Alkoomi Wines was pleased to report that a wine review submitted by Mike Zittritsch, a team member of Fine Wine Wholesales, Alkoomi’s Western Australia’s distributor, won a tasting note competition on James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion website.

Here’s the winning entry for his review of Alkoomi’s Frankland River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2009:

“Alkoomi 2009 Frankland River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc

The first release of Alkoomi’s Frankland River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is a refreshing spin on what is fast becoming a homogenised brand of Western Australian SSBs. It’s a crisp, well made wine that drinks more like a Bordeaux white than a Margaret River white.

The wine displays pure citrus and lemon-lime fruit characters with a fine layer of minerality and a pleasing, rounded texture. Partial barrel fermentation of both varieties has given the wine a complexity not often found amongst its peers, and certainly not at this price.”

Of the review, James Halliday said, “I think it’s very interesting and covers both the wine making background and consequent flavour of the wine as well.”

The entry is certainly food for thought about what makes a wine review work?

Lettie Teague of The Wall Street Journal recently wrote an article about the best words to use to describe a wine, Finding the Words for Wine: Amateur enthusiasts often end up tongue-tied. How to be eloquent and exact, The Wall Street Journal, 25 June 2010. One of the most interesting points in the article was an observation made by Bernard Sun, the corporate beverage director of the prestigious Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant empire. He said that he keeps the word count to five when talking about wine. “You don’t want to overwhelm someone with words.”

His comments got me thinking about the growing popularity of Joe Roberts’ Weekly Twitter Wine Mini-Reviews on 1 Wine Dude.  As his tweet below highlights, even though the words are few you get a very good idea about how this wine tastes!

07 Lucente (Toscana): A “bull in a china shop” at dinner; this is about as ripe, dark, plummy, & big as a Sangiovese blend can get. $30 B

Yes, most of us now crave instantaneous information that we can digest in a minute, but sometimes I find the pleasure of a beautifully crafted wine review almost as exciting as imbibing the wine itself!

The depth and refinement of Robert Parker’s palate is remarkable and his wealth of wine knowledge is indisputable, but I think his success as a reviewer also rests on the fact that his reviews of great wines, in particular, read almost like poetry – reminding us that drinking wine can be a sublime experience!

Here’s an extract from 100 point review of a Chris Ringland’s 1996 Shiraz:

A colossal effort and very much in keeping with the style produced by the owner/winemaker Chris Ringland, the 1996 Shiraz (only 100 cases produced) is made from 90-year old vines…This viscous, black/purple-colored wine represents the essence of both wine and Shiraz. With impeccable balance, uncanny as well as unreal levels of concentration, yet perfectly integrated tannin, acidity, alcohol, and wood, it is akin to a dry vintage port…The wine should prove to be immortal, lasting for 30-50 years, but who is going to wait that long to unleash the magic? This is compelling stuff! I just wish there were ten times the quantity produced. Kudos to Chris Ringland for this ultimate Australian blockbuster Shiraz. Wine Advocate # 135 June 2001

So yes, some magic is necessary for writing a truly great review, but as Master Sommelier Kathryn Morgan explains, the first step to writing a good review is honing your palate:

“People say wine tasting is all subjective, but it really isn’t,” Morgan said. “Sure, you might taste raspberries while I sense strawberries, but certain things such as acidity, tannins, alcohol and body can be measured. Certain wines are high in acidity, others are low, so you have to use that. Once you’ve calibrated your palate, you can assess a wine by its structure and put it in perspective against other wines and food.” Kathryn Morgan shows she can master wine by Dave McIntyre, The Washington Post, 14 September 2010.