Wine can be a pretty complicated hobby. So much of the language of wine is foreign and intimidating, and the incredible number of choices can be overwhelming. That’s why I try to simplify the process of wine appreciation as much as possible. Heck, I’ll even make fun of the whole wine snobbery thing from time to time.
Those of you old enough to remember my weekly wine columns in the 1980s, may recall that I asked members of the (apocryphal) Southside Bridge Tasting Club (SBTC) to act as a kind of tasting panel. Monthly, in the dead of night, I would visit the great bridge under which my expert panel would gather to sip and then critique the various wines of the time. The group would help me evaluate products for that segment of the wine drinking public that was — how shall I put it — more plebian in their tastes.
Today, I still try to avoid the pretentious aspect of wine appreciation, particularly when I recommend a bottle for your drinking pleasure. At a minimum, I hope you will at least have some idea what the wine actually tastes like. In addition, I hope that my description of the wine’s attributes leads you to understand why I suggest pairing it with a particular dish.
As you might expect, I spend a good deal of time not only tasting and then evaluating wine, I also read the descriptions of wines I have not tasted to determine if I should suggest them to you.
And while I’ll admit my wine descriptors are relatively short and to the point, most of the wine tasting notes I read from national experts are anything but brief. Here’s a typical example of how a critic from one of the national wine publications recently described a bottle of California cabernet sauvignon:
Dark ruby in color. Explosive aromatics feature a mix of ripe cherry, sweet spice, and dried rose petal, all framed by new oak nuances. Richly textured, packed with sweet red fruits, black cherry compote, tobacco, and licorice, finishing with dusty tannins and a juicy acid backbone. Drink now for its youthful extravagance, or hold off until at least 2035.
Huh??? This sounds like a mish-mash of totally disgusting and incompatible ingredients and a recipe for heartburn…or worse. If it wasn’t for those “dusty tannins and that juicy acid backbone”…
Every now and then, I’ll come up with some pretty obtuse, otherworldly or off-the-grid descriptions, but they’re always done with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. But the above-cited quote is, unfortunately, a pretty standard type description used by today’s wine intelligentsia.
Here are two wines for your consideration described in (hopefully) understandable, but not quite monosyllabic, language:
Gloria Ferrer Va de Vi Ultra Cuvee – This lovely sparkling wine from Sonoma’s Carneros district has aromas of almonds and toast. It is rich, yet balanced, with flavors ripe, green apples. Use it as an aperitif or with brunch foods.
2013 Sant’Antonio Paradiso – From Italy’s Veneto region, this medium-bodied red is full of ripe cherry flavors with just a touch of oak on the finish. Try it with barbecue baby back ribs that have been dry-rubbed with black pepper, kosher salt, brown sugar and cayenne pepper.
So the next time, you read about how a wine is “ethereal, orgasmic, or full of dusty tannin undertones,” go get a bottle of Annie Green Springs, unscrew the cap and toast the members of the Southside Bridge Tasting Club.