California wines for Obama’s inauguration – and thoughts about wine at the White House

I have to say that Americans sure know how to throw a big party. Case in point, Barack Obama’s inauguration, which is drawing an incredible line-up of artists over these few days, and millions of people in tow, to witness this historic occasion.

It may be presumed that, at some of these functions, wine will be served.

Actually, it is certain that wine will be served, including three California wines at the Inaugural Luncheon, served for the new president, the vice-president, their wives, and 200 other members of Washington’s who’s who, in the Hall of the Capitol.

In honor of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, (more…)

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Philosophy and the 100-point rating system.

I read this very interesting review of a book called Questions of Taste. The Philosophy of Wine, by Barry C. Smith. Heady stuff about subjectivity and authority.

The review contains this lovely analogy about the excessive importance taken by rating systems like the Parker/Wine Spectator 100-point scale:

So the illustrious British critic Hugh Johnston scoffs, calling Parker’s system “pernicious and silly”, and frets proprietorially that something so facile and jejune “can only do harm to wine in the end”.

What harm is that? Well, perhaps next we shall have guides weighing up the collection of the Louvre on a similar scale, (more…)

Published in: on December 8, 2007 at 5:19 pm  Comments (1)  

My favorite rating system yet

What’s your favorite rating system? 100-point? 20-point? Five stars?

My favorite one, these days, is found on a blog called Grape Juice. Written by “Erin” and “Michelle”, who seem to have a liking for the fruitier side of wine, the blog is full of interesting information, from harvest reports to industry news, like the fact that Wayne Gretzky has entered the wine world, creating Wayne Gretzky Estates, in the Niagara region, with all net proceeds going to his Foundation. And guess what his first prestige bottling is? 3-liter bottles of a family reserve 2004 merlot: 99 bottles produced. Of course. And the three wines released so far are all VQA – true Canadians.

Anyway. The Grape Juice rating system is a five-sentence classification (more…)

Published in: on November 19, 2007 at 9:36 am  Comments (2)  

Here it comes… Wine Spectator’s Top 100

I know, I know, I said I don’t believe in the trophy lists of the wines of the year and such. But it doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re entertaining.

Take Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list, a trophy that many a wine seller will display proudly to boost sales, in particular with the if-Parker-or-Wine-Spectator-didn’t-give-it-at-least-90-I-don’t- want-to-hear-about-it kind of crowd.

As with any panel or jury that has to make this kind of choice, using criteria that are as much external to the product as internal, the list can be read as much as a political statement, an editorial appreciation of how the wine world is (should be?) as an actual expression of what the actual best juice-in-the-bottle is, for 2007.

In 2002, for instance (more…)

There’s no such thing as “the best wine”

I’ve never been much for top wine lists – although I will admit to having been impressed by them, sometimes. Though they can be good for helping you spot wome great bottles you don’t know about, they also tend to work on a simplistic, linear principle of best to worst. Which has little to do with the way we taste wine, it seems to me.

What set me off on this train of thought is the October 15 issue of Wine Spectator, which features a cover story on “Australia’s Best Wines: 25 Benchmarks every wine lover should taste”. (You can read it here, if you’re a WS subscriber). The introduction shows the kind of hubris and trophy-hunting spirit that presides over so many of these lists: “The following pages identify the 25 wines you should know if you’re serious about Australia.”

Problem is, a lot of those wines (more…)

Published in: on October 27, 2007 at 10:31 pm  Comments (2)