get anything moving in the biz.

Anyway… on to happier topics…

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Wine Blogging Isn’t Dead (To Those Who Are Paying Attention)

Vinted on September 12, 2012 binned in commentary

I hate this debate.

Actually, I love the debate, I just hate the way it’s being presented; namely, without a single shred of hard evidence to back up the claims that wine blogs are now dinosaurs.

People, wine blogging is, quite literally, about Kindergarten age. Wine blogging has been around for something like 7 years, depending on what you take to be the first official wine blog. Wine blogging can barely tie its own shoes or successfully write a lowercase “m” on its first try, and now it’s no longer cool, it’s going the way of the Dodo bird?

Beeeeatch, puh-lease!

Attention all those who would say that wine blogging has lost its sheen, failed to deliver on any of its promises, or has otherwise become passé: some hard evidence points directly to the contrary. You all remember evidence, right? Numbers… from data… the stuff from which we can actually start to draw the basis of conclusions without falling prey to our pronouncements being based solely on the shifting sands of subjective opinoin? That stuff?

Well, that stuff all tells a very different story…

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What The Recent Debates Over Low/High Alcohol Tell Us About The Future Of Fine Wine Buying

Vinted on September 5, 2012 binned in commentary

 NOTHING

That’s the short version.

Here’s the slightly longer version:

Seriously, the debate (10 million plus search results, and counting!) over the perceived consumer trend towards lower alcohol wines (I’ve yet to see any convincing, hard data supporting this claim, by the way, in terms of any significant percentage shift of sales towards lower abv wines specifically because they’re lower abv wines) tells us precisely bupkis about the future of fine wine purchases.

We live in the golden age of consumer choice when it comes to fine wine sales, with more wine available of higher quality than at probably any other time in human history. If there’s a shift in U.S. wine consumer preferences, let’s hope the continuing democratization of that tastemaker opinion leads it towards favoring balanced wines, wines that taste great at 16% abv or 8% abv. (I’ve had wines that do, at both abv points, by the way).

There’s certainly research on public opinion seemingly favoring low alcohol wines, yes, and for sure there’s a shift in tastemaker opinion towards lower abv wines (to the point where some consider it “a mistake that is not recognized by most wine critics”), all of which eventually will probably sway a small percentage of the market (the tiney percentage that follows these things) towards buying wines with more restrained alcohol levels. But high abv wines – just like low ones – are not going away anytime soon. Debating whether or not one is superior to the other is a waste of time.

I’d rather spend that time drinking a balanced wine, despite the fact that even that pursuit is under attack already. Or several of them, actually, all finding their vinous fulcrum points at various places along the continuum of fruitiness, raciness, booze, grip, and what-have-you. Because like porn, we know balance when we encounter it, and we know when it’s poor, decent, or extraordinary attempt (okay, so the porn comparison doesn’t quite go the whole distance here…). No two wines are going to achieve that true balance in quite the same way, and it’s in the encountering of those differences where we’ll find some of the most potent spells in all of the slightly-mad but thoroughly-magical bottled world we call fine wine.

Cheers!

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