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Posts Filed Under wine review

Am I Alone In Thinking That Brett Is A Flaw?

Vinted on January 26, 2011 binned in best of, commentary, going pro, wine review

Ok.  I know I’m not totally alone in thinking that Brett is a flaw.  Or at least I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

Helloooooooooo?  Is anyone out there….???

The minor bought of vinous paranoia has to do with what seems like my inclusion in rarefied company, and I mean that in the “two percent of patients have a severe allergic reaction” sense or rarefied, and not in the “Emmy-award-winning drama for the seventh consecutive year” sense.  You see, sometimes, it feels like I’m part of a group, rather tiny in number, that thinks a certain range of smells – barnyard, band-aid, and (putting it in the most polite context I can muster) “dirty diaper” – aren’t indicative of terroir, or the almost-as-ubiquitous “character.”

Call it the anti-brett clan, maybe?

It’s the group that classifies the presence of brettanomyces (a yeast that imparts aromas of band-aid, barnyard, and sometimes meaty funk to wines) as… well, as a flaw.  No different than the unpleasant, musty odor cork taint, or the rotten-egg stench of sulfer.

Especially since, with increasing frequency, I seem to disagree with both the famous and not-so-famous wine critics and reviewers on how wines should be rated (in terms of recommending them to others) when those wine (to me, at least) very clearly display classic (nasty!) characteristics of brett.

I know that wine appreciation is subjective, and one person’s swill is another person’s prestige cuvee, but do people really enjoy the smell of band-aids and barnyard in their wines?  I sure as hell don’t – and while I enjoy a touch of funk in some of my wines (the kind that smells like Slim Jims, or smoked meat), my prevailing thought for some time has been that brett is actually a wine flaw – yes, even the interesting meaty funkiness that I happen to… well, not like exactly, but not hate, either.

I say this because brett yeasts cannot yet be controlled, and until such time as they can be controlled (so that winemakers can ‘dial-in’ the amount – and type, as there are many brett yeasts and they impart different ‘flavors’ of off-beat funk) then whether or not the wine has pleasant smoked meat characteristics or instead smells like one of my daughter’s diaper blow-outs is almost entirely dictated by chance.

The aspect that has me questioning my sanity in all of this is that other people seem to like those wines – lots of people… and in some cases, they seem to really like them.

Other people like Robert Parker and Stephen Tanzer, for example…

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Sommelier’s Choice: The Top Wine Releases of 2010 from Sommelier Journal

Vinted on January 21, 2011 binned in wine publications, wine review

1WineDude.com readers are no strangers to Sommelier Journal, the wine mag with which I started a bit of a wine-geeky-info-love-affair back in 2008 (I’m a subscriber). You may also recall that last year I took SJ to task (tongue firmly in cheek, of course) for their Top Wine Releases of 2009 (as chosen by wine personalities and pros invited to contribute to the list, choosing wines that were particularly memorable to them from those that they tasted during the year).

As many of you may also know, I’m a fan of that recap approach.  But while I loved the selections and the manner in which they were solicited, I wasn’t a fan of the price tags to be found in the list – last year’s round-up had an average bottle price of $97.18.

Sommelier Journal’s Business Manager, Phil Vogels is a nice guy and a (semi) frequent contributor to the comments here on 1WD, and pointed out in the discussion that followed my critique that the average price was mathematically skewed by a small number of very pricey wines – and that the majority of the wines were actually quite affordable:

“You’d be hard-pressed to break down the list in a way that didn’t have under $30 as the highest category…”

Well, the 2010 edition has hit the shelves as part of Sommelier Journal’s December 15, 2010 issueHow does the new list fare in these belt-tightening times?…

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A Wine For Epic NFL Playoff Victories

Vinted on January 20, 2011 binned in overachiever wines, wine review

The defining characteristic of the most preferable wine for imbibing while viewing epic, come-from-behind NFL playoff battles between hated sports rivals (aside from the wine having been paid for by someone else, that is), would be that the wine is very good without being too good.

[ I should note before we go any farther down field, so to speak, that if you’re a Baltimore Ravens fan I am most likely about to lose you as a friend.  Forever.  BUT… if you’re a fan of Argentine reds, we may become fast friends after this.  If you’re fan of both the Ravens and Argentine reds, prepare to be conflicted. ]

The main point about the best NFL playoff wines was driven home to me via Facebook in a chat with Yair Haidu (founder of the excellent www.haidu.net):

“…shouldn’t be a complicated wine. the mind has to be fully devoted to the game…”

While a good beer of course fills the NFL playoff imbibing bill quite admirably, sometimes even the most die-hard beer fans, much like the play-calling of hall-of-fame defensive coordinators, just need to change things up once in a while.  And it goes without saying that no self-respecting wine geek would stoop to drinking plonk during an NFL playoff game, just as no self-respecting Steelers fan would be caught dead wearing Ravens purple.

When it comes to NFL-viewing, distractions (too good or too bad), are killers: missing the big play as it unfolds live, because you have your nose too long in the glass, is likely to give you a gut-wrenching “got to be the sickest man in America” feeling (sort of like a high-priced, free-agent wide receiver dropping the type of key, clutch, do-or-die-time pass for which his team hired him in the first place).

So anyway… for the big games, what wine should it be?…

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The Wines of Afros: Vinho Verde Gets Serious

Vinted on January 13, 2011 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, on the road, wine review

The words “Vinho Verde” conjure up a particular image in the minds of wine lovers: usually that of a tall green bottle of spritzy, refreshing and (usually very) inexpensive Portuguese white wine that rarely speaks to the soul but sure as hell speaks to a parched throat on a hot Summer’s day. It’s the kind of wine you buy by the case (and with some very good examples to be found well under $10 a bottle, you can afford it), toss into a cooler, and lug out for hot, sunny day picnics.

In essence, Vinho Verde can have a soft spot in the hearts of wine geeks (this one included), specifically because they’re wines for imbibing and not wines for contemplating.

Just across the border from Portugal’s Vinho Verde region – in Spain – however, you will find whites made from the same varieties (Verdehlo, Loureiro, etc.), made in similar climates, but that cost several times the price as a typical Vinho Verde. The message? The Spanish versions of wines from those grapes are just more… graves than their Portuguese counterparts.

It’s a situation that’s often left wine geeks like me wondering why the Portuguese don’t get a bit more serious themselves when it comes to Vinho Verde.  Nothing against simple Vinho Verde of course (in fact I’d personally be pretty pissed off if those inexpensive quaffers dropped out of the marketplace), but why not add a few bottlings that take  Alvarinho or Lourerio to a more thought-provoking level?

Why not get all graves on us?

Turns out that finding serious Vinho Verde is not a question of Portuguese desire or capability, but of production and distribution.

Because Vinho Verde is, in fact, trying to raise the profile of their wines to heights lofty enough to match the vines that grow up (and up, and up) the high trellises that dot the area (actually, the vines can be found growing up just about anything in Vinho Verde, the better to protect them from mold and mildew in the wet weather). And it’s not just still whites that are in their crosshairs – they’re also targeting reds and sparklers (of both color persuasions) – and if the wines of Afros are any indication, they’re on to something…

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