Today's post is a spin-off from my most recent blog, in which I asked how important a tasting note is to you. The overwhelming majority of you agreed that the notes are very important, primarily for steering you towards the style of wines that you like and away from those that you don't like. If you find yourself in step with the critic (and assuming the critic is consistent) then the tasting notes are a critical part of the process.
Now I'd like to know when was the last time a tasting note convinced you to try a wine that you normally wouldn't buy? If you normally like modern, polished, fruit-driven wines, has a note moved you to try a wine described as having game, iron or grilled herb notes? Or, if you like all that game and herb stuff, when was the last time a note about a fruit-bomb turned you on and you said, “Man, I gotta try that”?
I can admit that it’s happened to me. While I try to taste as much wine as possible from outside the regions I cover officially for the magazine, there is still a lot I don’t get to taste often, such as California Chardonnay and Sicilian Syrah.
Some of you might be thinking ‘Why worry about a dearth of Cali Chard crossing your palate?' But when I read my colleague James Laube’s recent note on the Ridge Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains Santa Cruz Mountain Estate 2005 (95, $35), I thought, 'Man, I gotta try that.' So I purchased a six-pack of it and have already moved through three bottles. I've really liked the wine—no boredom factor despite the oaky style—and the acidity is there to age (if the other three bottles are lucky to last that long). While the combination of score and price were certainly factors, it was the note—describing a range of flavors along with a sense of finesse despite the oak-driven profile—that made me want to try the wine.
Another time a note turned me on was when I read my colleague James Suckling’s review of the Rapitalà Sicilia Solinero 2001 (91, $40). I know, some of you are thinking, ‘Why bother with a Sicilian Syrah when you get to taste Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage so often?' I like Syrah, so when I hear about a potentially interesting one from somewhere else, I don’t discount it. I’m willing to give it a try. Besides, how can you appreciate Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage within the scope of the wine world if you don’t taste other Syrahs? Suckling’s note described the wine as up-front and bursting with fruit, along with notes of mineral and tar and a good grippy quality—so I said, 'Man, I gotta try that.' Alas, I never found the wine at retail (even the Italian wine shop next door to our offices seemed to stumble over the Rapitalà name when I asked them). But I’m always on the lookout for it, thanks to that note.
So, when was the last time a tasting note made you reach for a wine outside of your normal preference?