Quick quiz for you: How many times can you listen to a winery’s PR guy mention Robert Parker scores before you want to shove wine barrel bungs into your ears to drown out all sound?
For me, the answer is “somewhere around 25 times,” which is about the amount I endured in the impressive underground barrel storage area of Errazuriz during my recent visit to Chile. I certainly don’t blame their PR for dousing me with the Robert Parker score hose during my visit – Errazuriz are clearly (and justifiably) proud of the accolades that their wines have received; they’ve been at the production of high-end, “icon” wines longer than just about anybody else in Chile, after all. But… what I had a difficult time with was the relentlessness with which that stream of scores was trained at my poor, unsuspecting ears.
God knows I don’t hate Parker, and I don’t hate wine scores (I find them very limiting, and rife for misuse, but don’t hate them). While I find Parker’s palate prefers wines that, to me, come off a bit on the brutish side (and quite a few of Errazuriz’s releases fall into that category), I’m sure plenty of people who like the higher-scoring Parker selections likely find my highly-rated selections on the tepid, shy side.
All further proof that you owe it to yourself to learn your own taste preferences before following the advice of critics too closely, I suppose.
Anyway… back to the cellar of PR pain…
I actually tried to derail said PR person by mentioning (when we were discussing Bordeaux wine prices versus those of Chile’s finest reds) that I’d interviewed Parker fairly recently. I figured what the hell, maybe telling him I’d had contact with Parker would at least change the context of the current discussion about Parker. Nope – that tactic had about the same effect as trying to stop a charging elephant with a grade-school-classroom-grade spitball. So I turned it into a learning opportunity, and the lesson was this:
Reciting a litany of wine scores isn’t really marketing!
It wasn’t helping the oppressive vibe any that day that the icon winery at Errazuriz is impressively imposing in its starkness, or that the barrel rooms have brick and calcareous rock that measures up to two and a half inches thick in some places – while good for withstanding Chile’s earthquakes, the whole thing came off as being a bit too overwhelming, and it all felt just a tad old school.
Quite a marked contrast to the experience I had just a few hours earlier when visiting Errazuriz’s western vineyard location, the gorgeous Chilhue Manzanar (“seagull’s place” in Mapudungun, the language of the region’s indigenous Mapuche people) 120 km northwest of Santiago, and mere 12 km from the Pacific ocean…
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In this episode, I drink expensive bubbly, muse on the Royal Wedding, wax pseudo-philosophic about the Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year Awards, and pose the questions: What does “long-term appeal” mean to YOU when it comes to wine writing? And do you think it even matters? Shout it out in the comments! Enjoy!
Mentioned in this episode:
And I mean that in the best possible way, which is to say that it’s not the same “holy crap!” that I exclaim when our recently-acquired rescue “dog” (dog is in quotes because he’s closer in size to a small horse) dumps on our carpet every other day.
No, this is the kind of “holy crap!” that’s shorthand for “OMG that is so f*cking AWESOME! A++++,” the kind of feeling the wiseguys in Goodfellas had when they thought that Tommy DeVito was getting made (now that I think about it, I really hope that this doesn’t actually turn out the same way as it did for Tommy…).
Anyway, my reaction, which carries my typical levels of subtlety (i.e., all the subtlety of an cheesy action flick in which someone drives an eighteen-wheeler full of nitro glycerin off of the Grand Canyon) is in response to the news that my friend (and one of the most insightful people that I’ve ever met), Jeff Lefevere, the voice behind GoodGrape.com, is now writing the wine column for the Forbes.com blog.
Another friend of mine (I like making friends), Steve Heimoff, blogged about this happening yesterday, and when commenting on Steve’s well-thought-out post it occurred to me that Jeff’s new stint stands as reminder of how powerful social media tools are when wielded by talented and powerful enough hands. They can land you at Forbes – not a bad neighborhood, people!
Jeff’s writing style is about as perfect a chocolate-meets-peanut-butter match for Forbes.com as anyone could reasonably hope, and while I’m sure he doesn’t need it, I’m offering up all of the support and positive-good-vibes I can muster for him in his new endeavor. I’m pretty sure the Forbes.com readership is gonna love him, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Jeff takes things from here – not just as a friend, but as a fan.
Last week, I wondered aloud (on twitter) whether or not anyone out there cares if a winery uses cultured yeasts instead of wild yeasts.
The feedback from the twitterati is included below after the jump (if you chimed in already via twitter, your response may be listed for all of the 1WD faithful to see – don’t say I didn’t warn ya!).
The short (and grossly oversimplified) answers to the question, by the way, seem to be "Yes!" for wine geeks and "No, who cares as long as the juice tastes good!" for the majority of people, based on the twitter responses that I received.
The topic of wine yeasts, and why they seem to touch off a hot-button reaction among wine pros and the geekier of wine aficionados, requires a bit of a primer, because to most wine drinkers, this is gonna be some pretty esoteric shiz.
During my last trip to Napa, I stopped into Chimney Rock for some barrel samples tasting (that’s samples of wines from barrels, not tasting samples of barrels) and spent a few hours geeking out over all things wine-related with the affable Elizabeth Vianna (CM’s winemaker who last week was promoted to GM). Elizabeth is open, honest, and easy to get along with, and she’s not shy when it comes to expressing her opinions. And yet, when she was explaining the winemaking process behind each of Chimney Rock’s wines, she became almost apologetic when she mentioned that they – gasp! – inoculate their wines with cultured yeasts!
Imagine, the audacity! The HORROR!!!…
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