June 14, 2007

Balance First – Some Thoughts On Tasting Wine

By Andrew Barrow In Articles
Jewel Viognier and sizzling prawns by Francesca Law
If you put in the work to make sure you get the best grapes, the wine will almost make itself all on its own. What does seem important to me, though, is to keep a sense of balance, not to try to extract more from the grapes than is reasonable.
The greatest wine is not necessarily the most concentrated one. There is a fad for power at all costs at the moment, due to the fact that the professionals taste lots of wines in quick succession, and outside the context of a meal. Wine-lovers, meanwhile, tend to taste their wines at the table. What they want is a certain pleasure in which concentration is not necessarily the most important factor”

About sums up my thoughts! The quote is from Lucien Guillemet of Ch√Ęteau Pouget and Jacques Boyd, two Bordeaux estates and taken from the Journal Des Crus Classiques d’Yvon Mau.
A chat with a wine merchant just yesterday gave me a jolt. Hosting a wine tasting he munch on a pork pie, sipped from one random glass and another. His preferred method to experience the wines as his customers would. They don’t, generally, analyse but sip and chat and eat.
Something us wine tasters need to keep in mind when subjecting each bottle to critical analysis. Don’t you agree?
[Image by Francesca Law]

  1. Alex June 14, 2007

    I think yes and no. Hmm, that’s not ambivalent! I think there’s a place for both types of tasting and in some respects I think that it’s quite important for a wine merchant to have an almost clinical approach to the wines he or she sells. That way, they’re in the best position to advise customers on possible food matches. I’m not sure the cited wine merchant example would allow him to do that as well …
    Also, when I buy a wine I like to have my first taste completely clear of food or anything else so I can assess it (and put the notes in my wine book!), before going on to drink it with food/friends/both. Maybe I’m just weird, but I tend not to serve wines I haven’t already tried out to friends, especially if it’s at a dinner party.

  2. Robert June 15, 2007

    If you are wanting to have an enjoyable evening, have wine in this way makes sense. However, if it is a “wine tasting” the point, surely, would be to know specifically what you are drinking. A “random glass or other” means you might not find it again or even end up buying the wrong one.
    On the other hand, if you were to incorporate more food and less formal descriptions but more chat, but still ‘taste’ the wines, I think you could get the best of both worlds.
    As for “power at all costs”, I think I agree generally (particularly if you are talking about Bordeaux) but there are examples where this approach has got more out of varieties that are otherwise considered bland and unworthy, such as in the Languedoc.


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