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