Category: Wine Criticism

Deep Thoughts after IPOB: Wine as Photograph, Ripeness as Saturation

deep thoughts
And now, it’s time for Deep Thoughts . Click for a Deep Thought.

The In Pursuit of Balance (or IPOB, to sound like an insider) tastings and seminars have established themselves as a powerful force in shaping the discourse of wine criticism and perhaps even production. Jasmine Hirsch and Rajat Parr’s pet project has grown into a tasting that’s almost become a ‘who’s who’ of the wine world.

Their initial complaint was quite simply that domestic wines are often too ripe, too hot, too big, too everything; and that we must reclaim a sense of balance in our wines to access the best Sonoma terroir has to offer.

Many have since accused them of driving up prices and proffering illegible, contradictory notions of balance. Each time a threshold is set (say, an eminently reasonable maximum alcohol at 14.5%) some valid counterexamples arise to explode the rule; and by necessity a more vaguely iterated allusion to balance follows.

The annual New York City IPOB event passed through last February, and I enjoyed the chance to taste a number of Sonoma wines I’d wanted to test for some time, but never could, as I had nearly always rather spend money on Burgundy. The ‘Pursuit’ portion of the tasting is no joke, as I tried a few wines that still struck me as patently unbalanced, and a few others that were ravishing and surprised me with an earthy character.

But it was an audience member’s question during a seminar that has haunted me these last few months. The seminar discussed Triumphs and Failures in the Pursuit of Balance, and brave, honest winemakers were asked to present an example of a vintage they were proud of, and one they weren’t — each from the same vineyard.

Andy Peay of Peay Vineyards spoke about how he wished they’d picked his 2009 Peay Vineyards Ama Estate Pinot Noir two days earlier. To view the original interview, do so here (exact time is at 1:01:11): http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/59186856

The critical question for Andy Peay is this:

Well, we’re talking about expression of vineyard; this is the same vineyard, it’s just basically a two-day difference. So, maybe you’re not getting what you wanted out of that vintage, but at the same time it IS the expression of the vineyard; it’s just … two days later?

Andy Peay responds (Click to Read more)

Making Up With Sancerre

SANCERRE is the word on the lips of nearly every young woman that strikes a pose in front of the wine fridges. Sancerre sells itself.

It’s easy to spell and retain. Even if it’s dead simple to pronounce and flows from the tongue like a short sibilant song, one feels a tiny sense of pride in pronouncing it, as if one knows it’s coming out properly.1.

Along with shitty industrial Pinot Grigio, boring inexpensive Malbec, and that last refuge of shaky-handed, broken souls that is vodka, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the major drivers of a wine and spirit shop’s sales that gradually evokes a deep hatred in salespersons. With each request, a stake is further driven into an angry heart that’s grown tired of ushering folks to a selection of beverages which evoke the opposite of excitement.

Having to taste through oceans of mediocre Sauvignon Blanc with sales reps proves the first breaking point.

Not unlike a smelly cat reappearing at one’s door, nearly every single day, a Sauvignon Blanc makes an appearance. And the telltale signature of feral pyrazines or perhaps thiols — let’s call it ‘Sauv Blanc stank’ — makes its indelible little mark. You can smell it from 5 feet away, and it’s going to cling to your palate as you try to move forward and taste other wines.

The smelly cat.
That smelly cat is back.

What I have always had a hard time grasping is just how Sauvignon Blanc conquered the world, particularly given (Click to Read more)

WANT MORE? SUBSCRIBE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE.
  1. Perhaps the average consumer glows a bit in trumping the foreign wine name pronunciation bugaboo that plagues, say, Gewurztraminer, or German and Austrian Riesling vineyard names, or Blaufrankish []

The Big Fight Over Riesling

rocky
I don’t know, Rocky. Maybe if you were a little bit drier?

Riesling has been the source of a great deal of contention of late. Two wine critics seem to rather handily summarize the entrenched positions on either side of the debate.

In this corner: Steve Heimoff firmly positions himself amidst the jeering masses that dislike Riesling, and resents wine cognoscenti’s insistence that it be appreciated.

And in this corner, after a lifetime of trying to spread the Gospel about its virtues, Jancis Robinson worships Riesling as king, but now frets over its ability to fulfill its destiny and claim its throne among world markets, particularly in light of recent contracting sales data.

Thinking aloud about what may be holding Riesling back, Jancis notes its strong characteristic “flavour” (unexplained in youthful Riesling, and described as petrol in older Riesling).

There’s no denying Riesling ages into a petrol aroma, but, let’s fill in the blank … that youthful flavor is one of fruitiness: a blessed, fulsome fruitiness.

If we agree to take German Mosel Valley Riesling — the most edgy and rocky of all Riesling terroirs — as a yardstick, the terroir typically expresses itself in a fairly limited set of aromatic profiles: “… the most typical blue slate fruit-driven character is typically apple, white peach, or — if ripe — yellow peach; red slate, by comparison, offers more brawny, spicy minerality, and occasionally tropical fruit”1.

As we’ll see shortly, however, this fulsome fruity blessing is equally its curse.

IS THE SUN SETTING ON RIESLING’S RENAISSANCE? (Click to Read more)

WANT MORE? SUBSCRIBE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE.
  1. Quoth Ernst Loosen at an aged Auslese Tasting at Hearth, 9/15/2011, New York, NY []