Posts Filed Under commentary

A Question of Balance (and Not Hating on California Wine)

Vinted on December 6, 2010 binned in California wine, commentary

“To learn as we grow old

The secrets of our souls.”

– Question, Moody Blues

My intention today is not shock you into your Monday morning with cheesy Moody Blues lyrics (though I’ll admit to jamming out the bass line to Question dozens of times when I was in high school and songs like Question seemed really, really deep and important), but to call your attention to a blog post today by my friend, Wine Enthusiast editor Steve Heimoff.

The more astute reader will immediately recognize that I refrained from calling Steve a colleague, since in my mind that would actually be insulting him, though now that I think about it maybe I should have done that and then asked him for a small fee to remove the reference… anyway…

In said blog post, Steve talks about a recent Napa tasting in which he tasted some big-ass Cabernet wines and walked away thinking that many were, on the whole, quite balanced despite their, uhm, generous sizes. In reflecting on the tasting, he hits on what I consider the king-among-princess of a wine’s better qualities:

“Among all these impressionistic words… I think the most important is balance. Balance is central to wine’s quality.”

On this point, Steve and I are, using a term of which one of my friends is particularly fond, in “violent agreement.”

For my money, nothing, and I mean nothing, in a wine’s lineup of admirable qualities – including things like place of origin and pedigree – trumps balance…

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The Distrusting Wine Writers Survey (Thoughts on Thoughts on On-line Vs. Printed Wine Coverage)

Vinted on December 1, 2010 binned in commentary, going pro, wine blogging

Wine writers who work in print are a distrusting bunch.

That’s one of the conclusions that, while not exactly all “sunshine, peace, love & Marsha Brady,” is nonetheless a logical one that could be reached after you peruse the results of Tom Wark’s recent 2010 Wine Writers Survey.

Much has already been written on the subject of Tom’s survey results (my personal fave to date comes to us courtesy of the scathingly witty Tom Johnson), and while I tend to avoid “me too!” subject matter articles, not chiming in on the wine writing survey results (in which I participated as one who was surveyed) while attempting to make a living as a wine writer… well, that just felt odd.

In terms of what the hubbub is all about, the main point of contention is this: the survey results strongly suggest that print wine writers find on-line wine bloggers to be unreliable sources of wine information, and (less strongly) imply that print wine writers feel their livelihoods are threatened by a largely inexperienced cadre of on-line wine “writers.” Tom sums it all up nicely:

“In my view, the single most important point that would lead anybody, and in particular experienced wine writers, to downplay the credibility and trustworthiness of a blogger is the well know fact that there is absolutely no gatekeeper when it comes to who can publish a blog. There is no pre-assessment of the talent and skills of a wine blogger prior to their publishing. There is no editor that evaluates their skills and gives the blogger the job of writing about wine. Bottom line: A fourteen year old girl inhabiting the attic of her mother’s home on the North Dakota border with Canada and suffering from delusions can as easily start writing and publishing a wine blog as the most experienced wine writer living in the heart of Wine Country.”

The trouble for me is that the argument so far seems to be (at least partially) ignoring the very thing that sets on-line wine coverage apart from print…

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Dreaded Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Article (The Secret To Decent Holiday Wine and Food Matches)

Vinted on November 22, 2010 binned in commentary, holidays

I love Autumn (Fall colors & Football!), but I hate at least three things whose approaches are heralded by the falling leaves:

  1. Raking those falling leaves
  2. Thanksgiving / Holiday food & wine pairings
  3. The Dallas Cowboys

Since I find numbers one and three above so unpalatable, let’s talk about number two.

Holiday wine pairings are one of those things that prove immensely divisive among wine geeks. On the one hand, when you enjoy a subject passionately you want to help people when they ask you about it. On the other hand, the topic is not only a culinary landmine (see “bottom lines” below), but it’s treatment is boringly repetitive year-after-year (though some year-on-year takes are done well); the attempts to make it interesting can backfire so badly that the authors attempts at making the subject creative end up looking more like obligatory acts of desperation.

The bottom lines with holiday wine pairings are a) your preference trumps any recommendations and so-called rules, and b) no one wine, variety, or style will match up perfectly with all of the tasty but crazy epicurean sh*t that will appear on your tables during the holiday season, because there’s simple too much variety.

Still, many folks just want picks to minimize their food-pairing risk during these adventures culinary months, an approach which I can respect. So I’m gonna let you all in on a little secret for maximizing your chances of holiday wine-and-food pairing success…

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