On the Value of Wine Criticism: a Conversation with the Blind

Let’s admit it, there are a lot of wine words that raise eyebrows.

The esoteric jargon leaps to mind: “This wine has lift. Excellent palate tension”. “A laser-like focus”. “This wine is rather foursquare”. “Très nerveux”, quoth the French wine critic, often when sampling a dry white wine they like. Can a wine be nervous?

Then there is the dauntingly precise collection of fruits, flowers, and other non-edible aromatic descriptors in tasting notes.

  • Sous bois, or mushrooms.
  • Stones.
  • Latex or Band-Aids.
  • Violets.
  • Saddle leather.
  • Barnyard (or manure).
  • Stalky.
  • White pepper.
  • Pine.
  • Mint.
  • Green bell pepper.
  • Mimosa.
  • Honeysuckle.
  • Geranium.
  • Cat pee.
  • Red currant.
  • Wet dog.
  • Toasty.
  • Tar.
  • Soapy.
  • Nail polish.
  • Apples.
  • Corn.
  • Lactic.
  • Orange blossom.
  • Mousy.
  • Cranberries.
  • Brioche.
  • Bubblegum.
  • Egg.
  • Cheese.
  • Lemon.
  • Magnolia.
  • Lime.
  • Cherries.
  • Apricot.
  • Toffee.
  • Pear.
  • Plums.
  • Peaches.
  • Tobacco.
  • Lychee.
  • Cedar.
  • Petrol.


And finally, there’s the troubling lack of consensus between critics regarding exact descriptors for the same wine. What one critic might consider to be a “full” wine with “bilberry, truffle and red currant”, another critic might dub “angular yet fresh with a core of Alpine strawberries”.

If the critics can’t even agree, what’s it all worth? How can it be right?

Deep breath: I vehemently defend these practices and descriptive tools. And, I’ve had it with the parade of Philistines (Click to Read more)

This Dish Works with Every Wine

Rather than gleefully imagine the WORST wine pairing in the world (after much drunken discussion,  Muscat and spaghetti with red sauce took the prize), honestly, I can’t think of a wine that wouldn’t work with this dish.

Leave it to the magical animal that is the pig to have borne such a blessed thing unto the world. The pork tenderloin is quite simply the Swiss Army knife of wine pairing: I dare you to find a wine which will not work with it.  The humble pork tenderloin is always there for you. It’s easy to cook and affordable, rendering it an even better friend.

Finding good, fresh pork tenderloin can be a challenge, however. As one might expect, Trader Joe’s is hit or miss, and I suspect this may have to do with their cold chain (often their expiration dates seem the stuff of fantasy, and a sour greenish odor awaits you upon opening the CryoVac well before the best by date). Any other number of stores’ CryoVac’d tenderloins similarly seem to sit for too long. Out here in NYC, Citarella seems to be a worthwhile step up.

Here’s the base recipe along with two different embellishments which allow you to “determine” the dish aromatically, adding layers that will act as bridge elements to a red or white. In a nutshell, it’s pork tenderloin with grain mustard and panko crust  = red, or, pork tenderloin with marmalade, ginger, honey sauce = white. Honestly, though, if you’re in a rush, you could just brown and then roast the tenderloin, skip the embellishments, and you’d still be just fine. But it wouldn’t be as magical — 80% less oohs and ahs at the dinner table. (Click to Read more)

Acid vs Teeth: Dental Strategies for Massive Wine Tastings

REN: Stimpy, I've been a fool. I should have brushed my teeth, but now my teeth... they are gone! And all I have left are stinky holes.
REN: Stimpy, I’ve been a fool. I should have brushed my teeth, but now my teeth… they are gone! And all I have left are stinky holes.

Almost the end of day one of the magical Grands Jours de Bourgogne, and I’d made it without any dental trauma. Each day’s events are loosely organized by Burgundy regions; Monday is a 9 to 5 orgy of Chablis ingurgitation.  As nothing else in Burgundy should compare in terms of acid (surprise: there’s no Aligoté Day), this was the day that worried me the most — over 100 high-acid wines tasted in one day.

If you’ve ever experienced acid-induced dental sensitivity, the feeling I’m talking about, you’ll know why I was scared.  Dental pain is the weirdest, most vivid pain, somehow.

It was a woeful, cautionary tale witnessing so very many winemakers with seriously mangled teeth. In some instances, you could clearly smell the old ashtray that was their mouth after, say, 30 years of smoking … which, alongside an unlimited wine (Click to Read more)