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Archive for January, 2010

Book Review: The Wine Trials 2010

I love wine books that are fresh, easy to digest, and challenges your personal beliefs or thoughts about wine.  The Wine Trials 2010, in a nutshell, tries its best to answer one simple, yet difficult question:


“Do expensive wines taste better than cheap wines?”



According to the results of a rigorous study conducted by Robin Goldstein & Alexis Herschkowitsch, the authors of The Wine Trials 2010, the answer was a resounding – NO.  The majority of wine drinkers that participated in the Wine Trials’ blind tastings actually preferred the taste of wines costing between $6 and $15 over those costing $50 or more.  


Yep, sounds kind of funny and made up.  However, in a series of blind tastings conducted around the country, with more than 6,000 glasses of wine poured from brown bagged bottles, and three book pages full of willing and ready tasters up for the challenge – the cheap stuff came out on top!


Before the authors unveil there killer values, the first 58 pages of The Wine Trials 2010 is dedicated to providing readers with all the necessary “nuts and bolts” that went into the actual experiment.  Within these pages, it also explores the psychological side of why we all have the tendency to associate cost with a particular level of quality – The Placebo Effect, as it’s called.  In this particular scenario, “A more expensive wine must taste better than a cheaper one”.  Before turning the spotlight on the wines themselves, the authors also weigh in on the industry and the folks that write about it.  Without giving away any juicy details, you’ll see why at least one of these industry movers would have much rather gone unmentioned in this book.  Finally, the authors get on with the show and take you for a ride with the 150 value wines that they say beat out the pricier stuff.  To this point, my only real beef with The Wine Trials 2010 is that the authors fail to reveal the identity of all of the expensive wines that bit the dust against their Top 150 values. The only high dollar wines that are mentioned in the book are Dom Pérignon, Beringer, Cakebread, Veuve Clicquot and a Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru from Louis Latour.  Which leads me to assume that these wines were only mentioned because they were the most recognizable high-end wine names?


Overall, I found The Wine Trials 2010 to be a great read!  It’s like getting two books for the price of one:  The Wine Trials Story and a guide with 150 wines under $15.  Several, if not many, of the value wines recommended in it are truly outstanding and certainly worth trying.  Pick up a copy, keep it in your car glove box and pull it out each time you go wine shopping.  At the very least, it’ll give you some very affordable picks that you might have otherwise passed on merely because of the price tag.  


4 Nights with an Aussie Beast!

It’s not very often that a little ‘ole bottle of red wine can make the hair on the back of my neck stand up – but this red wine sent shivers down both my back and throat, and stamped a purple “toof” grin  on my face for 4 straight nights – count’em 1,2,3,4.


This unruly Aussie red smacked my chops around the room on nights 1 & 2, then said, “Come to Papa” on night 3, and finally surrendered on night 4 saying, “Let’s you and me be friends.” 


This wine is one of four red wines in the d’Arenberg wine portfolio that they playfully named “The Four Musketeers Red”.


The Musketeer red that I had the pleasure of wrastlin’ around with over a four night span was their 2006 “The Footbolt” Shiraz from McLaren Vale, Australia.  This humungous Fruit Bomb, compliments of The Land of Oz has received a lot of attention and accolades from industry big shots like Parker, Wine Spectator and the International Wine Cellar.  After tasting this wine for the first time, I can now see why they all made such a big deal about it.


Here’s the skinny on this wine straight from the winemaker’s mouth:

 “Aromas of dark red fruits, black olive and beef stock open into notes of blueberries and licorice with a savory dried herb edge. The palate shows great balance with blueberry and mulberry fruits, spices and a hint of white pepper on the finish. As always The Footbolt is a very approachable wine in its youth but has the capacity to age for many years”

I’m not so sure if I’d agree with thea very approachable wine in its youth” part, but…


Here’s my take on the 2006 d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz:

  • Night #1:  “Holy Cow!… How in the world can anyone just crack the lid off of this sucker and live to talk about it the next morning.”  This wine was breathing fire and told me to come back tomorrow.
  • Night #2:  “Hmmm, Excuse Me Sir?? May I please drink you tonight?”  The 2006 Footbolt’s response:  “Man Up partner and we can talk about it.”
  • Night #3:  “Are you ready now for us to be friends?”  The 2006 Footbolt’s response:  “Sure, lets get to know one another a little bit better tonight.”
  • Night #4:  “You’re actually not the tough little S.O.B. that I thought you were on night #1.  I’m actually starting to like you a whole lot Mr. Footbolt!”  The 2006 Footbolt’s response – “I’m glad you like me kid.  Now you and I can be BFFs.”
The dirty ‘ole low down on this wine : The 2006 d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz from McLaren Vale, Australia ain’t wimpy, that’s for sure!  It packs a pretty decent punch when you first open it.  But, if you’re patient, it’ll be a good friend to hang out with, say - in about 2 years.  Do yourself and your wallet a favor and grab a few bottles of this under $15 killer juice and lay it down for a bit - before it’s all gone!


If you’d like to learn more about this wine and the rich tradition of winemaking at d’ Arenberg, check out their website.


Wine Review – Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red (NV)

rene-barbier-mediterranean-red-nvFrom: Barcelona, Spain
Price: $5.50

If there are two things that I’m a sucker for – it’s a willingness to try any wine regardless of price and red wines hailing from Spain. The Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red (NV) is cheap – Me like. It’s also from Spain – Muy bien, I definitely love the sound of that!

Unfortunately that’s where the story ends for this inexpensive Spanish red that consists of an odd and rather bland tasting combination of Tempranillo and Merlot. I sure wanted to be swept away to that cute little table and chair overlooking the beautiful sunset on a beach.  Instead, I found myself sticking a cork in this fantasy as quickly as I possibly could and snapping back to reality.

I award the Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red (NV) 1 star out of 4.  This is a Mediterranean getaway worth passing up.

WineLife365 Rating: 1-Star

Say Goodnight, Gracie

dorothy-j-gaiter-john-brecherI don’t know about you, but I will sorely miss two wine journalists that had  a huge impact on my desire to write about wine.  After 12 years and 579 articles written, John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter, authors of the Wall Street Journal’s popular Friday wine column called “Tastings”, wrote their last column.


I’m not sure if this was a planned retirement by the couple or a forced one, but all I can say about the wine writing couple is that they achieved what so few wine writers and critics ever do:  Making wine accessible, comfortable and fun for readers.  Dottie and John had a remarkable ability to cut through the stuffiness and intimidation that still plagues the wine world, and made their wine experiences very intimate and personal for readers.  I, like so many folks that write about wine, have read numerous books and taken plenty of classes that give one lots of “wine smarts”, but the wonderful writings and warm relationship that came through week after week in their column inspired me to just sit back and simply enjoy wine – not over analyze it.  Their sole purpose was to enlighten people about all the wonderful things about wine without coming across as “Know it Alls”.  I don’t know where the future of wine writing is heading, but I can honestly say that their no nonsense and passionate approach to this topic has left a lasting impression and smile on my face that I will be forever grateful to them for!  


If you never had the opportunity to read their weekly column, I would highly recommend checking out The Wall Street Journal “Guide to Wine” New and Improved which reads like an expanded version of their Friday wine column.




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