Wine Blog Daily Thursday 4/19/18

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A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

barrel-52934__340W. Blake Gray profiles the Israeli winery Recanati and their revitalization of two ancient grape varieties–Marawi and Bittuni.

Jamie Goode visits with Yvon Métras, a pioneer of natural wine in Beaujolais.

Vine Art has a thoughtful post on the recent study that suggests drinking wine will shorten your life.

Levi Dalton interviews Portuguese Winemaker António Maçanita

This week’s Wine to Five podcast is about bourbon and bubbles.

Bob on Sonoma has some good advice if you’re planning to visit Sonoma.

Selected Reviews:

1 Wine Dude reports on the wine for his kid’s birthday party the 2008 Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling from Finger Lakes.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s wine of the week is the Le Charmel Pinot Noir from Languedoc.

Jameson Fink reviews Murgo Brut Rosé (2015), a sparkling wine from Sicily made from Nerello Mascalese.

Reverse Wine Snob reviews the Cameron Hughes Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon Lot 613

Aaron Nix-Gomez reviews the 2015 Lionel Faury, Saint Joseph, a Kermit Lynch import.

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Tasteless Philosophy

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tastelessDespite their preoccupation with the analysis of sensory experience, philosophers have ignored taste, smell, and touch, focusing instead on vision as the most important sense.

German philosopher Hans Jonas’s “The Nobility of Sight” is a prominent example. Only vision, he argued, gives us eternal, universal truths, which have been philosophy’s concern throughout most of its history. Vision puts us in mind of the eternal because time is not essential to it. When we view a landscape we see the visual field displayed all at once, in no time. An object can be visually identified immediately without a sequence of appearances over time, in contrast to sound, touch, or taste that need time to reveal the character of their objects. Visual objects also have stability. We can view an object, look away, and then return to the very same object as if nothing has changed unlike the fleeting, ever-changing objects of taste, smell, and sound.

Furthermore, Jonas argues, with vision we can see objects with accuracy if we maintain our distance from them. With touch, smell, and taste  we must be intimate with the object thus increasing the chances that personal bias might influence our understanding of it.

Despite their illustrious pedigree, these are very bad arguments. We learn nothing of the eternal through vision, or any other sensory mechanism, and vision without the opportunity for subsequent confirmation, in time, would be the source of constant error. Furthermore, our sense of the stability of objects is as dependent on the sense of touch as on vision. The stability of our visual field depends on the body’s orientation is space, which is maintained, in part, by our tactile contact with solid objects.

As to the alleged objectifying distance of vision, science shows that vision involves intimate contact with physical objects–swarms of photons. We are just as capable of misinterpreting those photons as we are the signals from taste buds. Psychological research has demonstrated the unreliability of eye-witness testimony and perceptual judgments are hardly immune to subjective bias. Objects are often seen at a distance or under conditions otherwise unsuitable for reliable identification.

At best, vision’s distance and the illusion of simultaneity allow us to spin metaphors about the eternal and universal. But misleading metaphors are bad metaphors.

However, there is an important contrast between vision and the other senses. Through vision we do gain a sense of an horizon, an area beyond our present space. This is surely important for the development of our imagination in our evolutionary history.

By contrast, touch , taste, and smell root us in the here and now. Objects must be spatially and temporally present for them to effect these sensory modalities. But why should experience rooted in the here and now be uninteresting to philosophy?

If taste is philosophically uninteresting, perhaps it is because philosophers lack taste.

Wine Blog Daily Wednesday 4/18/18

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A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

aaaaaGood Vitis takes a deep dive in the “black magic” of winemaking—tannins.

Jamie Goode assesses the current status of English wine.

Seth Buckley has part 2 of his pizza and wine pairing tour, this time visiting Central Italy.

Lisa Zimmerman reports on continued concerns about smoke taint in wines affected by last fall’s wildfires.

The Swirling Dervish profiles Amy Bess Cook, the force behind the organization Women Owned Wineries.

Sarah Cummings at Social Vignerons keeps us up to date on the latest research about whether wine helps you sleep.

The Wine Curmudgeon has the good news on U.S regional wines.

Selected Reviews:

Allison Levine reviews the Buttonwood Winery & Vineyard Hop On Hopped White Wine with Natural Flavors, a Sauvignon Blanc made with hops.

Fredric Koeppel reviews the Mionetto Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene Extra Dry

Around the World in 80 Harvests profiles the Grandes Pagos de España, an association of prestigious single vineyard wines.

Pull That Cork celebrates #WorldMalbecDay by tasting Hess Family, Artezin, MacPhail, and Colomé.

Cindy Rynning also celebrates #WorldMalbecDay by tasting Domaine Bousquet, Amalaya, and Colomé.

Vino-Sphere reviews and old standby, the Clos Du Bois 2008 Marlstone, Alexander Valley.

The Problems With Wine Scores Episode 489

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wine scoresStats wizard David Morrison has a compelling argument that scores between wine critics cannot be compared except in the rare case in which two critics use the same objective scoring scheme. I actually think the situation is worse than David suggests, but more on that in a moment.

His reasoning is as follows.

I have finally concluded that there are two fundamentally different sorts of wine-quality scores in use: (1) what we might call an objective score, based on explicitly assigning points to a series of pre-defined wine characteristics, and then summing them to get the wine score; and (2) subjective (but expert) scores, where the overall score comes from whatever characteristics the scorer wants to express.

David is not referring to the way the scores are expressed via a 100 pt. scale vs a 20 pt. scale. Rather he is referring to the underlying method by which the scores are created.  With objective scoring there is only one scoring scheme so a disagreement among critics would be a genuine disagreement about wine quality. But when critics choose their own idiosyncratic scoring system a disagreement about scores may reflect a different scoring method or different interpretation of the method  rather than a difference in wine quality.

The same scores could mean different qualities (because the scoring schemes are different), and different scores could mean the same quality (because the scoring schemes are different). How on earth are we to know? We can’t!

I think David is exactly right about subjective scores. But I also think what he calls objective scores are also subject to varying interpretations. For example, suppose we develop an objective scoring scheme based on the following pre-defined characteristics with a numerical scale for each characteristic.

We will assess wines for intensity, complexity, balance, length, typicity, and mouthfeel. We will assess every wine using a numerical scale from 0-9 and sum the results producing a score at the end.  These characteristics don’t begin to capture wine quality but adding a more complicated scheme will only increase the problem I want to identify.

The problem is, in this scheme, all the criteria are assigned equal weight—intensity counts the same as balance, etc. But why assume each criterion is of equal value especially across all wines and all varietals? Pinot Noir will not have the length of most Cabernets. A shorter finish may not damage Pinot Noir in the way it would disappoint in the Cab.  A wine even slightly out of balance will suffer in quality despite making up for that deficit in its intensity and complexity. Typicity is important for some purposes but to give it equal weight in every case would disadvantage wines designed to be atypical.  A young, old-school Barolo will have mouth ripping tannins undermining mouthfeel so we would be forced to discount mouthfeel or make a guess about how it will develop.

For a meaningful objective scoring scheme we would have to find some objective way of weighting the various criteria but that would have to be specific to varietal, region, and style since these all require different values.

Even if we were to manage to develop such a scheme, the most important factor in wine quality at least according some critics—the degree to which a wine expresses the distinctive features of the vineyard—is not and could not be in the picture. There is no objective measure of such a quality.

The whole idea of an objective scoring system is hopeless.

So why do I use scores in my reviews you might ask? Because they are useful in assessing how much a critic enjoyed the wine. But they mean nothing more than that. They are a subjective measure of the degree of quality I found in a wine when compared to other wines I’ve tasted. Nothing more, but nothing less. This information is meaningful to the degree you find a particular critic’s palate trustworthy.

A wine score is an invitation to try the wine, not a data point in a competition.

Wine Blog Daily Tuesday 4/17/18

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A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

beaujolais

Tim Atkin (MW)  reports on how the Trump tariffs will negatively affect California wine sales to China and extols the benefits of globalization for the wine world.

Jamie Goode spends the weekend in Beaujolais for the Bien Boire en Beaujolais, where grower/winemakers show their wares.

Pam Strayer at Organic Wines Uncorked reports on a French study that shows consumers can taste pesticides in wine.

The Wine Curmudgeon provides a much-deserved send up of back label wine descriptions.

Tom Wark describes the stupendously ridiculous liquor laws in Arizona that make it illegal to place an online order between 2:00 and 6:00 A.M.

Tom also compares the distribution systems of wine and cannabis in California.

Bob on Sonoma compares the employment figures in the U.S. for wine and beer.

Eric Annino at The Terroirist reviews James Conaway’s book Napa at Last Light.

Susannah Gold reports on day 2 of Vinitaly, with a focus on sparkling wine.

Winemaker Christina at Threads and Vino explains why she’s making South African Shiraz this year.

Food Wine Click profiles Castelli Vineyards, who grow Nebbiolo in Green Valley, Sonoma.

Selected Reviews:

The Intrepid Wino reviews the  d’Arenberg ‘The Laughing Magpie’ Shiraz Viognier 2013

The Swirling Dervish tastes several Malbecs in celebration of #MalbecWorldDay accompanied by intriguing food pairings.

John Fodera robs the cellar for this 2004 Felsina Chianti Classico Rancia Riserva.

Aaron Nix-Gomez reviews a trio of affordable wines from Vacqueyras.

Wine Review: Quivera Vineyards Zinfandel Katz Vineyard Dry Creek Valley 2015

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quivera zinFrom fireworks to sapphires, we are fascinated by things that glow and sparkle. This Sonoma-sourced Zin is simply radiant. Intense, dried cherry and pomegranate aromas are set against a soft, background wood note and the fragrance of dusty roads, lightly hued with the scent of thyme.

An entre of lusciously juicy, shimmering fruit gives way to a more sculpted, layered mouthfeel as mouthwatering acidity and fine tannins gain the upper hand. Yet a solid core of coriander-inflected, dried fruit ornaments the midsection and persists even as the grain of the tannins thickens and the wine gains an edge. The long peppery finish seems to swell, retreat and then swell again showing a bit of salinity at terminus.

It’s a study in how relatively high alcohol can add elegance and intensity.

Exuberant and rhapsodic, this complex, multi-dimensional wine is imbued with a spirit of generosity and promise like glinting sunlight on morning waters, its essence resonating with Kate Bush’s The Morning Fog.

Technical Notes: A field blend of pre-prohibition, mostly Zinfandel vines yielding just over one ton per acre.

Score: 92

Price: $55 (Purchase Here)

Alc: 15.2%

Wine Blog Daily Monday 4/16/18

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A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

tuscany-2194879_960_720The Wine Gourd argues persuasively that wine scores which are the result of different evaluative schemes cannot be compared.

Alfonso Cevola, On the Wine Trail in Italy, engages in a thought experiment—what if we approached all wines using Italian wine as the benchmark?

Seth Buckley explores wine and pizza pairings from the wine regions of Northern Italy.

Julien Miquel reports on his crowdfunded project to produce the Aveine smart aerator.

Levi Dalton interviews Arvid Rosengren, who won the World’s Best Sommelier title in 2016.

Susannah Gold reports on day 1 of Vinitaly, the Italian wine trade show.

Jo Diaz walks through areas affected by the Napa/Sonoma fires last fall and provides a photo report on the spectacular foliage now gracing the hillsides.

Deborah Parker Wong reports on the 3rd Annual Willamette Valley wine auction which funds marketing and education initiatives for the Willamette Valley Wineries Association.

Jamie Goode reports on week 1 of the International Wine Challenge.

Terroirist interviews Anthony Walkenhorst winemaker for Kim Crawford.

Miquel Hudin reports on Grenaches du Monde, a roving celebration of Grenache that took place this year in Terra Alta in the province of Tarragona, Spain.

A Must Read profiles Harry McWatters, the “Robert Mondavi’’ of British Columbia wine.

WINEormous promotes a unique trade show,  the International Bulk Wine & Spirits Show (IBWSS) in San Francisco which takes place in July.

The Swirling Dervish profiles Navarro D.O. and includes a discussion of Pacharán Navarro, a spirit made from the fruit of the blackthorn plant.

Dallas Wine Chick continues her report on Santa Barbara with visits to Hilliard Bruce, Tyler, Bryon, Beckmen and Pence Wineries.

Selected Reviews:

The Wine Curmudgeon reviews four wines from Target’s California Roots and sends his regrets.

Reverse Wine Snob recommends we splurge on the Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino 2010.

Jamie Goode reviews the Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 Adelaide Hills, Australia.

Fredric Koeppel reviews the Hewitson LuLu Sauvignon Blanc 2017, from Australia’s Adelaide Hills appellation.

Issac Baker at Terroirist reviews wines from Smith Story, Eighty-Four, Frank Family, and Kelly Fleming.

Allison Levine’s pick of the week is the Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé.

Cindy Rynning reviews two budget wines from Navarra,  the Inurrieta Orchidea 2017 ($7), of 100% Sauvignon Blanc, and Otazu Premium Cuvee 2013 ($13), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Tempranillo paired with a Spanish Tortilla.

My Wine Pal reviews 10 sparkling wines from British Columbia, Canada.

Enofylz profiles Arrow and Branch, located in Napa Valley

Appetite for Wine reviews the Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo 2014, a Sangiovese/Cabernet blend from Tuscany.

Talk-A-Vino reviews several wines from Lieb Cellars, a Long Island New, York winery.

Can Wine Express Melancholy?

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Picasso’s Melancholy Woman

In my conversation with Tyler Thomas, winemaker for Dierberg and Star Lane Vineyards, part of which I posted last week, he said that he didn’t think winemaking was an art because wine is incapable of expressing emotions such as melancholy.

The purpose of wine is to bring pleasure. It’s not art because it’s limited in expression. It’s not supposed to express melancholy. It’s about pleasure and about the property. If you don’t like the wine you won’t ask where it came from.

At the time I didn’t raise objections to his comment since I was more interested in discovering his views on a variety of other issues. But I found the comment curious because, it seems to me, melancholy is one of the more salient emotions expressed by some wines—in particular aged wines that show considerable development but still have some vitality to them. So I want to explore this question of how such wines can express melancholy.

Melancholy is a peculiar and complex emotion. Although often associated with sadness and depression, melancholy is a distinct emotion and mood. it lacks the resignation of depression and is reflective and contemplative, unlike sadness which tends to be an immediate, felt response to a perceived loss. Melancholy has negative and positive aspects; a bit of longing with a touch of sadness but also feelings of pleasure or inspiration which are a central element of the emotion. Often caused by particular memories or thoughts, melancholy involves taking some pleasure in what we love or hope for, so it is tinged with sweetness. For instance if melancholy is caused by the memory of a lost love from the past, melancholy might involve a tinge of sadness at the loss but will be accompanied by pleasurable thoughts of being with that person as well. Melancholy is not always, in fact perhaps not typically, experienced as a negative emotion. Sometimes we attempt to prolong melancholy by seeking a quiet place where the feeling can be indulged. As Victor Hugo said, “melancholy is the happiness of being sad.”

We often feel melancholy (or at least a weakened version of it) in response to works of art, literature or film. The fictional characters and events become the object of our experience of melancholy. But melancholy can be a mood as well as an emotion. Moods are feelings that do not have an object. They come over us, seemingly without reason and can affect our entire personality. The mood of melancholy can arise when in a desolate landscape or on a fog-shrouded lake. In the arts the experience of a melancholy mood (as opposed to the emotion) is most often  found in music. From Elgar’s “Nimrod” from his Enigma Variations to Avro Pärt’s De Profundis to the ambient soundscapes of Bing and Ruth’s Tomorrow was the Golden Age, music of almost every genre is capable of expressing the contemplative, somber mood with moments of vitality that characterize melancholy.

How does wine express melancholy? The answer can be found in the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi.

Wabi  which originally means “poverty”  refers to the roughness of everyday things that have been in use for a long time. As an aesthetic it involves finding beauty in the asymmetry and imperfection of disintegration. Sabi typically means” loneliness” and in the aesthetic context refers to a state of contemplative solitude in persons, and spare simplicity in objects. Wabi-Sabi as an aesthetic principle is an affirmation of imperfection, austerity and melancholy. It’s the beauty of weathered, scarred, ephemeral objects which become more exquisite the closer them come to their non-existence. A broken, earthenware cup, a branch of autumn leaves, a weather-beaten door, if they exhibit a kind of grace, in a context that highlights their evocativeness are wabi-sabi. Melancholy, that peculiar mix of sadness and delight, is the primary mood or emotion evoked by wabi-sabi.

It should be obvious that aged wine, as it begins its downward trajectory while still maintaining elegance and vitality, can be an example of wabi-sabi and is properly attended to in the mood of melancholy. Given the ephemeral nature of wine, we are witnessing the loss of something valuable that exhibits its own unique “patina”. Since each bottle of wine ages differently, its flavors and textures reflect its unique nature and history as the wine responds to the conditions under which it was bottled and stored. With many aged wines, it is likely you may never taste that cuvee again as the bottles from a particular vintage are consumed over time. Thus, an aged wine expresses the passage of time, the quality of impermanence which is associated with the sadness, longing, and inspiration of melancholy. The appreciation of aged wine induces reflection on the lives of the people who made the wine who have left behind this fragment from their past. It invites both memory and imagination but also reflection on the impermanence of cultural achievements and their celebration–the ravages of time as both something to celebrate and fear.

The fact that wines must give pleasure in order for us to appreciate them is no obstacle to wine expressing melancholy since the experience of pleasure, albeit mixed with sadness, is an important element in melancholy. Aged wines, like the objects of wabi-sabi lack the bright, juicy, freshness and power of young wines. They are appreciated precisely because time has exposed some hidden dimension of the wine in which we take pleasure.

Thus, it seems to me wine can express melancholy. If we decline to experience it as we consume the wine that may be testimony to our shallowness or inattention, not any inherent limitation on wines’ expressive potential.

Wine Blog Daily Friday 4/13/18

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marijuanaA daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Tom Wark provides more reasons to think marijuana sales will impact wine sales.

He also charges natural wine proponents with hypocrisy for advocating strict labeling requirements for conventional wines.

Jamie Goode has more on the controversy over Australia’s use of the word “Prosecco” on their labels.

The Wine Curmudgeon does not expect a new law ending the state liquor store monopoly in Texas will have much effect on wine selection.

Levi Dalton interviews Lee Hudson,  owner of Hudson Ranch and Vineyards, in Carneros.

Susannah Gold has 10 tips for visiting Vinitaly, the Italian wine trade show that opens this week.

The Wine-to-Five podcast this week includes an interview with Eric V. Orange, creator of localwineevents.com.

The Wine Daily reports that 50 Cent is launching his own brand of luxury Champagne.

The Drunken Cyclist visits with the Champagne producer Bruno Paillard while reminiscing about high school French class.

Selected Reviews:

Strong Coffee to Red Wine reviews the 2014 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jameson Fink reviews three Pét-Nat wines, two from Italy and one from Vermont.

Budget Wine Review: Villa Antinori IGT Toscana 2014

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villa antinoriThis wine exemplifies what I love about Italian wine. Not that it’s a great wine but that it’s charms are distinctively Italian—beautiful aromatics with an earthy, austere, bittersweet quality on the palate that exudes a tough, resilient spirit.

It isn’t surprising that Antinori’s wines are representative. Antinori is the 10th oldest family owned business in the world tracing its lineage and winemaking back to 1385. They were at the forefront of the Super Tuscan wine revolution with their Tignorello and Solaia brands, and are one of the largest producers in Italy. A winery steeped in tradition confident in who they are doesn’t have to concede to the contemporary fondness for plush and smooth.

This is one of their entry level red wines.

Effusive aromas of ripe, red berry, dusty earth, hazelnut and licorice darkened by a bit of cedar reveal a strong personality–for the price a spectacular nose. On the palate there is some concentration up front but the wine quickly flattens out and lacks depth, feeling angular, as if dismissing any need for seduction. Strong acidity and some grain on the tannins makes for a mouthwatering, rustic, sour cherry-inflected finish.

Acerbic and gritty but expressive like one of Dylan’s rants.

Score: 87

Price: $18 average but $14 at Costco.

Alc: 13%

Tech Notes: The blend is mostly Sangiovese with a bit of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. Aged 12 Months in oak casks.