Category Archives: Wine Tastings

Jul 07 2013

Are Wine Critics Better Judges of a Wine than You and I?

Posted on July 07, 2013 | By merrill@cellarit.com

A recent article in the Guardian by David Derbyshire, Wine-tasting: it’s junk science 23 June 2013, has caused a bit of a stir in the wine community. It looks at the work of Robert Hodgson, a California winemaker who was so baffled about the inconsistent results his wines achieved in various wine shows from year to year, that for the past six years he’s been conducting experiments with the California State Fair wine competition to find out whether professional judges are any better than you and me at judging wine.

Six years on, the results of his research make for pretty sobering reading. A few highlights from Hodgson’s summary of his work:

“Only about 10% of judges are consistent and those judges who were consistent one year were ordinary the next year.”

“Chance has a great deal to do with the awards that wines win.”

“I think there are individual expert tasters with exceptional abilities sitting alone who have a good sense, but when you sit 100 wines in front of them the task is beyond human ability.”

Before you dismiss the value of wine critics, remember that wine is without doubt the most complex drink in the world. The Guardian cites the work of Dr Bryce Rankine, an Australian wine scientist who identified 27 distinct organic acids in wine, 23 varieties of alcohol in addition to common ethanol, more than 80 esters and aldehydes, 16 sugars, plus a long list of assorted vitamins, minerals and harmless traces of lead and arsenic from the soil!

This cocktail of ingredients creates at least 400 aroma compounds that work on their own and with others to create an incredible complexity of aromas and flavours. And as experienced wine drinkers know, these aromas and flavours are volatile – the temperature that wine is served at, for example, can profoundly change the taste of the wine.

One point on which most experts agree is that it takes a fair bit of wine drinking experience for people to learn to detect and name a reasonable range of aromas in wines… [Read More]

Nov 11 2012

The Coming of Age of Rosé Champagne: Vintage Cellars Double Bay Champagne Gala 2012

Posted on November 11, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Wine critics’ opinions of rosé Champagne vary widely. Last year Jancis Robinson MW made the following comment: “My tastings suggest that a huge proportion of rosé champagne is a fairly cynical product that does not have any special positive attributes but merely ticks the visual box (sometimes only just) of being pink. In fact I would go so far as to say that the average quality of pink champagne is lower than that of the average white champagne, despite it being more expensive.” (Rosé champagne – the missing ingredient,.. [Read More]

Nov 11 2011

Can you tell if a wine is any good just by tasting it? Impressions from a Craggy Range Tasting

Posted on November 11, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Have you ever been unimpressed with a wine on first taste, but then fallen in love with it over the course of a meal?

Well, according to a very interesting article by Decanter’s Andrew Jefford “digestibility is as much a hallmark of truly fine wine as is sensorial intricacy and harmony.” Jefford goes on to explain:

Twenty-five years of reading wine assessments, as well as providing assessments of my own, have convinced me that tasting without drinking is, in fact, a monstrous (if inevitable) flaw in all wine criticism... [Read More]

Mar 03 2011

The Return to Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a week when a tragic natural disaster in Japan was compounded by the fear of a potential man-made nuclear disaster, I think many of us were grateful for the opportunity to attend the Return to The Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne. Here was a group of biodynamic winemakers, passionate about the benefits of working with the land’s natural rhythms and bio-systems, delighting our senses with superb wines and stimulating discussion.

Organised by Castagna Vineyard’s Julian Castagna, the tasting brought together 61 wine producers from around the world and more than 340 wines!.. [Read More]

Mar 03 2011

Greystone Wines Sauvignon Blanc: A Waipara Valley Alternative to Marlborough

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Another region featured at the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Master Class was Waipara Valley in Canterbury, just north of Christchurch and south of Marlborough. Waipara used to be famous for its Canterbury lamb, but in last 30 years it has become home to around 80 vineyards, and is now the fastest growing wine region in New Zealand.

The Waipara offering was the Greystone Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2010. Greystone Wines is better known for the pure flavours of its riesling and pinot noir,.. [Read More]

Mar 03 2011

Giesen August Sauvignon Blanc: ‘Pushing the Boundaries for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In yesterday’s post, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Master Class,  I mentioned how New Zealand winemakers were experimenting with exciting new ways to make the country’s standard bearer sauvignon blanc.

One of the highlights of the evening was the inaugural vintage of the Giesen August Sauvignon Blanc 2009. This handmade wine had a richness and complexity of aromas and flavours that set it apart from the other wines we tasted on the evening. It reminded many of us of the exciting new style of sauvignon blanc exemplified by the sublime Cloudy Bay Te Koko and the acclaimed Dog Point Section 94[Read More]

Mar 03 2011

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Master Class

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Last Friday NZ Wine Online hosted a Sauvignon Blanc Master Class at the Royal Automobile Club in Sydney. I always enjoy evenings when the winemakers are on hand to discuss the wine, so I listened with great interest to winemakers John Hancock from Trinity Hill of the North Island’s Hawkes Bay region and Glenn Thomas from Tupari Wines, which is situated in the Awatere Valley in Marlborough in the north of the South Island.

Of the nine wines we tasted that evening most were from the Marlborough region… [Read More]

Nov 11 2010

A Brilliant BYO Dinner!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If you love great wine and food, one of life’s great pleasures is to organise a group dinner at a favourite restaurant that allows BYO, and ask each of the diners to bring one of their best bottles.

On Thursday night we attended such a dinner at the fine French restaurant La Grande Bouffe in Rozelle. Organised by my husband’s Food and Wine Society, I knew the wine selections were going to be pretty good (the table captain had been in touch with key members of our table in advance of the evening) but,.. [Read More]

Nov 11 2010

Getting Serious about Wine and Food Pairing!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

This week Gary Vaynerchuk looked at what wines go best with hot dogs! (What Wines Pair with a Hot Dog? Episode #944, Wine Library TV, 3 November 2010)

Recently Wine Spectator’s New World Wine Experience brought four of the best chefs in the world together, Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and Charlie Trotter, to work with Wine Spectator’s Executive Editor Thomas Matthews on pairing the right wine to their dishes. (2010 New World Wine Experience: The Four Chefs Food and Wine Match by Alison Napjus,.. [Read More]

Oct 10 2010

Champagne: Highlights from a Memorable Tasting!

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Talking about a recent dinner at El Bulli, possibly the most famous restaurant on the planet, Eric Asimov, wine writer for New York Times, said, “I would have stuck happily with Champagne throughout the meal. Not ordinary Champagne either, but superb, hard-to-find bottles like Selosse Brut Initiale, which retails for about $US125 but was on the list for $US165, or Jérôme Prévost for $US140, or maybe both.” El Bulli and a Meal for the Ages by Eric Asimov, The New York Times, 21 September 2010.

Too often we don’t think of having Champagne with a meal… [Read More]