Beginners Corner

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

Just to get started...

Original post by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 17, 2008.

Wine is a daunting subject. You never can know enough these days, what with new wines appearing on your retailers’ shelves daily. I’ve told people many times that, as a percent of what was available to be known, I knew a lot more about wine 20 years ago than I know now! Back then there were a few dozen books on wine, most already 10 or more years old. One could read them all in a year and have a very good idea about almost every wine one might encounter.

Today I can’t even begin to imagine having a complete grasp about the wines that fill the virtual shelves of all the on-line stores I shop at. This movement to shopping for wine online has removed a valuable tool from the averages consumers’ arsenal of tools; the knowledgeable wine salesperson.

Now before we get all wound up let me assure you there are knowledgeable sales people out there. Believe me, I used to be one! If you can find a great salesperson you should take advantage of that wealth of information, but even then we all can only know so much, and generally will be most knowledgeable about the wines we sell.

While that salesperson may be helpful, it may still leave you feeling stranded while you browse on-line, reviewing options and reading professional reviews. Let me just state right here - There is NO SUBSTITUTE for tasting wines and learning what YOU like. You’ll find information you agree with and information you disagree with out there, but only by generating your own experiential database will you be able to figure out which is which.

Keeping notes on the wines you taste is one of the most valuable exercises you can do to further your understanding and enjoyment about wines. By forcing you to pay attention to, record, and be able to reference your impressions about a wine, note taking allows you to lay the foundation upon which a lifetime of wine knowledge can be built!

So from this inaugural post in the Beginners Corner forum I hope you come away with just a few pointers:

1) Ask for help, from me or from your favorite retailer.
2) Read what you can, everything you can is even better.
3) Taste, taste, taste
4) Keep records of your impressions and your preferences

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Reply by GregT, Aug 10, 2009.

Wineboy - did you ever get an answer to that list? And what kind of an answer did you get?

. Why in Bourdeaux is April the best time for barrel samples-
It's the time they show the barrel samples, but as to whether that's the best time, that's an entirely different question. Hopefully the wines are done with malolactic fermentation but they're maybe 5, 6, or 7 months old, tannic and raw. Usually they don't taste good at all. Some people claim they can predict the future development - maybe. But the reason for the tastings is to start hyping the wine. First critic off the blocks gets quoted by the others and organizing it as a futures offering gets all the press moving en masse, which helps the marketing. Very little about that fuss has to do with quality - it's about starting up the marketing machine.

2. Negociants going bankrupt- They do it all the time. New ones appear.

3. Bordeaux 1970's hardship-
Ques? There was an oil crisis, prices went up for most commodities, and the French didn't price their wine too intelligently, so they sat on a lot of it. It wasn't until the 1980s that things started turning around for them, partly on the basis of Parker's call on 1982.

4. Why does it take 2 years for 2008s to be released in the US- Assuming Bordeaux?
Harvest, fermentation, malolactic fermentation, fifteen - twenty months of barrel aging, bottling, gets you just about to 2 years.

5. Why is 2008 the latest and longest harvest for more than a decade- Spring was cold and wet and had a late frost that wiped out a lot of the vines and the first budding. Then summer was damp and wet. And they also had hail a couple of times. The common euphemism is to call it a "classic" vintage. But then they had warm weather late in the season so if you were patient and lucky, you got ripe grapes.

6. Indian summer-

7. Coulure- what happened because of the cold and dampness. Flowers weren't properly pollinated and fruit didn't develop.

8. Austere backbone- Dry and tannic, without sweet, sappy fruit.

9. Super Seconds- Wines from second growth producers like Châteaux are Cos d'Estournel that are considered as good or better than the first growths. Which makes no sense at all if you think about it, because whether they were ranked first, second, third or whatever, had nothing at all to do with quality, just price. So why would this concept even exist?

10. en primeur- The campaign to sell the wine before it is bottled and released. You buy based on barrel samples and glowing reports from the critics and winemakers.

11. 2008 compared to 1988-
I can't do it but here's what Jancis Robinson said;

1988 / 2008
Average temperatures:

May 16.0° / 17.1°

Jun 18.4° / 19.0°

Jul 19.0° / 20.6°

Aug 20.5° / 20.5°

Rainfall from Jan to Aug:
780 mm / 658 mm

Hours of sunshine:
1,591 / 1,474

The harvest volume will be relatively low, between 5.2 million and 5.5 million hectolitres - while the average over the past five years has been 6 million hectolitres - thanks to such physiological phenomena as a difficult start to the flowering, combined with adverse weather conditions (hail, frost) and the pressure of mildew.

12. Why does botritys spread faster in scheurebe than in riesling-
Not certain but it ripens slightly earlier and it's got higher sugar levels as a rule, so that's probably going to contribute.

13. Dessert wine from scheurebe-
Can be really good.

14. Too much make-up on malbecs-
Make-up? A lot of malbec from Argentina has spent time in oak and the flavor contributes to the overall profile. And maybe some of them use a little too much eye-shadow, which I've never found attractive.

Reply by Silvecat, Nov 16, 2010.

Hi Gregory, I've just joined up. I'm from India and obviously I drink more Indian wines than any other, although the occasional Australian or European red (my preference) does find its way to the table. Of course, opening a bottle of wine needs an occasion, unlike the French, etc. Have you drunk any wines from India? What do you think of them?

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