Monday, December 10, 2012

giving the wrong idea

2008 Lomond Syrah | WO Cape Agulhas | South Africa

No one likes to be jerked around. Dirty jokes aside, we all want a certain degree of reliability in wine. Life too, in general, but it's far too difficult now to find truly reliable people. So we make do with what we have. When we go wine shopping, what certainty do we have that we're going to like a wine? Unless it's something that we've tasted before, most often we're going in blind. Less bitter to swallow for something under $10 ... increasingly harder to accept for anything higher. It's been a common topic lately to discuss the use of tasting notes, and how as consumers, we need to be aware of the types of wines certain critics prefer - after all, one man's 95 pointer may be another man's 80.

Tasting notes are tricky - some people write out pantry lists of ingredients they think they smell/taste, while others leave it more poetic, more abstract. I believe there's a middle ground between the two approaches, because neither one achieves the real point of it all - offering a complete perspective of what the wine is. And of course, let's not forget, most wine critics aren't writers. Read a few tasting notes from some of the most widely circulated American critics and you'll see that most of what passes for wine writing is nothing more than a string of (the same) flavour descriptors.

So I've got beef with this wine. And as a friend once said, beef goes well with wine, so here we go. This example, a S. African syrah was described as reminiscent of a northern Rhône wine, that savoury, peppery style of syrah. It's fucking anything but. Which isn't a problem per se - it's just that when it's described as such, we should have certain expectations when we buy it. The wine is done in that big style, what most people think of as what syrah should taste like. A bit disappointing, but in this case, it's the inaccurate tasting note that's the source of the problem.

Reliability, though not sexy or particularly exciting, is a virtue. I lack a lot of things, but reliability is not one of them. And I want my tasting notes to be so as well.


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