Not too many grand credentials I'm afraid: just love the stuff and have done for all my adult life. I also love writing about enjoyable moments and will admit to lighting the odd touch-paper to foment a little controversy.
OK, I'm a bit of an amateur when it comes to wine tasting. Here are some reasons:
In mitigation, here are a few justifications for having an opinion:
So here are a few random thoughts from Fuzzy Photos and Unreliable Tasting Notes (FB&UTN).
The purpose of wine tasting
A primary purpose of wine tasting for an individual would be to find out what that person likes and to set a course for future purchases or rejections, wouldn't it?
It would be extremely helpful if so-called "independent" tastings reflected that, so that our individuals would know, objectively, how to narrow down the choice for their own more focused attempts to single out a favourite.
If we introduce marketing into this equation it all becomes a bit subjective. Perhaps even an oxymoron? Especially if the tasting outcome is massaged for different audiences.
I recognise that it is almost impossible to achieve perfect disinterest but we can at least try. A simple lingo that avoids superlatives or irrelevant epithets wherever possible is probably about as close as we can get. A set of pre-defined, generally-accepted terms within a logical framework also works. WSET is not perfect put certainly the most appropriate I've come across for creating a level playing field.
Come to think of it, what is the point of a wine rating system that has scores from 0-100 when you only see 90-100. I've heard the argument that wine gurus just don't rate or mention those that deserve < 90. How many wines are there in the world, leaving us with an ocean-full of unmentionables and a helluva process to find out about them?
Then there are the badges (and potentially associated freebies). Why did I choose to buy these particular South African wines?
It certainly wasn't because of the gaudy labels. I probably consulted the Platter Wine Guide before hand, sure. I chose this DeMorgenzon Reserve Chardonnay 2016 for this illustration because of its otherwise unimpeachable pedigree. The Platter sticker was irrelevant but less so than the "Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, Trophy". What does it even mean. And the "International Wine Challenge, Trophy Winner?" Goodness, what a pretentious title without a scintilla of provenance that I could identify.
The other two are wines that relied on nothing other than their own cognisances.
Choosing wine is a minefield. It can be a combination of consulting reputable guides, subscribing to respected publications and, certainly, one's personal tasting. At some point in this process, though, individuals are going to have to develop their own cornucopias of trusted individuals.
These can be knowledgable friends, acclaimed gurus or good old-fashioned tried-and-tested wine merchants. This household has one or two of the latter. As an example, I'll name one character who did more to start us on a devoted wine journey than any other.
At that time Shelley-ann and I lived in Durban in South Africa, hardly the nexus of the international wine world and looked down upon by the Cape wine "aristocracy".
Enter Solange Raffray. I'm not going to spill the beans here because I will soon be compiling a blog dedicated to this fine purveyor on wine. To her, her customers, however humble, were the complete focus. We learned to appreciate fine Meursault while supping humble Cape Colombard to save up for those occasional treats. As I said, more of this in a few weeks.
Varietal or variety?
Syrah and Sémillon are grape varieties. Wines claiming to be made exclusively from the Sémillon grape variety are just that. One would hope they also exhibit the varietal characteristics associated with the Sémillon grape. But these are hugely variable depending upon harvest options, choices of fermentation and maturation processes, age and, increasingly, the terroir.
It is therefore perfectly feasible for, for example, Riesling, or even Chenin Blanc, to exhibit the same varietal characteristics of Sémillon. As could Liquifruit Lemon and Apple flavour.
I'll just leave that thought out there ...
Is Orange (Natural) Wine an aperitif?
Don't get me wrong, I love most of it but it is often more akin to drinking a lovely dry (slightly lower alcohol) sherry. Now, there are some people who drink many white wines interchangeably with a crisp sherry. I could easily be converted.
One very fine example would be Fabien Jouves Orange Voilée from Cahors.
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