26 Dec

Craig’s ‘Taste’ on it. Wine reviews 101.

Posted by Craig

” …the wine shows hints of anise and leather. Has a deep crimson colour. Is well balanced with a rounded mouth feel and finishes long and pleasant…”

Translation from Winese to English:

“…I detect a slight smell of black licorice and cowhide. The wine’s colour is a very deep and dark red. It is not overwhelmed by one particular component and is not too harsh and the aftertase is very good and lasts for at least 20 seconds…”

Wine Reviews 101

(Please don’t forget to read my wine review on 2 Winexpert wines at the end of this artice)

Wine reviews can often be confusing, uncomprehensible and at best completely subjective. There does exist common denominators which make up the wines overall quality, however, it is still the opinion of the taster that makes it to the paper. I will provide the basics of how wines are reviewed and what you should be looking for in a wine critic..

Find a reviewer with whom you agree and is easily understood. When I read a wine review that perks my interest, I will actually purchase said wine and simply try it. If I agree with his or her take on the wine then we have something in common and share similar tastes and views.
It is not unlike following movie reviews. One critic can give an absolutely scathing review on a film that another critic loved. I tend to read the reviews of critics I agree with. It would be impossible to see every movie ever made as it would be equally costly and time consuming to taste or make every wine (however fun that may be). Therefore wine reviewers do provide an important service: saving us all time and money. I would rather make one or two purchases based on good information from a trusted source that I can easily understand as opposed to buying 20 different wines and playing hit and miss as to what I might like.

Keep is simple. Wine reviews or tasting notes tend to follow a basic pattern. My take on it is simple. Four basic senses are used to describe the wine:
1. Sight
2. Smell
3. Touch
4. Taste
(Five really, if you’re like me and adore the sound of a cork leaving the bottle)

Sight refers to mainly to colour and clarity. For example, aged whites tend to be darker than young whites and reds will actually get a little lighter in colour as they age. Dark reds usually give an indication of exposure to the grape skin which is where the wine gets its colour. The longer the the skins sit on the juice the darker the wine. Also, darker reds usually mean more tannic or astringent wines. The colour should be aesthetically pleasing as well. As for clarity, no one likes to drink a cloudy wine with “stuff’ floating around. So clarity and colour can add to the overall pleasure of enjoying the wine.

The nose is really the smell of the wine.  There are two components to the nose: Aroma and Bouquet. The aroma is basically the smell of the fruit (grape) and the bouquet is usually what develops over time when ageing and provides alot of those funky smells like tar and leather etc. I have never experienced the whiff of tar and leather when picking a Cabernet Sauvignon fresh off the vine and squishing it close to my nose. The nose of the wine is important for it helps set up our tastes. The average human can detect about 10,000 odors or smells and it is the combination of the odor and our taste that give us flavour. For example we do not taste chocolate but we smell it. You actually taste sweet. Put the two together and we perceive the flavour of chocolate as we know it. When a wine reviewer describes all these crazy and wonderful smells all they are doing is identifying them for you. They are trained to detect many of the smells that we may not. They are simply telling you what to expect in the wine’s flavour. Also, the nose can detect off odours if the wine is bad.

Touch or tactile sensation of the wine can best be described as weight, body or mouth feel. Weight can be described in it’s most basic form through the “milk” analogy. Close your eyes and imagine the feel or weight in your mouth of skim milk. This is what I would describe as thin or light bodied. Then imagine the feel of cream in your mouth,being very full-bodied. This helps us understand the term body when describing wine.

Taste, as the word suggests, is so subjective that there exists an infinate amount of preferences. The taste or flavour of the wine is very much dependant on what you smell for your tongue can basicly taste only three things: sweet, sour and bitter. It is the combination of the nose and the tongue that create all those wonderful flavour we read about. Is the taste pleasant? Is it full of fresh tasting red cherries or mango and apricots? I find this information from the reviewer useful for when I buy a Granny Smith apple I expect it to taste like one when I bite into it. If a critic states that a particular wine is good example of a Merlot then if I am a Merlot fan I would most likely enjoy that wine. I refer to this as ‘true to the varietal’ or the wine is displaying what it’s suppossed to. Another term often used is balance. When a writer says the wine has good balance it simply means that the wine is not overwhelmed by one component. For example, if the wine is to tannic and harsh it can overwhelm and bury the other good characteristics of the wine.
Lastly, the finish or aftertaste is often described. Unfortunately, aftertaste has become a bad word in the age of mass beer advertising. The general rule for finish is ‘the longer…the better’, but it must be pleasant. Think of your favourite food dish and how slowly you enjoy the flavour long after you have taken a bite. Well, take a sip of wine and do the same. A long, pleasant and lingering finish is a good thing. In contrast, take a bite or sip of something truly awful and see how long it takes to get that taste out of your mouth.

This month’s wine reviews, as always, are easy to understand and based on the characteristics of the wine. The idea is to read the review and decide if it sounds appealing (or not) to you. There is no right or wrong but only what you prefer.


Here’s Craig’s “taste” on it…

California Sauvignon Blanc
Premium 6 week | Selection | White

This Californian Sauvignon blanc shows a light straw colour but what  impressed me the most was the immediate opening of the nose . In other words, this wine was very aromatic right from the ‘get go’ giving me the smell or nose of a good commercial Sauvignon Blanc.  Usually our wines need more time in the bottle to develop a good bouquet.
The taste was also true to the Sauvignon Blanc varietal giving good acidity and refreshing crispness (especially when chilled).
There were citrus and grassy tones evident and the finish was crisp but very pleasant. I find Sauvignon Blanc from warmer climes such as California can show a softer finish or aftertaste as opposed to Sauvignon Blancs grown in cool climes.
If crisp and refreshing is your preference then I highly recommend this particular white. One of the better Sauvignons I’ve tasted in our industry.

Craig’s Taste on it:
cw_4star_rating4 out of 5

Great match with vegetable dishes and definitely give it a try with Goat Cheese.

Sweetness: Dry | Body: Medium | Oak Intensity: None


Spanish Tempranillo
Value 4 week | World Vineyard Collection | Red

This red wine is a gorgeous dark red that gives off the aroma of dark fruits and plum not unlike a Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, Tempranillo is said to be Spain’s answer to a Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins are evident but soft (not overly “chalky” or dry). However, for a 4 week wine there is good body or weight to the wine. Very good right away but will improve for up to 6-9 months and probably hold for another 6-9 months. If you’re looking for a red that you can get at right away, this ones a good choice.
A great sipper but stands up to grilled meats.

Craig’s Taste on it:
cw_4star_rating4 out of 5

Serve with roast pork, roasted vegetables or lamb.

Sweetness: Dry | Body: Medium | Oak Intensity: Medium

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