Wine Talk

Snooth User: The Gourmet Bachelor

Ever bought a French or Italian Wine that tasted so dry or tannic that you had to pour it down the drain?

Posted by The Gourmet Bachelor, Oct 12, 2010.

Well, I I spent "too much time" researching wine charts and then designing a quick and easy guide to tell me the best wines to open today! I hope to hear feedback from my wine expert friends and causual wine drinkers - My audience is home cooks and casual wine drinkers.

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Reply by GregT, Oct 12, 2010.

I guess that chart pretty much tells me all I need to know.  The entire country, no, the entire continent, of Australia has been pretty consistent for the last 11 years, I imagine with all types of wine and all varieties.  Ditto for the entire country of Spain, which has been mediocre except for a few decent vintages here and there.  France gets broken up a little bit but the nice thing is that for Bordeaux, you only need to know whether it's right or left bank, not whether it's white or red wine like Burgundy.  In fact, it's only in Burgundy that the color of the wine matters which is another important piece of information. 

Not sure what your ultimate goal is, but I'm not sure what use that chart is either.  In fact, it's seriously misleading.  You have a nice website in terms of overall look - I'd work on the chart a little bit if I were going to leave it up, so it does justice to its surroundings.

Reply by dmcker, Oct 12, 2010.

Now, now, Greg, let's be nice. ;-)

GB, is your only source of info Parker's chart? I understand your conceptual aim, but it is a complex one, and as Greg mentions it seems like there are a few more tweaks to go....

Reply by napagirl68, Oct 13, 2010.

I would have to agree.. the chart is misleading, but your site is nice :-)

As a huge Cali wine drinker, and third gen native, I have to take offense with the CA ratings in particular.  As you deliniated France, California should have had at least 7 sub-regions to catergorize, let alone districts and apellations within those regions.  Even if you did that, the winery to winery variation, even in a particular district, can be immense.  I guess what I am trying to say is that the chart massively and erroneously generalizes, where generalization should not be done.

I do agree that certain years in certain regions were stellar.  I am thinking the 1997 napa, especially cabs, and 2001.  I think what happened those years was that conditions were SO right for grapes in that area, that even mediocre stock produced decent wine.  But for other years, say 2003, there are MANY great examples, and MANY bad examples.  A wine needs to be reviewed specifically.

One example in your chart:  2008 California Pinot Noir. You gave Cali pinot that year a rating of good but inconsistant (if I am reading your chart right).  That is misleading because there is much pinot produced in Cali that is HORRIBLE (consistantly), then you taste a few GREAT ones, does that equal inconsistancy???   I have done extensive tasting of the Sonoma and Sonoma Coast pinots from 2008 and I would actually rate many of them quite highly.  Central coast or inland pinots?  Generally NOT good, no matter the year.  It is a factor of climate more so with this grape, let alone winemaker influence.

I personally would rather see a link to a critic/review page that melds with, at least, your own palate (since it is your page).   There are critics (one in particular) that if he rates a wine highly, I will hate it.  Then there are others (not necessarily pros) that share my palate and philosophy about wine.  I tend to trust their suggestions.

Another example... a recent Sunset magazine article talked about "FAKE PINOT", and how many west coast winemakers add syrah to make the wine fruitier and more alcoholic to please the masses.  The article does try to encourage tasting experience, but also states generalities that can help you in picking a "good" pinot by alcohol content, color, etc.  While these characteristics seem to be true of the pinots I prefer, I have also had pinots that fit that bill and tasted watery and awful, lacking any depth.  So, I guess that kinda sums up my issues with generalities.

JMHO :-)  And I love your recipes!!!

Reply by VegasOenophile, Oct 13, 2010.

Poured it down the drain?!  Pish posh, COOK WITH IT!

Reply by luca chevalier, Oct 13, 2010.

..hy is this guide avaiable in italy??...

Reply by GregT, Oct 13, 2010.

Bachelor - I'm taking D's advice and I'm being nice now, although I thought I was nice before!!

Anyhow, as others mentioned, you can't generalize across entire regions.  California, Spain, and France are roughly the same size in terms of square miles.  Spain is the most mountainous country in Europe. France wine regions extend from fairly north latitudes, some coastal, some inland, to the shores of the Mediterranean.  CA has extreme changes in temperature and climate as you move inland from the coast.   Thus, a chart that purports to  rate a vintage for an entire country is frankly, useless.

Second, how does one obtain information regarding a vintage, and what are they really saying?  One can say "well Parker has a vintage chart and Spectator has a vintage chart and so and so has a vintage chart" but my question would be the same for them - what information are they trying to convey?  To their credit, both Spectator and Parker caution people not to rely too heavily on those charts.

One can get information from various sources.  One can look at the weather and decide that a given year was so much colder or hotter or wetter or drier than average and the vintage was affected accordingly.  Alternatively, one can talk to winemakers and get a consensus.  Or one can do both.  And then what do you get?  Still generalities. 

For example, one vintage in one area is considered crap because while it was a perfect vintage in almost every way, just before harvest there was a hailstorm that trashed my vineyard and those of my close neighbors.  So we say it was a bad vintage and that's what Parker or Spectator or you write.  However, on the other side of the hill, they didn't get any hail at all and they made fantastic wine.  This happens more often than not - I had a hell of a hailstorm at my house on Sunday and my neighbors a few blocks away just had a little rain. 

The location of your vineyards matters too.  If you're on the top of a hill or at the bottom can make a big difference in whether you get frost or too much or too little water, etc.  So there are great variations within regions. But leaving that all aside, you absolutely cannot generalize across over a hundred thousand miles.  Yes people do it.  Even some prominent writers and critics.  I'm not going to get into  my thoughts on the various people who put out such charts, but keep in mind that even though a critic may be prominent, that doesn't mean said critic knows much about a specific area at all. As with so many things in the modern world, prominence frequently has nothing whatsoever to do with ability, knowledge, merit or talent.  So I'd tweak the chart.  You don't want to be putting out misleading information.

Reply by The Gourmet Bachelor, Oct 13, 2010.

Correction to my above response: I know, Maremma is in Tuscany...writing before coffee, grrr

Wow! Greg T, I hear you loud and clear. TGB Wine Guide may be "useless" for you but I hope others that need a quick reference will find it useful.

Some years are just considered better than others. Some wines just taste better with age.

Thank you for your comments!

Reply by The Gourmet Bachelor, Oct 13, 2010.

Luca, I could translate it in you think Italian speaking wine drinkers will come to my website to use it?

Reply by luca chevalier, Oct 13, 2010.

Maybe... i'll suggest, let me see an exaple, just 1 page and i can tell you if it's a deal or not...consider that we, already have, many guides in italy. i don't know if your guide it's something different...send me a page in pdf concerning an italian place like tuscany or piedmont if you can..Ciao

Reply by The Gourmet Bachelor, Oct 14, 2010.

Just wanted to say that I truly appreciate all of your feedback and I love that we have a place like Snooth to share ideas with each other.

Yes, I refered to the Parker chart as a guide for tasting notes and cross referenced it with Wine Spectator's chart.

It's not my style to generalize anything…especially a global wine industry. However, 50% more Americans are drinking wine today than just 10 years ago. So we have a lot of entry level wine drinkers out there that want to learn more about wine but are intimidated by complex charts.

I used Barolo and Barbaresco to calculate the average rating for Piedmont; and Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Maremma for the Tuscan Wines. Based on the feedback that i received, I should reveal this info in my chart.

I would love to design a roll over feature where we see the average calculation by region at first (as seen on TGB Wine Chart) but as we roll over say Tuscany, the calculations for all of the individual subregions are revealed. To Napagirl's point, this might be very useful for California because of the massive size and diverse growing conditions.

I totally agree that we shouldn't rely too heavily on charts and that great winemakers make great wine every year.

I guess my ultimate goal with TGB Wine Chart is to give casual wine drinkers just enough information to think about their next wine purchase, ask questions and maybe just understand a few basic wine principles. 

My secondary goal is just to have a reference for myself for those times at wine dinners where everyone at the table seems to have every great year from every region in wine history memorized by heart...I'm not there yet but now I have a chart : )

Reply by GregT, Oct 14, 2010.
I guess my ultimate goal with TGB Wine Chart is to give casual wine drinkers just enough information to think about their next wine purchase, ask questions and maybe just understand a few basic wine principles

Read more:
A laudable goal to be sure.  But accurate info is usually better.  You've dismissed 2002 for the entire country of Spain for example, which indicates that the wines from the far northwest and the far southeast are equally bad, notwithstanding the fact that they're far apart and have nothing whatsoever to do with each other in terms of climate or geography.  The political borders that define countries have nothing to do with climatological influences.  Spain is a collection of former kingdoms and in some ways it's more accurate to use those than to lump them all together. So suggesting to a consumer to ignore an entire vintage from a huge area, well, let's say it's not accurate information.  In the case of Spain for 2002 it's also incorrect information. Separately, the things that make a vintage "bad" are in some cases not to the disadvantage of the consumer - some of the best values can come from those "bad" vintages.  If one isn't selecting a wine to age for 20 years, it may be a very good idea to pick up a bottle of wine from one of those vintages.  Often those bottles are more ready to drink early and they can be pretty good deals.  Anyhow, if it's handy for you, that's good.  Cheers.
Reply by The Gourmet Bachelor, Oct 14, 2010.

Greg T,

Great point about values to be had in difficult years. I metioned it in my description under the chart. I also touched on wines that are past their peak may still taste amazing, again potential for value.

I plan to add the regions that I used to calculate Spain, Tuscany, Piedmont, etc. under the chart, hopefully eliminating ambiguity. So if you're interested in Barbera, you'll know that TGB Wine chart considered Barolo and Barberessco in calculating the years for Piedmont.

My main point is that we drink wine too early. In my experience, great wine taste much better with age.

Some casual consumers think that they can walk into a wine store, order a young bottle of Barolo, pop it open that night and expect it to taste great. That's just not the case with most great wine. Some vintages yield wines that clearly taste better at a young age, some are meant to age.

In my opinion, TGB wine chart clearly helps consumer with this simple fact.

I hope we can still be friends : )

Reply by dirkwdeyoung, Oct 14, 2010.

This thread reminds me of a personal anecdote. Way back around 1978, when I was a very poor student, (not rich now, but not as poor), as now, I was already then on the lookout for affordable ways to drink decent wine. I stumbled across a small wine store that had several bottles of Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne on the shelf. It had been on the shelf for a while (unfortunately I don't remember the vintage, but it was at least ten years old) and it was actually on sale (at the time for the grand sum of $3.00/bottle)

I purchased a bottle and it was terrific, so I went back to the store and asked the seller if he had any more bottles beyond those left on the shelf. He replied that he had a full case in the back. I asked him if I purchased the case quantity, if I could get addtional discount and he gave me another 5-10% off. I purchased his entire stock, but this set me  back too much, so I called a friend who was fully employed to ask if he would like to purchase half of the case to which he agreed.

For those of you who may not know Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne is a Saint Emilion, Grand Cru Classe and what could only be described as a "masculine" wine. I did not speak to my friend for several weeks and by then my stock was gone.  When I asked him how he like the wine, he replied that it was o.k., but as he said, very, very dry (I would say he meant very tannic).

He was obviously not satisfied, so in order to appear generous, I offered to buy back his remaining 5 bottles, to which he agreed.

I am wondering, if like in the post, he considered to "pour it down the drain." I love these powerful wines, for example some more rustic wines like Pecharmant. Those bottles could have stood around for another 10 years and would have just been fine, but to some new age drinkers, would have seemed "to dry" at any age.

The brilliant French wine expert, Emile Peynaud (RIP), stated that a great wine is good at any age, but will improve with age. But it takes some understanding to appreciate these wines with aging potential during their youth.

What is my point? I guess it is that we just have to be careful about what we mean by too dry/tannic.


Reply by GregT, Oct 14, 2010.
"I hope we can still be friends : )" Bach - most certainly!  I hope we are now.  To Dirk's point above - I had a similar experience.  A friend asked me to pick up a case of wine for him because I told him how much I liked it and was buying a case for myself.  I agreed and bought it.  Went to meet him one evening and brought a bottle with me for him to try since he'd never tried it.  We ended up with something else so he took it home. A few days later he called me to tell me how bad it was.  Said it reminded him of an old man (I still don't understand that but I think he meant it was all dried up) and that I could just keep the case, since I liked it anyway.  Of course, that also stuck me with the bill for an extra case that I didn't really want.  Anyhow, that was a 1994 Napa wine.  A couple years ago I popped one for him w/out mentioning what it was.  He loved it.  I let him go on for a while and then mentioned that it was from the case he stuck me with and screw him anyway. 
Reply by GregT, Oct 14, 2010.

BTW - I have no idea what's happening with the formatting of these paragraphs.  I didn't write the above as a single paragraph, nor the earlier post.  I guess it's a new improvement Snooth has given us.  If you quote something, you jack your formatting.  Excellent feature!  And, as always, most puzzling!

Reply by zufrieden, Oct 14, 2010.

Dirk, I am glad to see your interesting comments appear again on these pages!  As it happens, I am a fan of that very same well-priced grand cru St-Emilion you bought as a student. Generally, this property is an excellent, age-worthy (read tannic) example of the region.  I have several resting on their honors below decks, so to speak.  And you likely made a prudent decision when you relieved your friend of those 5 bottles...

As to the charts, you've all given very informative and useful instruction on the pitfalls of any generalities that may be out there to trip us up - especially those of you with a special love for particular regions. Having said this, a serious imbiber of the red (and sometimes white) nectar needs to understand when "dry" means something other than "wait".  This takes a certain amount of experience - including some of the bad (or disappointing)  variety.

There has been considerable discussion on the issues - educational or perhaps of a lesser pedigree.  Search the forum discussions and you'll find more fruit for your flan.  I don't want to irritate with excessive reiteration, etc.


Reply by The Gourmet Bachelor, Oct 14, 2010.

Greg T...great to hear.  Dirk, $3 a bottle…That's amazing! Great story.

I really wish more wine stores in Greenwich Village would sell older wine from less desirable years. I either find newly released wine or wine from top vintages for top $$$.

I've been fortunate to taste beautiful, old wines from major auction houses  over the past several years and I'm just hooked. This stuff just takes me to places that young wine has not. That's why I'm strongly suggesting to my readers to try a 1990 Bordeaux now because it's mature and ready to go.

I'm getting mixed opinions from my chart.  In reality, even TGB wine Chart is a bit much for most casual wine drinkers. They want me to recommend a wine so they can just go out and buy it. Sure, I can do that too.

I recommended a second wine from a top Chateau like Chateau Palmer Alter Ego to drink now. I would also recommend Chateau Montelena's second wine for the same reason.

I actually heard from most readers that they would rather watch a 3-min wine tasting video instead of a 3-min cooking demo (I thought my cooking videos on TGB TV were pretty cool and informative).

So I asked my publicist to inform the first and second growth chateaus that I'm interested in reviewing their wines and plan to post video reviews to for chateaus that send me wine. Let's see what happens.

I plan to post short wine tasting videos and revisions to TGB chart on my website next month. I hope to hear comments on my revised chart when it is ready.  Or feel free to tell me more about my current chart : )


Reply by dirkwdeyoung, Oct 15, 2010.

Dear Bach, I am wondering if wine charts that go too deep into the years are much use for people who want to run out to the store for a quick nice bottle. I mostly buy wine from auctions, so it could be from any age, but I was visiting my children in Houston recently and getting some wine from e.g. Spec's or Central Market, the kind of places where I think most people buy their wine.  I think the farthest they go back at places like that is maybe 2003 or 2004. So most better wines sleep two winters before bottling, so 2010 and 2009 mostly aren't available, so you are really talking about a bandwidth of about 5 years at the most for what is readily available for people, who don't want to make any extra efforts.  So for example during my visit, I bought a few bottles of different French Red Wines  from 2005 (e.g. Chinon and Gailliac) to make the point and it was perfectly good and probably would have satisfied your audience. So maybe a quick list from these most readily available years would be quite useful and less confusing.  On your point of less desirable years. When I was living in Germany I purchased a bottle of 1984 Latour, so that was around 1989 and drank it shortly thereafter. It was terrific and at one third of the normal price, a very good value.

Reply by napagirl68, Oct 15, 2010.

 I have a great idea!

Just listen (read),

The basic issue is that every wine maker has a different "drink by date" for SPECIFIC wines (even amongst their own wines), regardless of region, year, etc. etc.  Lumping-in wine by country and by date is completely irrelevent at best, misleading at worst.  It really is on a "wine by wine basis".

So...why don't you link with a rating website you like?  Perhaps   Yahoo already uses snooth recommendations for A-Z wine pairings as a yahoo ap and is popular.  If not snooth, another site you trust, whose specific wine reference/ratings are wide and global. 

My ONLY point being is that it needs to be on a "wine by wine" basis since there is such massive variation in region. Perhaps where a web visitor can search many ways, by vintage, by varietals, and by a certain region.  

Just an idea for you...  :-)

Reply by The Gourmet Bachelor, Oct 15, 2010.

Dirk, I've been living in Greenwich Village too long to realize that you're absolutely right — the majority of wine drinkers probably buy wine from a grocery or liquor store where the selection is very limited. In this case, I might just suggest a few of my favorite wines that are readily available.

I also wrote TGB Wine chart to view on our smart phones at restaurants. If a 1990 and 1991 bottle of Bordeaux from the same producer appeared  on the menu for the same price, the casual wine taster might see nothing wrong with this. But my wine chart would point out that this restaurant is either taking advantage of their customers or you just hit the jackpot. Either way, 1990 is the better choice. But at some point in our life, someone has to tell us.
Napagirl, great point!

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