Thursday, October 28, 2004

Wine tasting. Oh the fun, the excitement.

"I think its a Pinot, but it might be Syrah. Let me try my left nostril." Posted by Hello
Acidity in Penfolds Wines
As noted in a previous post Robert Parker, Jr raised the question of excessive levels of acid in Penfolds wines in his latest issue (#155) of The Wine Advocate. It is not the first time he has expressed this concern, comments were also made in Issue #148. Is he correct, or is his palate simply more sensitive to acid? Or are other components lacking in the wines that result in acid levels appearing to be excessive?

As the previous post noted other reviews of the Penfolds line did not note excessive acidity. Additional reviews from Robert Whitely of the San Diego Union Tribune, and Sue Courtney, also do not indicate a problem with acidity in their tasting notes.

Plotting out both pH and titratable acidity for RWT, St Henri, and Bin 389 from information provided on the Penfolds web site does not reveal any dramatic changes over the last 5-8 years. But there has to be an explanation out there somewhere!
Study: Red Wine Slows Lung Cancer, White Raises Risk
Thu Oct 28, 8:43 AM ET
By Mohammed Abbas

LONDON (Reuters) - Drinking red wine could protect against lung cancer, but white wine may increase the risk, Spanish scientists said on Thursday. They examined the effects of different types of wine on lung cancer, the most common and deadly form of the disease.

"Consumption of red wine ... was associated with a slight but statistically significant reduction in the development of lung cancer," Professor Juan Barros-Dios, of the University of Santiago de Compostela, said in a study in the journal Thorax. MORE->

The Thorax site is here but the issue with the article is not up yet. Abstracts to articles are free.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Seventy Percent of Australian Wines Do Not Make The Grade, According to Robert Parker, Jr.
In his comments on Australian wine under the title Australia: Thunder From Down Under Robert Parker Jr. notes in Issue #155 of The Wine Advocate that 70% of the wines he tasted “did not make the grade”. The reasons listed were

1) “to much American oak obliterating any fruit or charm,
2) chemistry class wines with so much added acidity they were undrinkable because of tart, clipped, and shrill personalities, and
3) industrial, diluted, manufactured wines of no depth, character, or soul”.

The winery that bore the brunt of this verbal assault was Penfolds. Parker declined to recommend the 2002 Riesling Reserve Bin, 2001 Bin 407, 2000 St Henri, 2001 Bin 389 and Bin 128 “because their acid levels were beyond acceptable ranges (for my palate)”. In reference to the 2001 Chardonnay Yattarna Penfolds wine makers were accused of producing “muted, acidified, industrial, wine selling at an absurd price”. Penfolds winemakers were described as “oenologists connecting the dots and making wines by the numbers”. The wines that were reviewed, 2001 RWT, Magill, and Bin 707 were also roundly criticized as overly acidic and all received 87 points. Only the 1999 Grange scored above the magical 90 points.

Is Parker correct in his assessment? What do others say of the Penfolds line-up? Wine Spectator gave the 2001 Yattarna a 93, the 2001 RWT a 94, the 2001 Magill a 91, the Bin 707 a 91, the 2000 St Henri a 91, the Bin 389 a 88, the Bin 128 a 89, and the Bin 407 a 87. Now, of course the tired old argument will go up that Wine Spectator always gives higher points than Parker. But that is easily countered by a simple comparison of the numbers. The Kalleske 2002 shiraz received 88 from WS, but 96 from WA, 2002 Clarendon Hill Liandra Syrah received 89 from WS and 93 from WA, 2002 Mitolo Shiraz Jester received 85 from WS and 90 from WA, 2002 Henry’s Drive Shiraz received 88 from WS and 93 from WA. Oh, you want more! OK, how about D’Arenberg 2002 Galvo Garage 82 versus 91, 2002 Sticks and Stones 83 versus 93, 2002 Ironstone Pressings 87 versus 93+.

I could do this all day, but I think the point is made. There are differences in palate preference between the two publications, and that’s why the numbers differ. What is more to the point is that the Wine Spectator tasting notes (Sept 30, 2004) on the Bin 707, RWT, Magill, and St Henri, do not mention excessive acidity. Ric Einstein, who has been tasting Australian red wine for so long that he no longer sees white, recently assessed many of the Penfolds wines and did not come away complaining of overly acidic wines. Having tasted the 2001 RWT myself, I can only echo his assessment of this excellent wine.

So where do these divergent opinions leave the rest of the wine world? Well, the next time you are in your local wine shop and you see those lonely bottles of Australian wines that have been relegated to the corner of the store because they didn't make it into The Wine Advocate, walk on over and pick one or two up and take them home. You make the decision whether they have any depth, character or soul.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Tap, tap, tap, tap.........
I hope I'm not annoying you. That's just the sound of my fingers drumming on the desktop as I wait for The Wine Advocate Issue #155 to be down loaded to the site. The hardcopy of WA has already been mailed out to subscribers who pay $60/year to receive 6 issues. I pay almost $10/month for the online access and receive the WA issue online about a month after the mailing. Why is there not simultaneous online access of the WA issue? Well the concern is that online subscribers will give out their passwords, effectively reducing subscriber numbers. Of course the amount of faxing of the hardcopy issue that goes on is legendary. Everyone wants to know which wines have scored well so that they can beat the price increases. Why is issue #155 so important? It’s The Big Australian Report!

This eBlog reported on Sept 17, 2004 that Parker predicted, among other things, that it will take 10 years before the the wine Web will go mainstream. I can't wait that long! Time to go order the hardcopy separately.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Emperor of Wine
In an article on wine critic Robert Parker Jr Linda Murphy writes in the San Francisco Chronicle - Parker, who tastes thousands of wines a year at his Monkton, Md., office and thousands more on trips to Wine Country, is also dinged for his own preferences, which lean toward very ripe, lavishly oaked wines. He likes what he likes and those who appreciate his palate buy accordingly. Those who don't should pass on the Wine Advocate and on buying "Parker wines" touted by retailers. "Some criticism has some justification," Parker says, "but I've never sought power. I don't like it and I don't embrace it. I'm doing something that I truly love and I've made a good living at it. If a wine gets a great review that helps sell the wine, that's fine, but I don't go out and seek that."

An East Coast author is writing a book on Parker, with a working title of "The Emperor of Wine." "I called her," Parker says, "and asked if she could change the title to 'The Reluctant Emperor of Wine.' It would make my job a hell of a lot easier." There's been no word on a possible change. MORE->

Ah, the price of fame! I guess publication of The Emperor will mean that this quote will no longer apply? "But I'm a private person and all these things are a little overwhelming. I try to work under the radar and I don't seek attention."

Monday, October 18, 2004

John Cleese Offers a Python's Guide to Wine
A Food Network special "John Cleese's Wine for the Confused" explores everything from what words to use to describe flavor to how to take the wind out of a snooty restaurant sommelier. MORE->

Check out a sneak peek - which is not in the program!

October 17, 2004 10:00 PM ET/PT
October 18, 2004 2:00 AM ET/PT
October 23, 2004 5:00 PM ET/PT
October 24, 2004 4:00 PM ET/PT

Friday, October 15, 2004

Industry Mourns Wine Patriarch
By NIGEL AUSTIN 15 October, 2004 (The Advertiser, Australia)

"CLARE Valley winemaking great Jim Barry died yesterday morning at the age of 79.He was regarded as a pioneer of the Clare wine industry and of winemaking in Australia. Over 57 years, the company he built has become one of the great wine producers of the Clare Valley and South Australia. Mr Barry, who arrived in Clare in an old Chevrolet ute in 1947, has become known worldwide through the wines that carry his name.
He was the first qualified winemaker of the Clare Valley after being the 17th graduate of the Roseworthy College oenology course. It made him the 17th qualified winemaker in Australia."

I greatly appreciate Bob Foster of San Diego for providing this, unfortunately sad, piece of news.

The article notes that Mr Barry had been thrilled a few months ago when the company's 2002 Lodge Hill Shiraz won the best shiraz award at the International Wine Challenge in London. As readers of this eBlog will know I was more more than a little impressed with the 2002 Jim Barry Lodge Hill Shiraz. It does not reach the heights of a classic wine, and it may not be the wine to judge a career by, but having bested the world one might feel justified in resting for more than a little while at such lofty heights. Link to Jim Barry Wines.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

An Australian Wine Becomes the No. 1 U.S. Import
No prizes for guessing what brand has achieved the No. 1 spot. The story is here for those interested. I've never tried their wines so I'm not going to comment on that aspect. However from talking to retailers it is true that inexpensive wines like these have introduced a lot of folks to vintage wine. Afterall you have to start somewhere, and the fact that an Aussie brand is leading the way is not a bad thing.

Classic Wines
I have started a new section on Tasting Notes called Classic Wines. As stated these will be wines that stand head and shoulders above the rest. For some they are wines that score 95 points or more out of 100. For others they score an A or better. For me they get 19 or better out of 20. My approach to scoring wines will be discussed here at a later date. As I find these wines they will be placed in the Classic Wines section of Tasting Notes. The Classic Wines section will begin with wines tasted in 2004, but as time permits I hope to go back and revisit my archived hard copy notes to build that section of the Tasting Notes eBlog. But don't hurry back. There are over twelve years of notes from sniffing and sipping here in the USA alone, not to mention another ten years worth stored in Australia.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Google and Ye Shall Find
The web is woven larger and larger and the intrepid Google even to the smallest strands (i.e. this eBlog). And Site Meter can tell me about those searches, and those searches often provide me with links that I can use on this Blog. A new one is the Wikiverse page on the Shiraz grape that has an In The News section. The Wikipedia I've known about for sometime, but the Wikiverse with its news sections is news to me. Guess what's going up on the Shiraz Blog?

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A Tasting Note Is A Tasting Note Is A Tasting Note Is A....
The following is a tasting note for a wine. I'm not going to say which wine. If you need that information it is here. What I want to know is whether you find validity in this prose as a description of fine wine?

"I hadn’t known this was coming. How do you get higher than the summit? Stand on tippy-toes. Now comes the salt to shimmy into the sweetness and glide in an itchy, urgent gorgeousness over the palate. Profound, magnificent without opacity, rather delineated to the last molecule of detail. It tastes this way for the same reason blossoms open— for the bees to be useful, for the plant to live and make new plants, for a few human passersby to pause, sniff, delight, and feel a strange longing, almost sad, wanting to touch another warm skin, oddly happy and alone in the odd lonely world".

I have no problem with the expression of emotion in a tasting note. The tasting of wine, like many experiences in life, can evoke emotion and recording that in written form is laudatory. However the tasting note provided is just that, an emotional reflection. Without the wine identifier as title there is no other information and so it is unclear what the emotion is directed toward. It could be sex, possibly food, almost any experience. As a personal reflection it serves the writer well, may even recall the experience at a later date but it is unlikely to do well as a means of sharing the experience with others who have not directly shared that experience. It is the ability to share the experience that I seek from a well written tasting note . To some extent this is why descriptive personal notes that also provide analytical detail are much more successfull than either purely emotional, or purely analytical matter of fact descriptions.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Australian Wine Fiction
Does it exist? Well yes, it does. I've found one book. Jacaranda Vines by Tamara McKinley. The vineyard in this tale seems more of a backdrop for Australian history.

Pinot Drinkers Read This
While my eBlogs try to climb out from under a mystery router disease that is severely limiting access to the internet I'd like to point you all toward a little bit of fiction to pass the time. Sideways: A Novel is the basis for the movie of the same name that was mentioned on this blog on Sept. 20. As usual book and movie are sufficiently different to make both worth searching out. The narrator of the novel, Miles, is a pinot fanatic and the weeklong vinous rampage with friend Jack through Santa Ynez, California, wine country makes mention of numerous pinots. Its not great literature, but it is that rare book - wine fiction. If you have any interest in wine you will no doubt share a smile over many of the moments of wine passion.

While you are spending your money why not get the CD and the poster. Don't worry I'll tell you when the DVD is out.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Royal Adelaide Wine Show
Oh my goodness, a point score of only 20! What would Mr Parker say? Well I guess if you multiply by 2.5 its equal to the 50 point scale he uses. And while you think about that, we will all have time to wait for the RA&HS to post the results of the wine show on their web site.

A GIFT from God
That was how Tyrrell's Wines staff described their 1994 Vat 1 Semillon, the champion wine at this year's Royal Adelaide Wine Show.

Tyrrell's Wines 1994 Vat 1 Semillon, a $40 wine, yesterday won The Advertiser Adelaide Trophy for best wine of the show. The 1993 Vat 1 Semillon was served at the Danish Royal Wedding this year while the 1997 vintage was named as the new world's best white wine for 2004 by Decanter magazine. Vat 1, regarded as one of Australia's best semillons, is not released until seven years old. The champion's title is the second in a row in Adelaide while it also won trophies for best white wine and best semillon. MORE->

The Max Schubert Trophy for the best red wine was awarded to the 2002 Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz. MORE->

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Russian Hill Estate Winery Pinot Noir Wins Best of Class
Hold the Presses. We told you they were good! The RHEW 2001 Russian River Valley Estate Tara Vineyard has won a Gold Medal and Best of Class Pinot Noir retail price of $25.00 & over at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. MORE->

What I don't understand is that they entered their 2002 Russian River Valley Ellen's Block Syrah in the Syrah competition. It only received a Bronze medal. We all know that its their Top Block wine that would have won that had it been entered. Then again, maybe it was!

But their 2001 pinots have continued to do well with the 2001 Pinot noir, Russian River Valley scoring 91 points: "a lot of interesting, complex flavors", and the 2001 Pinot noir, Sonoma Coast receiving 93 points: "concentrated and complex; has all the lush complex flavors you want" from the PinotReport. Well done!

The 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Has been awarded for "odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system". See the Press Release. Unfortunately the work was not in relation to how odors are percieved in the smellling or "tasting" of wine but its a start. Of course the real challenge to the perception of odors in wine is the influence of autosuggestion; that is the linking of odor descriptors with visual (and other) clues.