The mystique of wine and the quandaries of wine reviews

Writing about wine is a Catch-22 because wine is entirely subjective. So just to let all the millions of beloved Oysterites out there know, I will TRY to refrain from stating opinions as much as possible and stick to being objective. Why would I do this, you ask? Well, isn?t that what all wine reviews are based on a 100-point scale — opinions? Do you really need some type of pseudo-accredited assurance that the wine is good? If you do, then you might want Robert Parker?s or Wine Spectator?s professional opinion, especially if you?re investing mucho dinero in vintage Champagne, cru class? Bordeaux or grand cru Burgundy. But that review is never a guarantee that it?s a wine you?ll even enjoy drinking. Hence the Catch-22 of subjectivity versus objectivity. All that wine review tells you is how a specific wine stacks up compared to similar wines produced in the same area and vintage.

Now I can?t totally discredit these reviews for they can be used as a generic guideline to make wise decisions when trying something new. But what if you?ve never had a wine from that area, or that year? I?ll admit it. I read Wine Spectator. I look at reviews. But I also have the wine knowledge to take them with a grain of salt when necessary. Sure there were wines that scored 94 points and I wasn?t feeling them and plenty of 85 point wines that totally impressed me. To truly enjoy wine you have to form your own opinions and not rely on the opinions of people who have different tastes and preferences than you. A good analogy would be the saying, ?To each your own.?

French wine mapAnd that is reasoning behind ?The Wine Guy.? I will be giving you lots of information in each column about various wines, among them: background information, typical flavor profiles and traditional food pairings for the grapes. However, not all wines are labeled by their varietal. Many European wines are labeled by the region they come from. A Pinot Noir from Oregon compares well with a Burgundy from France. Ultimately I have to give you a particular brand name as a starting point, but regardless you?ll be armed with the information to take on the snobby world of wine!

So, a little about myself and my preferences might be of interest to you, after all full-disclosure is the only way to build trust. I have been actively involved in the wine industry for the past seven years in many different capacities. I have worked as a wine director for the fine dining restaurant Ariadne in the Boston area, worked under a master sommelier in Honolulu, worked at a boutique wine shop, and spent countless hours reading about and spent lots of money for tasting wines. Currently I am pursuing a certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers organization.

I always taste wine with an open mind, and I have a discerning palate and a grandiose affinity for well-made wine. I am a bonafide lover of all types, expensive AND value priced, dry & sweet, red, white, ros? and of course the bubbly. I am not partial to any one country, winery or vigneron (fancy name for a winemaker), although I do have my favorites. Yes I have been a snob, occasionally. It?s hard not to, when you either have the money, friends or friends? money to provide this self-proclaimed bon vivant lifestyle.

I know it may be suicide to state such facts; however my biggest reward in writing is that I may inspire you to try new wines. I am not making any money by selling the wines I am recommending, or for even writing about them. I am doing this because I love turning people on to wine and removing the mystique of it. So I urge you, go to your local wine shop and try something new. Halfway between the scientific process of making wine and the bubbling of your taste buds, there is a great wine waiting for you to discover.

Just for fun, here are some of my favorite vineyards, separated by their respective regions:

Champagne: Krug, LP Rose, Billecart Salmon, Perrier Jouet, Salon, DP, Bollinger

White Burgundy: Etienne Sauzet, Ramonet, William Fevre, Jean Marc Millot, J.A. Ferret

Red Burgundy: Dominique Laurent, Tollot Beaut, Chevillon, Meo-Camuzet

Bordeaux: Clinet, Hosanna, LaGrange, Talbot, Magdelaine, Belgrave, Figeac

Loire: Joly, Baumard, Lucien Crochet, Marc Bredif, Ladoucette

Alsace: Marcel Deiss, Zind-Humbrecht, Schlumberger, Trimbach, Hugel

Rhone: Jean Michel Gerin, Chapoutier, Delas, Beaucastel, Beaurenard

Sauternes: d?Yquem, Rieussec, Suduiraut, Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Doisy-Vedrines

Port: Graham?s, Ramos Pinto, Taylor Fladgate, Dow

Germany: Zilliken, J.J. Prum, Monchoff, Gunderloch, Selbach-Oster

Spain: Alvaro Palacios, Alejandro Fernandes, Sierra Cantabria, Torre Muga

Australia: Henschke, Penfolds, Shotfire Ridge, Cape Mentelle, Langmeil, Henry?s Drive

New Zealand: Craggy Range, Whitehaven, Martinborough, Kim Crawford

California: Paul Hobbs, Spring Mountain, Darioush, Lewis, Merry Edwards, Etude

Oregon: Domaine Serene, Archery Summit, Shea, Penner Ash, Argyle, Soter

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • TheWineGuy March 1, 2007, 2:43 am

    Hey glynner,

    I wrote a super long response and it got erased b/c i didn’t fill out the form properly….bummer. I’d recommend visiting the sherry bodegas in Jerez de la Frontera, near Cadiz. Domecq is one of the biggest but ask around since I’ve never been there as to who has tours and tastings. As far as other wines from Spain go, I wasn’t familiar with the one you mentioned. I am really big on anything that has Grenache in it. Jumilla is a great region for it and super cheap too. If you can find it, look for wines from Bierzo too. It’s the new thing and very similar to Pinot Noir, although made from the Mencia grape. I’m sure your trip will be amazing, i’m jealous already. Let me know how it went! Salud amigo! Tenga una bebida para mi!

  • mc_glynner February 15, 2007, 7:13 pm

    Hey wine guy,

    I am heading to the Andalucia region of Spain in March. I see that you have a few recommendations for Spain, but was wondering if you could give me a few more options. I have really been enjoying “rioja” wine over the last few months and have also had a great bottle of dehesa gato. any further insight would be greatly appreciated.