Monday, 9 February 2009

How do you read blogs? One question survey

The Winery Website Report, which I follow is conducting a short (one question) survey about how you read blogs. Spend the time to answer the question (I'm curious, too!). And if you've got any preferred methods of reading blogs, especially time saving ideas, share them by commenting below. - THE place to research wines

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If you are a wine lover, wine educator, or just a wine geek (I'm a charter member), you should start using AbleGrape, too.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Wine Tasting for Dummies - a simple system

I struggled through the wine tasting part of the WSET Diploma course. It wasn't that I didn't have a pretty good palate. My friends, and later, my customers always seemed to like the wines I selected and I never enjoyed cheap and nasty bulk wines (which must, in my way of thinking, validate my choices somewhat). My problem was how to describe what I was smelling and tasting. For the Diploma, it mattered. But in real life, it doesn't. So, eventually, I evolved what I call the "Yum or Yuck" system of tasting.

This system can be as simple as just Yum or Yuck. That's good enough. Either you like the wine or you don't. And everyone who can smell and taste can do it.

Of course, you may want to get fancy and make the "Yum or Yuck" system follow the conventional "professional" system of Appearance, Nose, Palate and Conclusions. So here's the expanded version of the "Yum or Yuck" system.

Part I - Appearance - Does it look good? Who cares what colour it is besides red, white or pink? Of course, if it's a particularly pretty colour, that's fine to note. And if it resembles something from your septic tank, that's worth noting, too (that would be a definite "Yuck!").

Part II - Nose (or what does it smell like?) - In the "professional" system it is common to go all "Gilly Goolden" with your descriptions (Gilly Goolden is a well-known UK wine personality who used to be on the Food & Drink programme and was known for her very florid descriptions of the wine she tasted). So if you want to be professional in your wine descriptions, you can describe a wine as smelling of almost anything and everything. If you're very creative, you can describe a long list of scents you find in the glass.

But my scent descriptor is defective. At best I can usually manage generic flowers, fruits (red,white, or berries if I get fancy), savoury (not exactly what, just that it smells like dinner!), vegetal (bushes in general or herbal if fancy), and spices (again, nothing specific more often than not). However, the "Yum or Yuck" system really focuses more on how I feel about what I smell. That is, do I want to jump in the glass and do the backstroke through it's incredibly gorgeous sensual pleasures OR am I looking for the Glade to get the stink out? Of course, there's a wide universe between those two extremes. Do I like the smell a lot, a little, not very much or ... yuck, get me out of here! It's as simple as that.

Part III - Palate (or what does it taste like?) - Here, again, the pros use long and detailed descriptions of all the tastes in the glass. A wide variety of fruits, flowers, spices, minerals, and even more exotic descriptors (pencil lead, cigar box, wet stones, etc.) are regularly used. Well, if you taste them, that's swell and good for you, "use 'em if you've got 'em". Then there are all the "mouthfeel" descriptors used by the pros - is the wine big in the mouth, thin, acidic, fat, unctuous, tannic, structured, elegant, simple, etc, etc, etc. Nice to know and, actually, quite useful but NOT necessary. In my simple system, all you need to decide is does the wine taste good, bad or so-so? Does the wine feel good in your mouth as well as tasting good?

Part IV - Conclusions - Here's where the real pros get determined. The "good" ones try to tell you the country, region, grape varieties, vintage, producer, vineyard, heck, even the day the grapes were picked. Even the best can seldom get the country and variety right very often. But the REAL conclusion you need to reach is do you want more of this wine? Will you rush out to get more NOW, mortgaging the house or trading your children, if necessary? Will you gratefully accept a glass if offered? Will you bravely sip from a glass reluctantly accepted if necessary? OR, will you pour the vile stuff into the nearest loo? In short, is this wine a YUM or a YUCK?

You are now an expert taster. Try it yourself.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Celebrate Valentine's Day with Something Pink!

Valentine’s Day calls for something special to celebrate and I’ve got just the thing for you – a selection of Austrian pinks to please every taste. To make your decision easy, I’ve put together a mixed case that features wines from several different regions, a few sparklers, a few dry wines, and even a sweet wine but they’re all pink!

The Special Valentine’s Day Case includes one bottle of each of the following wines -

Strohmeier 2005 Schilcher Lestoa – a Rosé made from the best vineyard’s finest grapes

Strohmeier 2005 Ganz a Siassa – dessert wine (half bottle) - light coppery pink and not too
sweet, a perfect accompaniment for dessert or just sipping with your sweetie

Brundlmayer NV Brut Rosé - one of my favourite pink sparklers - “absolutely lovely Rosé aromas closest to Lallement in its fervent blackberry and violet nuances; it’s quite racy and Champagne-like with tight bright fruit, a pleasing tartness, good length, and a texture like torn silk” Terry Theise

Steiniger 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé Sekt - delicate bubbles, and a bouquet of bright red berries, raspberries and strawberries, elegant and very delicate

Stift Klosterneuberg 2007 Zweigelt Rosé Stiftwein - a particularly fruity, light wine, with a spicy and fresh aroma, and both juicy fruitiness and stimulating tartness on the palate

Jamek 2007 Jochinger Rosé - Bright rose-colored, fresh fruit aromas and flavours with spicy nuances, delicate, elegant and fruity on the palate, with lots of finesse and charm, lively fruit on the finish.

These beauties can be yours for just £100.00, including VAT and delivery to London and the Home Counties. And I’ll include a personalized note for your own true love, if you’d like.

If you’d prefer to make your own case for your snuggle bunny, just go to the website (, select “Make Your Own Case” under Style and put together the wines of your choice. If you do this and then order by email ( or phone (01628-472214) between now and the end of February 2009, I’ll give you a 5% discount on the wines ordered. Delivery and handling will be £10.00 + VAT to London and the Home Counties.

Surprise your Valentine with Ultimate Wines!