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Everything posted by JohnL

  1. Could you be more specific? What part of the paper are you referring to that contradicts the abstract quoted above? ← Unfortunately, one needs to access the many references in this study to fully understand its failings/short comings. RL Weil and especially Goldstein whose "tests" form the raison d'etre for the paper. The methodology used criteria based upon the assumption that only 90 point of higher wines represent recommendations by professional critics. This is simply false based upon the scoring system explanations/criteria of the critics. In fact, as I noted many of the wines Goldstein's test reveals as preferred by the subjects have received positive recommendations by the critics he claims. Thus any conclusion that "critics are fairly poor guides..." is wrong. Goldstein actually proves this. It is significant that Goldstein et al do not reveal key raw data such as a list of the wines the testing included that formed the higher price category. In fact, they do not reveal most of the wines used in the test let alone any breakout of how participants responded and what each tasting flight was comprised. What they do is rely heavily on a lot of "other" research and some arcane formulas and statistical argy bargy.
  2. I think you mean to say "regardless of the data espoused in the abstract." ← Ironically, I don't think the paper shows this at all. The fact is most every professional critic I know of reviews inexpensive wines and recommends them all the time. In fact, most of them are quite enthusiastic about pointing out good values and bargains worth trying. There is little evidence to support the notion that any critic is a "poor guide" especially if one accepts that informed opinion from any quarter is basically a suggestion to try/sample a particular wine. The real problem with this "abstract" is that its raison d'etre is rooted in The Wine Trials which are the foundation for the book of the same name which recommends wines to consumers. This is hardly a paper summarizing an unbiased "scientific" academic exploration. Basically the book concludes "our studies show that critics can't be trusted but we can (be trusted)."
  3. I don't think much of anything in the article is "clear." Asimov does a good job in critiquing the whole mess. Their definition of "expert" is "a participant who has had SOME FORM OF WINE TRAINING..." In fact their universe of participants contained professionals (academics, lawyers, doctors etc), travel writers, food and wine bloggers etc. Many of these folks are highly likely to have considerable experience with wine--far more than novice or average wine drinkers/consumers. They concocted a method to determine each participants tasting skills involving Yellowtail which acts to further muddy the waters and in light of a better participant selection process would be unnecessary. The "winners?" Fat Bastard Chardonnay, Charles Shaw cabernet AND the Chardonnay, Bogle Zin, Almaden Chardonnay, Fetzer merlot, Mondavi, Louis Latour, etc etc etc. What wines did they win out against?--who knows? What did the group think about the more expensive wines--who knows? By what margin did each inexpensive wine win by--???? One huge problem with the conclusion is that the economists and Mr Goldstein completely mis read the straw men they set up--the professional wine critics and the magazines. The fact is, as I noted earlier, most of the wines that "won" these 'trials" were reviewed favorably by the critics and are, in fact, often highly recommended. Goldstein et al don't seem to realize that 85 points indicates a "very very good wine many of which are great values..." (Parker). This indicates that the expert reviewers and the participants in the trials are basically in agreement. Thus one main conclusion is reached by Goldstein et al is WRONG. The one "prestige" wine singled out is the 1999 Dom Perignon (a Veuve Cliquot is also noted). This is the wine that Goldstein selects to make an example of. It is the ONLY more expensive wine with tasting notes included in the book. Under "nose" is this line explaining its performance: "If you use your imagination, it's not hard to see how those overwhelming aromas of cream and toast can turn ugly for some." I think this reveals quite a bit about Goldstein and his cohorts at Princeton and especially about the "wine trials.".
  4. I don't know any wine reviewers who do not review inexpensive wines regularly. In fact many of the wines that "won" in these tests have been favorably reviewed by the critics (especially the Wine Spectator). So there is ample evidence that one would do well (at least as well) following the recommendations of the Wine Spectator. also note the conclusion: "...individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines SLIGHTLY LESS. Among folks with a little wine knowledge "....we find evidence of a POSITIVE relationship between price and enjoyment."
  5. Are you attempting an analogy between price and scores as to their impact upon our reactions to wine? First the "test" can be "faulted" because it takes wine enjoyment/perceptions out of real life context and creates its own isolated context. Therefore as with all "focus" group findings marketers need to have the salt shaker at hand. Someone may take a rating into consideration when buying a wine. There is nothing wrong with utilizing any third party recommendation in making a purchase decision. In fact it is quite wise. My question is would you savor a wine more because anyone recommended it highly by any means. Just a verbal recommendation "this stuff tastes fabulous". Scores--18.5, 90, two stars, three wine glasses, four toques (sorry that's food) 2.5 out of three...... How about the source of the recommendation: Parker, Tanzer, Jancis Robinson, Hugh Johnson, the wine shop owner, your uncle Fred the wine maven, a friend, the couple in the Wall Street Journal, Asimov and his panel of experts in the Times, the wine maker, the Royal Family. Gee, why limit this to one particular critic? Wouldn't a high score or rating of any sort from a trusted source set the bar for the wine pretty high? Would you really taste the wine and think:"gosh this isn't all that good I spent all that money--but hey! so and so likes it, I think I will buy some more!" As for the particular rating system. Most consumers do not understand these things. They don't have time! Hell, most wine geeks would be hard pressed to explain the specific discipline in scoring a wine let alone apply it themselves. usually it is : wow this is good, I think I'll give ity a ninety five or four stars or 19.0 or... The davis scale for eg was not developed to communicate a wine's quality to consumers. It was, rather developed to communicate with and among scientists. It has its pluses and minuses. The 100 point scale was developed as a means to communicate with consumers and thus is more consumer friendly. It is easier to understand what 85 out of one hundred means as opposed to 17.5 out of twenty. As for precision. As Daniel Rogov notes it affords the user the opportunity to communicate hie/her words more accurately. How many times have you tasted two wines and found both to be of similar quality but you preferred one just slightly over the other. A less precise scale forces you to either score them equally (not the truth) or to score one .5 lower--also inaccurate because the impression will be the lower rated wine is more inferior than the other wine than it really is (say 18.0 vs 17.5). Of course, there are those who will argue that communicating about wine is better done by less precision or worse vagueness. Fair enough, for these folks the Davis scale is fine or perhaps just a four star or five glass system. I would simply argue that the more information the better. Which brings us to the tasting notes. It should be noted that using a 100 point scale actually compels the critic to be more precise in his/her assessments in stead of lumping" wines into broader statistical categories. Unfortunately, a score says very little about the wine and how it tastes. A score doesn't even denote white or red. Thus the consumer is cheated out of a professional opinion and detailed assessment of how a wine tastes when only a score is posted on a shelf. This forces the consumer to bring whatever knowledge and experience they have to bear as well as asking the sales person about the wine. When someone decides to try a wine it isn't just scores or a particular wine writer it it usually information from a wide variety of sources including the consumers own experiences. No one is going to actually like a wine because someone tells them they should. That is having too little faith in the human race and even less faith in wine. Both do pretty well on their own!
  6. What people in Europe are willing to pay for a few "investment grade" wines in the secondary market has nothing to do with the market here in America. Our top wines already sell for high prices here. These are mostly limited production efforts that basically sell out on release in the domestic market. There has been a very limited and luke warm market for these wines whenever they do reach foreign shores. It is folly to think that British "investors" will start to snap up cases of Screaming Eagle because Margaux is too expensive. As for the market here, just who are the "good domestic" producers? Prices are already quite high for in demand wines in the US. Top wines are somewhat immune to things that impact the economy--Ferrari doesn't run year end clearance sales or offer incentives. There is no indication that the "investment" world is "tiring" of top Bordeaux prices. Again, are we talking release prices? Or are we talking auction prices? In neither arena is there any indication that prices are trending down. What might have a significant impact on release prices is a string of outstanding vintages resulting in a dramatic increase in supply. Conversely, a string of poor vintages will also have an impact. Top Bordeaux from top vintages, remain the most viable wines for investors because there is a lot of it produced, it is high quality, age worthy wine with a long track record. Whether prices in the auction markets for these wines in any country goes up or down has little or no impact on any other wines. The domestic wines that offer large enough production and track record for aging are few and far between. I see no/little opportunity for domestic producers in the data provided by the chart tracking European auction prices.
  7. Do we care about how our top quality Michelin Tires were made? or our Italian shoes? (how many of us really appreciate the miracle of the Goodyear welt?). Isn't it enough for a wine maker that someone simply enjoys the wine? That you made a product that gives pleasure and that people are willing to buy?
  8. The article cited is not very definitive or revelatory. Really, I wonder what the point was/is. Investing in wine is not as prevalent as some seem to believe--there are a few operations mostly in the UK. Investing in wine involves paying fees--most numbers I have seen indicate wine appreciation is somewhere under 10%--I have seen very little, if any, indication of anyone actually making any money (save for the brokers etc). Liquidity (no pun) is a problem. Lifespan is a problem. Wine reaches a point where it is not drinkable and therefore of no value (save for some wines that have historical significance). To my knowledge, the price of vinegar (save for balsamic and some sherry vinegars) is pretty low. Investment grade wines are therefore limited to wines from good vintages that have long aging records. There has to be a thriving market for them when the investor decides to take profits. We are talking about a very few wines. The cost to buy, insure and store wines in temperature controlled warehouses is significant. Investors look to buy low and sell high. If anything it would be to their advantage to get prices on initial offerings as low as possible. Wine is subject to fashion and fad to a certain degree. Investors are vying for the same wines as restaurants and retailers who are more interested in rapid turnover than long term profits. It just isn't that simple! Also the article referenced is about the secondary market. Yuppies trading Kosta Browne have little to do with any of this, as noted. In fact, if one wants a bottle of Kosta Browne, one needs only to visit a retailer that carries it. There are several around the country on Wine Searcher. Many in demand California wines are produced in very small quantities and are mostly available via mailing lists. If one wants to buy them they must enter a very highly charged secondary market and vie for them or get one off of a restaurant wine list. Is a Harlan Estate cabernet worth more than a Bordeaux first growth? That's a matter of taste. Again, we are talking about a tiny number of limited quantity wines. So really, what's the big deal? Chances are that even if Harlan estate was selling for ten bucks a bottle very few people would get a chance to taste one--regardless of price, when't the last time anyone saw Romanee Conti on their local wine shop shelves?
  9. I think you have made some very salient observations Max. The "controversies over the 100 point system" are becoming tiring and --no pun intended--(well ok I don't come up with these that often so)--pointless. Everyone can probably agree that there are flaws in every system. Some can argue that wines shouldn't be rated or evaluated at all. A more interesting debate IMOP-- If one wants to debate these things. The motivations behind much of the current debate (not here, I am refering to the wine press and the industry) is driven IMOP, by petty jealousy and internecine carping. The truth is, the 100 point system, as applied by any number of critics has won the silly popularity contest. The popularity of Parker, Tanzer, Burghound, The Spectator and others speaks for itself. There are still many others who review wines using different systems and perspectives so consumers can access many resources. As for the industry. (I am part of it) IMOP we are often overwrought and insecure and often downright neurotic. Anyone who even mentions a critic or a score is automatically deemed a point chaser The actual influence of critics is vastly over stated. Mary Baker posted a link to some research that showed the influence to be less than the conventional wisdom. The industry amplifies these issues far beyond any real context. Ironically, it is the industry who plaster scores all over shelves --often with no tasting notes--and then bemoan the power of the critics. Literally hundreds (thousands?) of wines are not reviewed at all, by anyone. They seem to sell just fine. There are plenty of wines that get mediocre reviews yet still sell for high prices. Somebody isn't being "influenced." The average wne buyer is concerned with the flavor profile of a wine. How it tastes is more important than how a critic scores it. More people everyday ask for wines discussed and reviewed in the Wall Street Journal and the local papers. If one takes the combined subscriptions/circulations to every wine publication in existence, the number will fall far short of the total number of wine drinkers. (even ignoring that the overlap of subscribers to these "journals" is likely quite high. I think it is somewhat ludicrous that the wine business is one where people constantly feel the need to remind others that they must trust their own palates. (I am guilty as much as anyone). What other product carries this caveat to the degree wine does? "Remember, buy only the car you really enjoy driving...don't just rely on Car and Driver or Consumer Reports!" Funny how all those cars the publications don't go ga ga over seem to sell ok. What is it about wine that we feel the need to warn people to rely on their own taste? What is the fear that others will rely too heavily on someone else's advice or council? Why do we need to warn people about these critics? More importantly, why with wine do we believe that there are thousands of people (no millions) who would follow a critic and buy wine they don't like because a critic told them to? Worse, why do we need to denigrate people who get good advice (from anyone) and go back to that source? We seem to expect that people are subscribing to a critic's publication because they have no mind of their own, that they are incapable of making thier own decisions. Critics make suggestions--they are a source of information. Wines are rated to help summarize their tasting notes and to help consumers. They are comparative and should be taken in context with the tasting notes which should support the numerical or iconic assessment. "Assumptions"? Yes they do come from the industry as you note. That's my point. I have never seen an industry more out of touch with consumers than the wine business. The rampant schizophrenia that fuels the need to slap rating points on shelf talkers and wail when their wines are not reviewed and then turn around and claim that a critic is too influential is incredible but real. I read an article in a major media outlet web site that quoted an industry "expert" that Robert Parker really only rates very expensive wines highly. I happened to be holding an issue of the WA that featured "great wine values"--over a hundred inexpensive wines the critic believed people should try --from all over the world. Yes, there are some academic discussions of rating systems but honestly, look at the post that begins this thread. Ninety eight per cent of them are really about Parker and his influence not the pros and cons of a specific system. What is undeniable is that the 100 point system has been more widely accepted than any others. There are a number of reasons. I have touched upon a few. How broad or specific should wine evaluation be? There are merits to a simple one to four star method but the main shortcoming is one that is too broad IMOP offers little for consumers to work with--less information, if you will. The twenty point Davis scale? Maybe it is the best of both worlds, a middle ground between stars and 100 points. However it has been around for a while and most people are not interested in mastering an understanding of it. I personally believe it is fine for professionals and not so good for consumers. So what exactly is wrong with the 100 point scale? Seems to me it offers a lot of flexibility for the critic as well as the consumer. Why is there so much concern with it? Is this really just a matter of scales? Is the concern that it is popular? If so, why? Anything that helps people and promotes interest in wine is good--isn't it? What is this insane (IMOP) obsession with it? Is there some fear that someone will see a score or a tasting note and decide they will try the wine? Is the 100 point scale causing harm to some sector of the wine making business? Or has it helped?
  10. "varietal but weak"??????????? Really! Here is the explanation for the numbers that appears on the cover of every Wine Advocate. Along with a note that scores should always be considered along with the tasting notes which explain the score a wine is given. Also a warning that scores and notes reflect a "snapshot" of a wine at that point in time etc. Also is a detailed discussion of how points are assessed concluding with: "Scores are important for the reader to gauge a professional critic's overall qualitative placement of a wine vis-a-vis its peer group. However, it is vital to consider the description of a wine's style, personality and potential. No scoring system is perfect, but a system that provides for flexibility in scores, if applied by the same taster without prejudice, can quantify different levels of wine quality and provide the reader with one professional's judgment. However, there can never be a substitute for your own palate nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself." 50-59: a wine deemed to be unacceptable. 60-69: a below average wine containing noticeable deficiencies, such as excessive acidity and/or tannin, an absence of flavor or possibly dirty aromas or flavors. 70-79: An average wine with little distinction except that it is soundly made. In essence, a straightforward, innocuous wine. 80-89:A barely above average to very good wine displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character, with no noticeable flaws. 90-95: An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short these are terrific wines. 96-100: An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase, and consume. Tanzer and Burghound also discuss their 100 point systems in detail on their newsletters. The Wine Spectator does the same. So what exactly is the debate here? What is the problem with these systems? 50-100 points scales clearly allow a taster more flexibility than 20 point scales (the Davis scale) or stars or glasses or whatever! Is the debate really about a rating system? Or are we really debating the critics. Let's be honest here--we are talking about one critic--Parker. These debates over systems never really materialized until Parker emerged as an influential entity. I am sure there was some discussion about the use of stars by Hugh Johnson vs the Amerine (Davis) scale somewhere but really! Interestingly, there are few discussions and debates over the "Jancis Robinson palate" or the "Meadows palate" or the "Johnson palate" --no--it's usually just Parker that seems to have a "palate"! Or, are we debating how consumers use these scales? This one reveals a bit of snobbery IMOP. Assumptions are often made that consumers are sheep who blindly buy wine based on a number with no other criteria and then drinking the wine regardless of whether or not they actually like it! I am sure there are a few of these around but come on! (I am excluding people who buy wine for investment purposes though even these folks would be well advised to use more criteria than just a critic's score). Information is information. The more the better for consumers. In the end, people will access and process whatever information they need to make a good purchase for themselves. If they buy a wine because a shelf talker says a respected critic likes the wine or their neighbor tasted it and likes it or the local paper said it was a good value or the customer tried other wines liked by the same critic and enjoyed them or the store clerk recommended it or they like the label or the wine comes from a producer they are familiar with or they notice the wine is from the same country and or area as other wines they have enjoyed..... OR any combination of the above! people are not stupid sheep--so what's the big deal over any rating system? As for the example of "Vintage Magazine's" system I have no quibble with it I can surmise that its system, and others like it probably were less "popular" than the 100 point system because it was too broad and people would have trouble with seeing:"good but non varietal" and understanding it. (or caring much about it). The brilliance of the 100 point scale is it really can be looked at as six category rankings--80-85, 96-100 etc (Vintage has six also) that are more easily understood. Or, one can look at the 100 point system as a much more precise scale wherein a consumer looking for a critic's assessments on a more minute and precise level can consider wines that are one or two points apart. The 100 point scale works on many different levels and has a very broad appeal because it can be broad or narrowly applied by consumers. It is hard for a consumer to digest what 17.5 really means or what a "good but non varietal wine is" and often a star or a wine glass icon or a "good" "better" "best" scale is simply too vague or general for many. People apply their own level of sophistication and most end up finding a wine they like. There are loads of sources and scales by many different "palates" and plenty of information is available. If someone wants very detailed and precise info its there. If someone just wants a simple thumbs up or down to make a decision that's fine too. Why would anyone seem to worry about how other people make their wine buying decisions? I personally use a lot of sources and find that sometimes simple and broad is good and other times I want to know if a critic likes wine A just slightly more than wine B. As Parker states" "there is no perfect system" but there are a lot of places to go to get guidance and information about wine. That's good!
  11. Any good rating system has both objective and subjective componants. A set of criteria by which wine is evaluated. Rating systems are not about numbers or icons alone in a vacuum. Numbers or icons are a summation of a critic having tasted and evaluated a wine. Siskel and Ebert didn't just mutely offer a thumbs up or down. Each film was discussed and evaluated with the critics placing it in context of their criteria for assessing films. A viewer got a good idea of twhat the film was about and how its elements were executed by the writer, director anmd actors and came together (or didn't) to justify the final rating. Same with wine. A number without any notes is totally out of context and thus limited in its value to consumers. Rating systems are a means of communication. Context is critical--one needs notes and an understanding of the system--most rate wines within peer group for example. As for those who are struggling with the notion of how a wine rated 88 differs from a wine rated 87 or are questioning how a critic can make such a miniscule differentiation in the first place; I offere the following: Haven't you ever sat at a tasting and tasted two, say, sauvignon blancs and after evaluating each find that both are equal in quality in your eyes but you prefer slightly, one over the other?--if someone twisted your arm you would select one ahead of the other but just slightly? A good system should provide a critic the leeway to do this. Perhaps people would feel more comfortable by trying to look at numbers a bit more broadly. That is, while a critic may like one slightly (a point or two) more than the other wine, the consumer can basically look at the two wines as similar read the notes and scores and make a decision. I think many are getting lost in minutia.
  12. There are a lot of misconceptions/perceptions about the Puritans. There are also a lot of mis conceptions about our history and specifically the history of alcohol consumption and regulation in America. The fact is, we have a long history (starting with the Puritans) of alcohol consumption (and regulation)--remember the Whiskey rebellion of 1794? The role of religion from the Puritans to prohibition has IMOP been vastly overstated. In fact, it appears that just as it is the case with most of the rest of the alcohol consuming world, governments exercise control over alcoholic beverages both in production as well as consumption (let's not forget that most European countries also tightly control alcohol production and consumption etc) is a result of the desire to fatten the public coffers via taxes. Therer is also a health and safety angle to a lot of the motivation. MADD is far more influential than any so called religious group these days. Religion plays a miniscule role if at all. Puritans and alcohol
  13. At one time, much of Philadelphia's downtown area was a waste land. In fact, Philadelphia underwent a near miraculous transformation wherein Socuiety Hill seemed to emerge from the rubble almost over night. Detroit is just beginning to recover from decades of decline. Most people with any income lived in the suburbs and apart from some places like the London Chop House there was little in the way of fine dining in the downtown area. Most of the good restaurants where in the suburbs where the money was. It takes time but my most recent visits to Detroit indicate things are beginning to turn around. Will it become as vibrant a food townn as Philly? Maybe, maybe not. It is getting better though.
  14. Good points! I think what is needed is perspective. "Terroir" is important. It is a fact that one area has "potential" to produce better wines than another area. The greatest wine maker in the world (whoever that would be) can take grapes grown in the Central Valley assuming a perfect vintage (weather etc) and not be able to make a wine as complex and interesting as he or she would if given grapes grown in, say, Howell Mountain. The Cote Chalonnais just can't seem to produce a pinot noir on a level with La Tache. So at a basic and very important level where grapes are grown is critical in how the wine will taste. Cool climate grapes don't ripen the same way that warmer climate grapes do. Thus wines produced from a South facing slope will "potentially" produce wine that tastes different from wine made from grapes grown on the North Facing side of the same hill. I say "potentially" because there are so many variables. Viticulture and viniculture involve a huge a number of decisions all having the potential to affect the flavor of the wine. Fermentation is one of the most complex chemical processes and wine itself is hugely complex with hundreds of chemical compounds. Throw in the human element at the end--our taste buds and the process that is "tasting" and it is easy to see why many people gravitate toward easy answers. Ah it is the "terroir" we are tasting. I recently came across two situations that point up the difficulties in dealing with all these issues. One, a French wine maker was asked why he picked his grapes at a certain time and couln't waiting a bit longer mean riper tasting wines? When grapes are picked is one , of many, decisions that are often critical to how the resultant wine will taste. The wine maker worked in the Loire where the climate is cool and the wines tend to be less ripe tasting than say, wines from california. The wine maker replied he had no choice. He had to pick his grapes by a certain date every year because the pickers needed to move on to Champagne where they were paid more money to pick the grapes there. So when I hear people rhapsodizing about how the Loire wines are so reflective of their terroir, I wonder--is it the terroir they are tasting or the politics and economics!? I also recall a quote from a well known and highly respected grower and producer of pinot noir in the Russian River in California who grows grapes in several different parcels of land all over Sonoma County. He was asked why his "blend" often tasted better than his single vineyard designated wines yet sold for less. The wine maker replied that by blending the grapes from different vineyards he could and often did produce a better wine but that today's market is in love with the notion of terroir and was willing to pay more for wines that come from grapes grown in a specific place. I believe that a wine from a single vineyard can posses qualities that make it more interesting to drink than a blend. Even though the blend may be a better wine. There is more to wine than just attaining perfection. I have also tasted Zind Humbrecht wines from vineyards a few miles apart and the differences in the wines was striking. Quality and differences are not one and the same. We taste differences in wines and describing those differences is relatively easy. It is when we try to source those differences and explain them where we run into trouble. Terroir is important but it has been subverted. It is used to romanticize wine. Wine is about place and history and is IMOP, romantic enough. La Tache is often worthy of its lofty prices. Not because it comes from a certain place but rather because it is a magnificent wine. When one becomes blinded by the name one may overlook the fact that in a vintage with bad weather, La Tache may not be up to its own standards let alone those of other wines. When a wine maker makes bad decisions La Tache can also fail to live up to its potential. While it has the potential to be a truly great wine it also has the potential to be mediocre or worse. So in the end, I think terroir is really about potential, sometimes realized, often missed. AVA's can be a good piece of information for a consumer. It can indicate a certain potential. Let's not get carried away with it though. If I see Howell Mountain on a bottle, I know the wine inside is from grapes grown in a certain place. I know that the wine may have certain attributes because of that place that I may or may not be able to recognize or taste. I would be willing to pay more for the wine vs a wine from Lodi or the Central Valley where the potential of the grapes is far lower. I try to take whatever information I have about wine and process it in perspective when making a buying decision. More information, the better. For me, at least!
  15. JohnL

    Wine assignment

    A key to finding wine that pairs with food is to identify the flavors that predominate in the dish. Sea scallops pair very nicely with some red wines as do sweetbreads (in any form--even if "mixed with the veggies"). Any vinegar can impart very assertive flavor to a dish. There are distinct flavor differences between lemon juice and vinegar, in fact, lemon juice is often recommended as a replacement for wine vinegar in salads--lemon juice is more wine friendly generally speaking. Lemon juice is also less assertive in any dish as it provides acid and a mild citrus flavor. Vinegars are also acidic but their flavor is definitely stronger. I believe it is more about the flavor and less the acid. The ideal situation would be to actually taste the dish and then decide on a wine. If the vinegar is very assertive in the dish then this would preclude most red wines IMOP and point to whites. If, on the other hand, the flavor of the vinegar is subtle then a red wine would work nicely. I found it interesting that with this dish there seemed to be an assumption that only white wine should be considered. I am not sure why. (could it have been the vinegar? or more likely the white wine with seafood rule?) Anyway-- Reds like pinot noir are IMOP simply wonderful with scallops and sweet breads especially in a dish as earthy as the one under consideration--paprika has a dark and smoky quality (especially if it is smoked--of course) that cries out for red wine. How the dish is constructed is also important. Again. Ideally, one would simply taste the dish and then make a wine choice. Pretty simple.
  16. Why is there any debate as to the existence of terroir in America (or wanywhere for that matter). After all grapes gotta come from some place! First, many assumptions about European wine laws are simply wrong. Wine laws and terroir are often two different things. Wine laws are enacted to ensure quality in wine as defined by certain people at a certain point in time. Wine making has always been evolving in response to the market place and driven by techniques or science of making wine. Bordeaux and Burgundy styles were "established" in response to their chief market--the British Empire. port is not a Portugese tradition--either in making it or drinking it--it is a British tradition! Let's remember that way back when, Burgundy for example was not the same style of wine we think of it as being today. In fact, for all those decrying the newer riper higher in alcohol styles emerging today, I would point out that at one time long ago Burgundy was riper, bigger and higher in alcohol! In fact it was often blended with syrah or wine from warmer climates. mainly because that is what the people who bought and drank it wanted. So which is the real 'traditional" Burgundy? At one time in history, white wines in the North of Italy were heavy, often woody wines from so called native grapes. It wasn't until wine makers and grape growers from other countries (notably Austria and germany etc) arrived with new varietals and new techniques. So again, which is the "authentic" Friulian wine style? I would argue that non traditional (native) varietals and stainless steel temperature controled tanks are more responsible for the flavor profile of these wines than wine laws or tradition or some revernce for the past. As for mandating certain grapes for certain places. well, even this is a somewhat murky area. Interestingly cabernet sauvignon was, long ago, planted fairly widely in South of France. had they continued to grow and experiment with this so called "international varietal" they may very well have avoided the problems they face today in trying to sell unpopular wines from unpopular varietals. Incidently, it is believed that the Bordelaise had a little something to do with why cabernet sauvignon is restricted in Provence. The Rhone Valley producers may have more than a little interest isa seeing restrictions on Syrah in the Soutrh as well. It is clear that politics play a significant role in the wine laws--it isn't always just about the "right" grapes in the "right" place. Bordeaux? The classed growth system was developed not by terooir but rather what wines were selling at what prices in the marketplace. The market was/is responsible for the classification not terroir. Also worth noting is the market place once again moves faster than the authorities! We have de facto new classifications such as "super second." Wine makers also play a role. we have the garagists who make wines that out sell the classed wines. The market place and wine makers have always been ahead of wine laws. The IGT designation in italy was a response to wine makers and the market place. Laws often inhibit wine making and the market place rather than help it. we can learn from the Europeans--not just the good but the awful mistakes they have made that now has them ripping out vines and destroying wine. I would posit that AVA's in the US are already somewhat established. Wine makers and the market place "know" where they are. They are also evolving. Consumers "know" where the best wines come from and the prices reflect this. If the authorities look to consumers and wine makers and act conservatively AVA's make sense. They can be additional information for the market place. That is a good thing. And let's remember that tradition isn't written in stone (or stainless steel)!
  17. Actually, it is supposed to be a point of distinction between Fino and Manzanilla. I agree that fino's can also have a sort of "salty" quality. So do many wines from the Jura. Given the Jura is up in the mountains far from the sea..... Oddly (or not so oddly) the wines from the Jura are often made in a very oxidative style (some are even the result of a flor forming in the barrels),I would suggest that the salinity we are talking about may very well be attributed to something other than a specific place --the sea (then again maybe not). Peynaud in "The Taste of Wine" identifies sixteen chemicals present in wine that can affect saltiness.
  18. I would love it if these generalization about wine would provide some specifics or some evidence. What wine or wines are we talking about as being "salty"? Some Wines can have a certain "salinity" to them--at least as we perceive it. It's all about chemicals which are what wine is composed of and taste buds. Also, the notion of terroir has been so overblown as to promote some very silly notions. I guess we can place salt into the hopper with the vaunted "minerality." It appears that terroir is about climate and ripening rather than dirt--the dirt part is really about drainage and heat retention or dissipation. I have no idea where the salt part comes from. I guess it is the sea--is anyone producing wines grown from hydroponically grown vines using sea water? I tend to agree with Jim. On the perception part. Salinity can be a pleasant aspect in a wine unless it becomes too prevalent at which point it would be rather off putting. The "tanginess" certain wines can possess can be quite pleasant ands interesting--where it comes from and why is another matter.
  19. JohnL

    White House Sommelier

    This is pretty illuminating: White House and Wine Maintaining wine cellars and serving old Bordeaux and Burgundy vintages is more of a British custom. (even the French prefer to drink their own wines at much younger ages). As for Mr Bonner's points it makes perfect sense that Canada would cellar and serve wines in keeping with that tradition. Canada being a bit "closer to the Empire" than the US. It appears that we can acquit ourselves nicely serving a nice moderately priced Zinfandel from Paso Robles and a Cabernet franc from Long Island or perhaps a NY State Riesling or a Chardonnay from...... Most wines produced in the US (and really elsewhere in the world) are quite drinkable on release of with a few years of age. Even Bordeaux produces wines that are more approachable at an early age. The article linked in the post that starts this thread and the MSN piece I link here clearly indicate, there is a method to the madness and the results are quite good. The sommelier quoted in the first article is highly complimentary of the wines selected by the White House for the state dinner in question. As for Kendall Jackson/Woodbridge. These are mostly well made basic wines. I can see the State Department offering/approving them as sort of "house" wines. It would be interesting to see what exactly the policy re: wines and entertaining is, in fact. I am not sure tax payers would be keen on our government maintaining cellars full of old and very expensive wines.
  20. Customer: "Waiter how much is bread?" Waiter: "sir we don't charge for bread." Customer: "how much is water?" Waiter: "water is free sir." Customer: "how much is gravy?" Waiter: "sir gravy, as are all our sauces is not charged for." Customer: "ok I'm ready to order. I'll have some bread with a dish of gravy and a glass of water."
  21. Whatever one wants to call him. He is what he is. I guess we can debate the substance of his writing and opinion. Or we can note our disapproval of his writing style. For me, it is more interesting discussing what he says rather than who he is or how he says it. Twelfth Night will always IMOP--be more interesting and entertaining than the biography of Shakespeare! (I am not comparing Richman to Shakespeare!)
  22. JohnL

    Wine assignment

    I think the sherry vinegar is throwing a curve. The question really is: to what degree does that sherry predominate in the dish. If it is subtle then you have a pairing of scallops and sweet breads which present earthy and gamy flavors (some nuttiness as well). I think this calls for an earthy red that is not too "big." Pinot Noir (in that style) or perhaps a Loire red (Cab Franc) and a Pomerol would also be very nice. (I had a wonderful sea scallop and foie gras dish at Susannah Foo and a Pomerol went very well with it (the spices were on the Asian side --of course--and I forget which Pomerol I had). If the sherry is pretty assertive in the dish then a white would be a better choice. It should be a darker, complex white with earthy notes. (a dry sherry would work well also). I know this is late and borders on wine geeky obscurity (perhaps for the next dinner) but a white from the Jura comes to mind as maybe a great match. These wines are often made in an oxidative style providing a nutty note and they are also often very complex and earthy. Tissot is a good producer. Their Arbois Savignin has a nutty salty (mates nicely with the diver scallop and the sweetbreads) tangy earthy quality. I admit these wines are not too easy to find (they are out there though) but should be tried if one has the chance. I also think a nice Meursault would work-- a basic villages effort with a few years age--2003 would be fine. A riesling or gewurtztraminer from Alsace would also do well--one with a touch of residual sugar. The whites of Jermann from Northern Italy are a possibility. Lot's of character and assertiveness. A white rioja would be ok. again--all depends on how prevalent that vinegar is!
  23. The New Orleans piece was debated/discussed here. Most anyone with strong opinions who makes few, if any, concessions and says what they have to say regardless of circumstance will be controversial or provocative. There are three responses (IMOP) one is to deal with the substance of the piece and the other is to dismiss it because of perceived intent. One doesn't "like" the author or his/her style. The third is to not read anything by an author whose style we do not appreciate or whose opinions and perspective we would prefer not to deal with. When journalism begins to concern itself with being nice or politically correct and making concessions then it ceases to be journalism. Again, I understand Richman has an abrasive style and makes few, if any, concessions and thus, rubs a lot of people the wrong way. However, a journalist who only sees good and says only nice things (or sees the bad and ignores it) is not a journalist he/she is a PR flack.
  24. "Cranky" like a waiter in the old original Palm Steakhouse days (or maybe the Carnegie deli circa 1965). Richman is from Philadelphia and started out as a sportswriter, I believe (had a stint in Montreal as a restaurant critic). He practices the journalistic equivalent of what we did on Bronx street corners--hang out and break balls! (one can still see this activity rendered lovingly and realistically on certain episodes of The Sopranos!!!)
  25. The piece indicates that the beer market has been flat. Not declining. In fact, the 2006 version of that infamous 2005 study shows drinkers back to prefering beer. (the link in the Slate piece). I would note that recently Compass Box (Scotch) was "introduced" into a dramatically declining category (brown liquors) cluttered with many brands and has achieved a lot of success--the stuff sells out easily. There is hope for anyone with a quality product no matter the market conditions. The beer market overall is changing and evolving--some segments may be declining---but I doubt there is a bleak future for any brewer who is in tune with those changes!
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