A Gallery of Grapey Ghouls
Posted: October 30, 2001
So you think tasting wine for a living is a pretty plush gig, right? Nothing but sipping around all day, waxing poetic on the latest triumph from Gaja or Ausone? Well, yes, there is a bit of that. But there's also a seamy, scary underbelly to professional wine tasting -- a dark and dangerous place we call "not recommended." Poe had a section of the cellar walled off for Fortunato; Wine Spectator has a dark corner that's south of 70 points.
Below that, wines need the brown bag in which we blind-taste them. These are wines that only a mother could drink -- and then only with a chaser. Wines that we wouldn't want to bump into again, in or out of a dark alley. Not scared yet? Keep in mind that every wine which rates below 70 has to be tasted twice, to make sure it wasn't all just a nightmare. Talk about pouring insult on top of injury.
So to put a little Halloween fright into you, here are a few excerpts from our Gallery of Grapey Ghouls.
A dead ringer for cough syrup, just not as tasty.
Aromas and flavors of iodine and varnish are all this lean, unhappy wine has to offer.
Like biting into a bar of soap.
Tastes like a canned fruit cocktail, with a harsh, metallic edge and no concentration. A disgrace to the appellation.
A real mélange of unpopular flavors.
Why bottle this?
An odd, slightly volatile, varnish nose detracts. I asked the winemaker about it, and she said it was normally like that.
Red wine, yes; Cabernet, no.
Unclean, with bacterial spoilage. Like a farm yard on a hot summer day.
You're not missing much if you don't try it.
Bizarre aromas and flavors of Worcestershire sauce make this unpalatable.
This brown, barnyardy swill shows, by its contrast, just how miraculous it is that fine wine can improve over decades in the bottle.
Earthy, bitter, slightly moldy and sour. This is not a friendly wine.
Some wines fall apart due to poor handling. This could be one of them.
An awful caricature of Cabernet.
This is funky and flawed. Much worse than when tasted from barrel, although it was funky then.
Burnt green peppers and grass. Tastes like week-old gravy.
Finishes mercifully short.
Has an overload of terroir. Not our style.
Foul. Redolent of chicken droppings.
Seriously bad -- maybe even a health hazard! An amazingly tart/bitter chemical taste begins in the back of the throat and won't let go. Not recommended.
Crawling. Rubbery. Yuck.
Earthy and vinegary, with paintlike flavors. Downright ugly. A second bottle was equally flawed. Avoid. Avoid.
Sour and decaying, like rotten cabbage.
Simply awful. Smells and tastes of burnt rubber, sulfur and rot -- it has serious flaws. Dry, lean and disgusting.
This smells like a swamp and tastes of acid juice.
Smells of barnyard and tastes like, well ... not recommended.