Every wine lover knows the irresistible urge to champion a wine. Or a producer. Or an entire region, even. For those of us who write about wine professionally, this is a tricky bit of business. We too feel the siren call of championing wines we love. But it's not so simple.
What's the difficulty? Well, we're critics. This is to say that a certain professional remove is required. Note that I do not use the term "objectivity." Personally, I don't think that objectivity, so called, is really possible with wine tasting. Oh, you can taste blind, which certainly—and admirably—removes a large portion of seductive subjectivity about producer, region or price.
But even with everything stripped away, you still come down to the tug of palate preference and (this might surprise you) the pull of philosophy. Yes, all wine tasters of ability (amateur or professional) can "correctly" assess a wine regardless of its style. But consciously or not, we assess goodness with an underlying philosophy that informs our palate and affects our judgment.
If a wine is good, which is to say well-made, layered, dimensional and inviting, you're going to give it the acknowledgement it deserves if you're a good, honest taster. That's what being a pro (in the best sense of the word) means.
Here's the thing: There's always something more. That "something" is the reason why two tasters, no matter how renowned, experienced or respected, can and assuredly will arrive at different judgments about the same wine.
This sort of thing always baffles casual observers of the wine world. You can never escape—nor should you want to—the vital element of excitement. This is the hidden force, the chi if you will, of wine tasting. Every taster feels it, no matter how "professional" you're trying to be while tasting. It's the wine version of sex appeal.
This is why, no matter how often it's pointed out that a score of 85 to 89 is, in Wine Spectator's scoring system, "very good: a wine with special qualities," it's a score of 90 points or more that gets everybody—you guessed it—excited. That's the operative word, isn't it?
Inevitably, what excites one taster bores another. I, for example, absolutely love a great Muscadet. Indeed, I apply the word "great" to Muscadet, which, I assure you, a good number of my colleagues would never do, and nor, for that matter, does my wife. She likes Muscadet well enough, but I've never heard the word "great" slip from her lips.
In a world glutted (that's the only word) with good wines, it's "exciting" wines that we all now seek. And it's "exciting" that wine lovers everywhere both seek and champion. Really, it's today's electric dividing line, the motivating force that makes us reach for our wallets as well as bang out a quick "you gotta try it."
I'll give you an example. Recently, I was speaking at a charity wine event in Jackson Hole, Wyo. It was a high-end shindig with a lot of big-name Napa Valley wines (and owners) in attendance. But truffled among the more famous labels were a number of very small producers who are far from the spotlight, never mind being in Napa Valley.
Anyway, I'm tasting through the array and come upon a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from a winery in the new Coombsville AVA, called Le Chanceux. Heard of it? Me neither. And why should we have? This microwinery produces only 200 cases, total. I taste their 2008 and … zing! Now, some of you likely know that I'm no pushover for Cabernet, but I'm here to testify that the 2008 Le Chanceux Cabernet grabbed me and wouldn't let go. It was a stunner.
In that same vein, I recently drank the 2011 Cowhorn Vineyard Spiral 36, a Rhône-style blend of Viognier (40 percent), Marsanne (30 percent) and Roussanne (30 percent) that sees no malolactic fermentation and just the barest touch of new French oak.
I've had other vintages of this biodynamically grown wine from the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon just a handful of miles from the California border and I'm here to say that … zing! This is a remarkable dry white wine, brimming with apple and citrus flavors with delicious, refreshing acidity. It has character and originality.
And with dinner tonight, I had a cru Beaujolais that I bought by the case: 2009 Morgon Le Clos de Lys from Domaine J. Chambon. It's a succulent, weightless Gamay Noir redolent of crushed berries that's like few other cru Beaujolais of my experience in its intensity allied with delicacy.
But enough about this writer's electric wine moments. What about yours? I'm not asking here about what you merely like. I'm asking about your electric wine moments. What have you had that gave you that zing? This, after all, is what we're all seeking. It’s why we're enthralled by wine at its best.
What have you tasted that's been exciting and energizing—a wine that you want to hook up to the wine-drinking grid?
John Wilen — Texas — July 3, 2012 12:40pm ET
Alan Gavalya — Hampton, VA — July 3, 2012 1:47pm ET
Christopher T Fennell — Fullerton CA 92833 — July 3, 2012 10:34pm ET
Ivan Campos — Ottawa, Canada — July 4, 2012 8:06pm ET
Bonnie Sims — Brian Davies — July 5, 2012 3:59pm ET
Eric Pottmeyer — Portland, OR USA — July 5, 2012 6:25pm ET
Steve Order — Massachusetts — July 6, 2012 1:48pm ET
The Odom Corporation — oregon — July 6, 2012 1:53pm ET
Ivan Campos — Ottawa, Canada — July 6, 2012 8:42pm ET
Allan J Sagot — New Jersey — July 9, 2012 6:35am ET
David Bidwell — Cardiff, Californina — July 14, 2012 12:26pm ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions