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Commentary | 1 Wine Dude - Page 55

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Dude, Where Are The Ratings?

Vinted on September 16, 2008 binned in about 1winedude blog, commentary, wine review

Simple – there aren’t any.

Next question.

Ok, well maybe it’s not that simple, actually.

Astute 1WineDude.com readers have pointed out that I have yet to clearly explain my wine rating system; or, more accurately, my lack of a wine rating system. So… I will try to explain it but bear with me, because while I love wine and I love talking about wine, I really hate talking about talking-about wine.

If 1WineDude.com had a Mission Statement or Credo (it doesn’t, by the way), it might look something like this:
a) Drink Wine. b) Have Fun. c) Learn Something.

Generally speaking, I don’t review wines in my blog posts, unless reviewing a wine gives me an opportunity to also have fun and pass on some interesting wine learning along the way…


When I do review a wine, I try to be as objective as possible, but generally I don’t taste wines blind (unless that somehow can also provide an opportunity for b) and c) above). Why not? Well, when’s the last time that you tasted a wine blind? People just don’t do that at the dinner table, unless they haven’t been paying their electricity bills.

When I read about a wine, I usually want to know the answers to a few key questions: a) How does it taste? b) Are the aromas / flavors things that I like? c) Is it worth the price?

That’s it. You don’t need a rating for that. If I wanted to be inundated with numbers, and read boring lifestyle pieces from snarky old billionaires that have too much money and free time, who want to regale themselves with their stories of how they travel every year to Old World wine countries with the Duchy of Snob-a-tonia, and won’t touch a wine that isn’t rated 95 “points” or higher, blah-blah-blah… well, there’s already a magazine for that kind of stuff.

What I don’t want to see are a bunch of numbers. A number tells me nothing about whether or not I’ll like a wine and if it offers good value for money – which for me is the majority of the equation, so to speak.

Also, I don’t know anyone who “speaks” in points. I’ve never, ever said to someone at dinner “ooohhh, this wine is soooo a 94!” And I doubt that I ever will. Unless I think it’s funny at the time and I’m at dinner with one of the guys from Wine Enthusiast…

I’m wagering that since you’re here on this blog, you’re thinking somewhat along the same lines when it comes to wine ratings. Since we’ve established then that none of us like wine rating numbers, I’ve instead included in this post some graphics of George W. Bush’s Presidential approval ratings ratings (they’re going down, by the way). Enjoy!

Now for some odd reason, I seem to ruffle feathers with the established wine critic community whenever I talk about this rating stuff on my blog. Oh well! To those whom I hath offended, I say: “Hey, thanks for reading!”

Please note that I am NOT bashing wine rating scores in general here. I just don’t happen to like them so I’m not using them. I am, however, totally poking fun at the Bush Administration.

Hope this clears up my stance on the conspicuous lack of wine ratings here at Dude central. I look forward to not rating many more wines for you in the future!

Cheers!
(images: gallup.com, wikimedia.org)

Old and In The Way?: The Future of Wine Criticism

Vinted on September 12, 2008 binned in commentary

I just got through a ridiculously well-written article by Mike Steinberger, titled “Every one a critic: the future of wine writing” and available for download at CellarTracker.com (or in print in Issue 19 2008 of World of Fine Wine magazine). The man just has mad writing skills!

In the article, Steinberger discusses the factors that made Robert Parker such a force in the fine wine market, and how his retirement (Parker is now in his 60s) will leave a void in the world of wine criticism.

Steinberger offers the Internet voices of wine criticism as a potential for filling that void, since it is unlikely that anyone after Parker will have the clout, work ethic, and financial independence to take Parker’s place (especially considering the outrageous prices that top-scoring First Growth Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy can fetch nowadays – upwards of $1000 USD per bottle in some cases), and the Internet provides very low barriers to entry.

What was interesting for me was what Steinberger didn’t touch on in his excellent article…


For starters, history has shown us that when you have a virtual dictator / enlightened despot (depending on your viewpoint) wielding such individual control and influence, as is the case with Parker, they hand-pick their successor in order to ensure the orderly hand-over of power, and to keep their vision alive. The followers, well, they follow. Think Putin in Russia, for example. So isn’t it still possible that Parker may groom someone from within his own ranks at the Wine Advocate to take his place on the throne of Bordeaux wine critique?

I think we’d find that many Bordeaux, Rhone, and California wineries, and the Wine Advocate faithful, all of whom sometimes follow Parker’s scores with almost religious fervor, would line up behind that pick with relatively little resistance.

The other thing that Steinberger didn’t explore was the age range of the core Wine Advocate / Parker / Wine Spectator audience. I’d imagine (though I’ve no means to confirm this), that this group is aging right along with Parker. This isn’t a dig on aging wine aficionados or critics (despite my arguably provocative post title); it’s just an acknowledgment that there is currently a baby boomer generation driving the wine market, and that generation does things differently than the next one will when it comes to buying wine.

From Steinbergers article: “Certainly, the leading [wine] publications look to be in fairly ruddy health. Wine Spectator is a thriving franchise, and there is no reason to think this will change anytime soon.”

Is this really true…? I wonder if the generation that comprises the Wine Spectator faithful isn’t already being replaced in the marketplace by a new generation that expects to get their information from a broad range of expertise, validated by real-world experiences and real-time recommendations, and expects to get that information instantly via global social connections made over the Internet.

Call me crazy, but I don’t see Wine Spectator, even with their on-line presence, fitting that bill…

One thing’s for sure: Things are gonna get interesting from here!

Cheers!
(image: tralfaz-archives.com)

Who’s Afraid of Big Bad Brett?

Vinted on September 11, 2008 binned in commentary, wine tips, winemaking


If you’re talking Brett as in Brett Favre, then not me – I’m a Steelers fan, baby!

If you’re talking Brett as in the yeast Brettanomyces, then that’s a different story entirely. Lots of wine folks are scared of that puppy. And with pretty good reason – chances are that if you’ve ever had red wine, you’ve run into Brett. And unlike the Steelers rushing, hurrying and sacking the other big, bad Brett, when you run into brettanomyces, it’s you that could be the one on the wrong side of that meeting…

The trouble with brett is that it’s not all bad (although the jury is still out in the wine world on this one). In small enough amounts, brett creates compounds that potentially add interesting complexity to a wine, with smokey, spicy elements (yum!). Too much brett, and you have reduced fruit aromas, and wine reminiscent of medicine, Band-Aids, and stinky barnyards (yuck!)


Like a boring dinner guest, brett is notoriously difficult to get rid of. (Crap, did I just end a sentence in a preposition?). It’s been found lodged deep into the staves of new oak barrels (one of its favorite hideouts), to the point where no cleaning will ever get it out. And it can basically chill out in a dormant state for long periods of time until it finds food (in the wine) – and it doesn’t need much food to get its party started.

What’s a winemaker to do?

Well, there are plenty of cleaning techniques that help the situation, and some winemakers will carefully rack and test their wines at each stage of the winemaking process to minimize the impact of brett on their finished wines.

But there is something else that they can do to minimize brett. The trouble is, it goes against conventional marketing wisdom in the chase for high-scoring wines on the hundred-point wine scale!

They can harvest their grapes earlier.

According to a recent article on Sommelier Journal magazine, harvesting grapes earlier reduces the pH levels, which brett doesn’t like. Lower pH levels also help to make anti-brett initiatives (like using sulfer dioxide) more effective.

The trouble is, if you harvest earlier, your grapes can’t achieve the raisin-like ripeness and high alcohol extremes favored by some point-giving wine critics out there.

Just sayin’.

Reduce Band-Aid action, and increase the amount of lower-alcohol, elegant red wines available in the marketplace? Hmmm… I’m sooooo in on that, baby!
Cheers!
(images: maximumgrilledsteelers.com, vignaioli.it, jackstrawspizza.com)

Wine Studies, Sex, and the Art of Anticipation

Vinted on September 8, 2008 binned in commentary, wine appreciation

Or maybe that should be the Science of Anticipation…

Back in January (yes, I am just now getting around to this – hey, I’ve got a newborn at the house; what’s your excuse?), findings were published from a study that measured participant’s brain reactions to tasting wine. The trick: it was the same wine, but they were told that the wine was either cheap, or relatively expensive. Guess what – participants enjoyed the wine more when they were told it had a higher price.

With all the duping going on in the wine industry the past few weeks (including an embarrassing gaff for Wine Spectator, and the claim that wine bloggers – Dude included! – were duped by winery marketers), I thought it would be fun to revisit this little ditty, and cast a different light on it in lieu of recent events.

According to one article on the study findings:
“Contrary to the basic assumptions of economics, several studies have provided behavioral evidence that marketing actions can successfully affect experienced pleasantness by manipulating nonintrinsic attributes of goods.”

[ My translation: instead of telling you that the wine is "an everyday guzzler" or "as close to sublime perfection as humans are likely to reach," they just upped or lowered the price. ]

This struck me as totally odd (in terms of this being contrary to economic assumptions). I mean, aren’t we talking about something that marketing types, hucksters, clever business folk, and seductresses have known for maybe hundreds of years? Not only does a higher price give you the cache factor of shelling out for “the best,” setting a higher price does something else just as important:

It gives your brain the opportunity to indulge in anticipation of experiencing “the best.” Which is, I’d argue, an essential element in making a “good” experience – a meal, a movie, a date, a wine, and (especially!) sex – “great.”…


What studies like this one don’t mean is that you can’t tell the difference between wine that is pure plonk and wine that is superb. Almost anyone can do that, provided that they are willing to do a little bit of learning beforehand.

The studies don’t mean that all wines are created equal. In a lot of ways, the current wine market does set prices fairly, and you tend (with some exceptions, of course) to get what you pay for.

The studies also don’t mean that you need fancy-schmancy wine certifications, or advanced study under your belt, to appreciate wine. For that, you only need an open mind, patience, and the willingness to learn. Incidentally, these are the same things that you need to better appreciate a good meal, a movie, a date, and (especially!) sex.

I’m not sure what enlightenment we’re hoping to reach with all of this wine duping afoot, but I can tell you this: You know what they say about sex? ” When it’s good, it’s great. And when it’s bad, well, it’s still pretty good!”

The same applies to wine (and other great experience-givers) because, fundamentally, wine gives us pleasure, connect us together, and provide us the opportunity to open our minds a bit further than they were a few minutes before.

And if we indulge in a bit of anticipation to heighten the experience? From what I can tell, the most harm it might cause us is to think that the experience is a bit better than someone else thought it was.

That’s a trade-off I’d take any day of the week.

Cheers!

(images: .geocities.com/SoHo/Nook, danielpadilla.com)


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