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Judge For Yourself
By Alexis Beltrami

Reading about wine-whether features, opinion or reviews-is one of a wine lover's favorite activities. You learn about wine by both tasting and reading, and your knowledge is limited if it comes from only one side. But it's important not to take wine writing as gospel. No one writer/taster is the last word on what a certain wine or type of wine tastes like. And some regrettably distorting clichés of wine writing refuse to die.

For example, the timeworn practice of attributing "masculine" or "feminine" qualities to wines persists in the trade, even though we all (ought to) know better by now. Such labels, and ways of perceiving wine, usually reveal more about the person uttering them than about the wine. Big, tannic, full-bodied red wines, especially Bordeaux and Cabernet, are often referred to as masculine-with such descriptors as "brawny" and "big-shouldered"-while lighter, less-tannic, smoother and more aromatic wines, such as red Burgundy and Pinot Noir, are seen as feminine-"velvety" and "seductive." But in actuality, many Cabernets are fruity, open, soft and accessible, and often Burgundy can be tight, acidic, and uninviting when young. Yes, the average Cab will be bigger and more tannic than the average Pinot, but the spectrum of possibilities is broad for both grapes.

Wine descriptions should be a framework against which to compare your own impressions, not a set of blinders. Think for yourself!


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