Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wine Samples - Why Is My Wine Different From Robert Parker's Wine?

Wine samples are different from wine bought off the supermarket shelf. Wine on the shelf has been tortured to varying degrees, Geneva Conventions not withstanding, on it's way to you. First, there may be bottle variation at the winery. Cases of wine may vary and even bottles from the same case may vary. At the winery tasting room, hopefully the staff was wise enough to taste or sniff a newly opened bottle, whereas a cardboard case shipped to your retailer may harbor TCA, the cork terrorist. Barrel samples don't taste the same as wine in the bottle because the wine is evolving in the barrel at a faster pace and it is still very young. Some barrels taste better than others depending on which block the grapes came from and what kind of barrel it's in. So we start with barrel variation, then bottle variation, then the wine is shipped, sits in a hot warehouse, sits on a hot dock, sits in a hot container, sits in a hot truck, sits in customs, sits at the distributor's warehouse, sits on the retail shelf, sits in a hot wooden display cabinet at the supermarket, sits in your cabinet above the refrigerator exposed to all the heat thrown off by your refrigerator's compressor. No wonder a wine need to breathe after all that! And no wonder your wine doesn't taste like Robert Parker's wine. Robert Parker usually tastes samples -barrel samples, bottle samples at the winery, bottle samples shipped to him in Moncton. Would a winemaker give him a sample from a bad barrel? Would he check the bottle before the tasting? Would he be tempted to send only his best bottles?

When you buy wine you should try to get as close to the source as possible. Ideally go to the winery yourself to taste the wine and take it home with you assuming the weather is right or have it shipped directly to your home. Many wineries, intelligently, won't ship unless the weather is right. If you can't get to the winery, then you need to depend on some reliable source like yours truly or Parker for information about the wine, then purchase it direct from the winery. Thanks to recent court decisions this should be possible all over the fifty states soon.

If the wine comes from another country, then you must try to find the most reliable wineries, importers and distributors who will carefully attend to issue of temperature controlled shipping and storage. I once ask a very large retailer in San Francisco how he could keep fine wine in his very hot tourist oriented retail space. He told me he had high turnover and a large storage area in the back. Let us hope that it was temperature controlled. Whether you are buying wine for dinner or for you wine cellar pay attention to minimizing the torturous route your wine has taken to your table and maybe you can get the winemaker to give you wine from his best barrels, too!

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