Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Wine of the Week - 2004 L'Hiver Syrah
Friday, March 24, 2006
Robert Parker And The Parkerization of Wine
Robert Parker and the American wine industry revolutionized the wine world. This revolution was similar, in its effect, to the impact of the internet. More and more real information became available to consumers in a timely fashion and the overall quality of wine around the world improved incredibly. Parker took a real interest in enology and viticulture and lifted many a grapegrower and winemaker from impoverished obscurity to prosperous world wide renown. Among other regions, Parker put the Rhone Valley of France on the wine map for many consumers. Parker became the voice for a revolution that was happening around the world. As a pretty direct effect of Parker's writing, traditionally famous wine areas that were living on their laurels such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, Barolo, and Chianti, improved. Today, for example, Chateau Kirwan, has six people on the line to triage every individual grape that goes into the wine and this has made a huge difference. In the 1970s and 1980s, in California and the Pacific Northwest pioneer winemakers such as Philip Togni and David Lett were exploring wine making in new terroirs. American winemakers used technology – stainless steel tanks – to make wines that were fresh and clean without the impurities so common in the European wines of the period. In the 1970s, American winemakers made big structured wines some of which have lasted to this day.
As a psychologist, I can tell you that we are dealing here with a battle between envy and narcissism. Other wine writers envy Robert Parker’s success and he, perhaps, has become too enamoured of his million dollar nose. While Parker encouraged an incredible improvement in the overall quality of wine globally, the commercial striving after high Parker ratings has fostered greater uniformity in winemaking world wide. The increase in new wealth over the past twenty five years or so has created a class of consumer with lots of money and relatively little knowledge or aesthetic sense who strive to compete with each other and everyone else in everything they do including collecting wine. My wife and I recently had a marvelous dinner prepared by one of the top chefs in Seattle accompanied by First Growths from vintages such 1975 and 1982 and all this one fellow could talk about was how many bottles of Screaming Eagle he had in his cellar. This fellow and his wife seemed somehow irked when my wife kept alluding to the “Parkerization” of wine. What did she mean?
She was referring to the confluence of style in wines from all over the world. It appears to be a fact that, unless you were weaned on acidic, astringent, “classic,” “vin du gard” wine, most people prefer balanced wines with lots of good fruit flavor that is not overwhelmed by fire and sandpaper. The French have rather disdainfully referred to the “gout americain" when speaking of wines made ever so slightly sweeter and fruitier for the American palate. The Parkerization of wine is the global tendency toward big, rich, fruit forward, frequently monochromatic wine found everywhere. This is not necessarily Robert Parker’s doing, although I must admit I don’t like the taste of chocolate in my wine.
The other problem is grade inflation. I remember when a Chateau La Tour de By that was rated 75 by Parker was a perfectly delicious wine and reasonably priced. Now this same wine must be ranked in the high 80s to merit attention and, really, who would want to drink anything rated less than 90. Actually Parker’s system was a vast improvement over the 20 point Davis scale, which fortunately has mostly disappeared, or no rating at all. In those days the British wine writers in question didn’t rate wines at all. They might simply note that the wine was a second growth from a very good year. Ha! What did it taste like?
Grade inflation is not just a problem with Robert Parker. The Wine Spectator is an even worse sinner. Parker and the Spectator are useful. At least they are reasonably reliable and take it from me, it is no easy task to taste dozens of wine at a time and get the ranking right. You just need to get a sense of their taste and calibrate to your own, unless you are prone to slavishly seek out only 100 point wines. There are many issues and complications with wine tasting and rating which cannot be gone into here, just as there are many issues with comparing, say, French wine and California wine. In any event, Parker and the Brits needn’t worry. The Australians are coming with their marketing prowess. Don’t worry about ratings! Just drink Yellowtail. G’day to ya, mate!
Thursday, March 23, 2006
A Trip To Barolo
We stayed at Albergo e Ristorante Da Felicin where we had wonderfully hearty Piedmontese fare with a Barolo from winemaker Luciano Sandrone. Before dinner, we walked the 100 yards to Aldo Conterno where we were graciously offered a taste of their medium-bodied fruity Dolcetto. The next day we drove the rolling hills of the region, being passed and/or stopped by hordes of touring bicyclists, to visit the town of Barolo where we tasted at individual wineries and the Enoteca in town.
Last night we had a rich dish of Lamb Shanks and Cannelli Beans with onions and garlic cooked in red wine for many hours. No, we did not cook with Barolo, we used a bottle of Charles Shaw Shiraz and added the dregs from the Barolo. We started the evening with a 1999 Sandrone Dolcetto which smelled of raspberries and roses and was totally fruity in the way that Beaujolais can be. Then, a 1996 Sandrone Cannubi Boschis that was exquisite with the lamb and cheese course which followed. We ended the evening with the last of the Grappa we had brought back from our trip. Last night was a trip back to the warmth and beauty of the Barolo hills.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
New World Vs. Old World
We started off with the North Creek from a magnum and it was delicious. Pure pleasure! Medium bodied with lots of fruit, but not a "fruitbomb" and not jammy in-your-face. After enjoying this California beauty we tasted the Chateauneuf du Pape. Initial impression: tannin, austere, not as much fun, not as much pleasure. However, after a few sips, it got a lot more interesting as we started to notice the nuance and complexity emerging from the more tannic structure. When we later returned to the North Creek, it seemed kind of flat and disappointing. Both these wines were great with the outstanding Lamb shanks in Port and Red Wine prepared by our friend Mary.
Moral of the story? Everything is relative and context is important. We would have been thrilled with either wine, but the contrast between them made the second wine, in either case, seem lesser. We have noticed that old world wine tastes more and more like new world wine and visa versa, but not in this case. Vive la differance!
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Brian Carter Wine Tasting
The 2002 Tuttorosso Super-Tuscan Style blend of 51% Sangiovese, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Syrah had a bouquet of tobacco and leather, followed by good fruit with the Sangiovese tanginess of a Chianti, the tannin of the Cabernet and the rich color of the Syrah. Brian says this is his favorite (about $32).
The 2002 Byzance, a South Rhone-Style blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, had subtle fruit in the nose with a slightly vegetative element, medium body and good fruit, and a hint of tanginess in the finish
(about $ 32).
The 2002 L'Etalon Boreaux-Style blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec, and 4% Petit Verdot is nicely balanced with lots of mouth-filling black fruit flavors and a hint of tannin in the finish. With it's blend of all the classic varietals, this wine is very reminiscent of a left bank Medoc, perhaps from St.Julien. This was my favorite of the pack (about $32).
The 2000 Solesce Bordeaux-Style blend of 44% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Malbec had enough good fruit to last through the several years required to tone down the tannins. Definitely a wine to age, Brian estimates it will improve over the next decade (about$60).
If I were sitting down to a fine meal, I would want to have the Oriana with oysters and the L'Etalon with rack of lamb. Congratulations Brian on a great start. Oh, by the way, Brian will be working some more of his magic with Abracadabra, a red blend to be priced at about $16. Look for it in about six months.
Friday, March 17, 2006
Happy St. Patrick's Day
2001 Colombo Les Pins Couches
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Beware the Ides Of March - Correction!
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The Ides of March - Washington Wine Month
Friday, March 10, 2006
Beauties From Buty
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Final Notice - "The Best From Down Under"
"Dry" Whites From Alsace
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
French Rhone Rangers Come To Town
Chablis - 2003 William Fevre Premier Cru
There are four levels of Chablis - Grand Crus, Premier Crus, Chablis and Petit Chablis. Grand Crus are the seven best vineyards - Les Preuses, Les Clos, Vaudesir, Valmur, Grenouilles, Bougros, and Blanchot. There are many premier cru vineyards. Some to look for are: Montee de Tonnere, Montmains, Fourchaumes and Vaillons. Chablis and Petit Chablis are usually not vineyard designated and are generally too tart for American tastes. Unfortunately, these days with inflation and exchange rates, Chablis has gotten quite expensive. Expect to pay $20 and up for a decent bottle.