I’m finishing up my tastings for the Chardonnay report that will appear in the July issue of Wine Spectator. I’ll end up tasting some 550 Chardonnays since our last report. Most will be from 2007 and 2006, and there have been some sensational wines from both years.
As we finish our respective tastings for varietal reports each year, there is inevitably a "mop-up" day or two, during which many of the wines that needed a second tasting end up in a flight or two. We call them RTs, for retaste days.
RTs include wines that were corked, cooked, spoiled, unusually earthy, high in volatile acidity (with sweet-sour, balsamic and/or fingernail polish qualities) or showing a bretty character. In the case of the latter, it’s often hard to know whether the earthy, leathery flavors are due to brett or a bad cork. In either event, those wines are retasted.
We never know when RTs will happen, since those bottles are mixed with wines that have yet to be reviewed, along with some that have scored highly and are thrown in to see how consistent we are. Sometimes RT days are ugly, with lots of mediocre wines. You don't know whether it's just a bad day, or if many of the rejected wines have come due for their final assessment.
Our goal with these retastes is to ensure that every wine has a fair chance to show its true character. The second looks also emphasize how much a wine can change from bottle to bottle, a evidence that it's a living thing, not a manufactured object. Anyone who buys multiple bottles of wines can attest to this mutability. It can be frustrating, but every taste helps us understand the multi-faceted nature of wine.