Getting to know: Ben Carter

The man behind Benito’s Wine Reviews

 


We've had great success with our series of wine recommendations from some of our favorite wine writers but now it’s time to get up close and personal. Over to coming months we’re going to take the time to introduce you to our wine writing friends. By telling you more about them, where they’ve been and where they’re coming from we hope to help you make better sense of their selections.

As you might know we here at Snooth are big fans of trusted retailers. At the same time we also know that not all of us have access to the best retailers, and we can all use additional data points to help us choose our wines. This group of writers is the next best thing to a trusted retailer, and as a group they serve as an invaluable asset in helping us all sift through the myriad, and confusing selections that the typical wine consumer is faced with. On tyhat note let’s get to know Ben Carter of Benito’s Wine Reviews.
Snooth: How did you get involved in wine?

B.C. I became fascinated with cooking in my early teens, and as I started exploring traditional French and Italian cooking I noticed that the writers seemed to spend a lot of time talking about wine and the importance of cooking with it and pairing the right wine with the right dish.  It seemed like there was a whole world of flavors and experiences out there that was not present on my Tennessee dinner table.  Between a friend of the family and the fact that my father started getting mixed cases as corporate gifts on a regular basis, I got a chance to experiment with wine in the European style at a relatively early age for an American in flyover country.  

Snooth: How did you get involved in wine writing?

B.C. In the early 2000s I started to get more interested in the formal study of wine and began attending a lot of free tastings.  I built the blog in 2005 just as a handy way to keep notes about what I liked or didn’t like.  If handy iPhone apps had been around at the time the blog never would have happened, but I’m glad that it did.  I always wanted to write, but never imagined that I would find my niche in non-fiction wine writing.  

Snooth: Do you have any professional background in wine?

B.C. I have zero formal education in wine as well as zero employment history in the wine industry.  It’s really only in the past few years that I’ve picked up paid freelancing work writing about wine, but it’s not my primary source of income.  The self-education process has been immensely rewarding and I love sharing what I learn with my readers.  

Snooth: What is your favorite wine region and why?

B.C. I’m notorious for having no regional loyalty.  In general I find myself fascinated by places like Lodi or Paso Robles that have a healthy balance of tradition and experimentation.  If you had to pin me down to an Old World region, I get a lot of happiness from great Beaujolais.  I’ve tasted all ten Crus and would love to visit sometime.  

Snooth: Desert Island wine? You have to drink it for the rest of your life so let us know why this is your choice.

B.C. What I love about wine is the great diversity of options, grapes, regions, histories, and family stories that are behind the bottles.  Given the demand to stick to one on a desert island for the rest of my life… I would choose nothing.  The joy would be gone, and thus my interest and motivation.  At some point I’d start making my own coconut wines and divide the island up into different AOCs so that I could begin scribbling rankings in the wet sand.  

Snooth: Would you characterize your palate as new world, old world, or something in between? Why?

B.C. This is a bone of contention for me, as I regularly get criticized for trying wines from “obscure” regions.  Considering that “old world” is about the codification of the modern Western European wine industry in the past few centuries, I’d say that my style is ancient world.  Phoenicians and Thracians and other traders planting grapes around the Mediterranean and figuring out what varieties would work in the various foreign soils.   Weather changes over time, rivers move, soils change…  I think that it’s dangerous to get too locked in to one variety in one very tiny patch of land.  People have been trying to clear out Gouais blanc in France since the middle ages, but it was a parent to Chardonnay, Gamay, and lots of other varieties.  What if it had been outlawed 2,000 years ago?  Plan for millennia, not decades.  

Snooth: What do you think of wine writing today? What do you like about it and what would you like to change?

B.C. I enjoy reading and writing about wine, even though it’s getting tougher to make a living at it.  I love how many different people are providing their perspectives.  It’s not just a world of old white guys arguing about Bordeaux even as I gradually grow into that stereotype.  I’ve always wished that somebody could figure out a way to make wine humor appeal to a mainstream audience.  Get any group of wine lovers together with a bunch of open bottles and eventually you’re going to hear a lot of laughter.  However, the punchlines are so inside baseball that from the outside it can appear mean, pretentious, or indecipherable.  Like the 26.2 stickers on cars in Lodi.  “I thought they were bragging about brix at harvest!”  The TV show Frasier had a lot of wine-related jokes, but nearly all were designed to exaggerate the image of the brothers as effete caricatures.   

Snooth: What wine do you look forward to trying each year?

B.C. The first rosé of the spring, and I don’t care about where it comes from.  Dry rosés are my hands down, favorite class of wine and while I’m happy to sip them throughout the year, I am always eager to enjoy one on the back porch with a simple Provençal lunch in that magic space between winter and the harsh Memphis summer.  

Snooth: What wine do you just not seem to like? Why?

B.C. I’ll try just about anything, and with modern technology, there aren’t a lot of bad wines out there.  Boring, yes.  Bland, of course.  Lacking harmonious balance, most wines on the market.  But I have no desire to ever try another bottle of “Soviet Champagne” from Belarus.  It smelled and tasted like sour beer with a lot of sugar in it.  

Snooth: Recommend three wines, a red, a white, and a rose that will tell our audience the most about your palate, your likes, and your dislikes and please share a few of those likes and dislikes.

Red: Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel.  I love properly done field blends, and while this wine is good at 3-4 years old, it continues to improve far beyond its initial sale price for decades.  It’s not particularly difficult to find but will show you some of the greatness of California at a bargain.  Buy a case and try one a year for over a decade.  You’ll be rewarded.

White: Santo Wines Assyrtiko.  Forget everything you’ve heard about Greek wines, and enjoy this delicate and wine from a volcanic island.  Elements of honey and green apple with perfect acidity and a gorgeous nose.  

Rose: Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé.  $20 is all you need to try a dry pink from the folks who make the world’s best rosé, in a region where people have been enjoying and perfecting the style for decades.  Enjoy this refreshing sipper, and as you begin your rosé journey, start saving up for their $120 Garrus.

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