Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best Of 2010: Controversy and Clarification

Based on a few comments in response to yesterday's piece, a few people were apparently upset over the results of the Best Of 2010 Tasting.  In fairness, I probably should have clarified a few things.  My bad.  Before I do, a few words in defense of the tasting:

First off, it was a blind tasting.  There are enormous advantages to using this format, paramount among those the absence of preconceived notions over price, reputation, and quality.  Tasting wines blind levels the playing field for all wines right off the bat.  Second, the most powerful measure of a wine in a comparative setting is the empirical evidence - which bottles were emptied first?  Third, I don't care how many sommelier certifications you've got, how sophisticated a palate you think you have, or if you taste three thousand wines a year, the average consumer is the most important component of the industry and the ultimate judge of a wine's enjoyability - and success.   Those in attendance at the tasting included long time wine collectors, veteran restaurateurs, casual weekend drinkers, and everything in between - a pretty good cross section of the consumer population.  Finally, all the wines in play do not represent the absolute best we've had this year - no, no, no.  The wines that made it into the lineup were:
  • Wines that scored well in their reviews on Winethropology and were considered to be very good values at their price points.
  • Wines which producers and their representatives were willing to send additional samples of (this was the most significant filter.)
  • Wines which fall into the realm of accessibility for mere mortals (call it under $50, well under $50).
  • And wines that were released or reasonably available in 2010.
All that said, a tasting like this is not without its challenges.  Twenty two wines is about seventeen wines too many for the average casual wine lover to appreciate.  Tasting fatigue sets in quickly, especially with the reds.  I will say, though, that the stamina on display that evening was impressive.  Sure, some in attendance petered out early on, opting to abstain from weighing in on some wines.  But many others hung in there making astute observations deep into the flights.

And, honestly, I'd have to say that overall IMHO the wines didn't show very well that night.  It might've been too much decanting time, the freezing temperatures outside, or the lunar cycle, but none of the wines had the freshness and focus that landed them in contention in the first place.  This would explain the leaning towards the bigger, less abashed wines.

Finally, though, it seems like we've lost focus on what this was really all about in the first place.  Sure, it was about the wines and having some fun ranking them against one another.  But, really, more than anything, the tasting was a terrific excuse to raise some money for a worthy causeSo, let's try to not get our panties in to a bunch over this.

5 comments:

  1. Still confounded. Okay, so grocery store wines appeal to a certain type of drinker, but to think that a Kendall Jackson and a Sebastiani product beat those other quality producers is hard to believe.

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  2. John,

    Have you had a bottle of Kendall Jackson lately? How about The Crusher? Based on your insinuation ("certain type of drinker") of class-specific wines, I'm guessing you haven't. Maybe you should.

    Happy holidays!

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  3. Ah, okay. THat makes more sense. So what are the BEST wines bar none you've had this year?

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  4. Ed,

    Glad that helps to clarify. The word "best" can take on many different connotations - quality, character, authenticity, drinkability, purity, faithfulness in refelcting varietal and place, overall enjoyability...it's a tough thing to summarize in a short list. But Stay tuned for an list of editor's favorites from 2010.

    Cheers!

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  5. Amen! My panties are hanging loose!

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