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Tag Archives: wine reviews

Mini-reviews 69: Marchesi di Barolo, Bibi Graetz, Clos du Val, Bolla

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wine mini-reviewsReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

Marchesi di Barolo Barbera Monferrato Maràia 2012 ($10, purchased, 13%): Very nice price for a barbera that is mostly fun to drink. Look for dark berry fruit in this Italian red, plus a little earthiness. But there’s just enough oak to get in the way, and there’s hole in the middle that the oak doesn’t cover up.

Bibi Graetz Casamatta NV ($13, purchased, 12.5%):  Nothing really wrong with this Italian red, made with the solera method, in which grapes of different vintages are blended. Simple and well-made, with cherry fruit and some acid, but it needs more than just that at this price.

Clos du Val Pinot Noir Carneros 2010 ($32, sample, 13.5%): Nothing at all wrong with this California red wine. It’s almost polite — with proper weight, fruit, tannins, and alcohol. But I want more than polite for $32.

Bolla Soave Classico 2011 ($8, purchased, 12.5%): This Italian white, which is what we drank if we wanted Italian white wine in the 1970s and 1980s, was surprisingly Soave-like given its age. Thin, but varietally correct and still drinkable.

Wine of the week: Lyeth Meritage 2012

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Lyeth MeritageWineries are like rock ‘n roll bands — they come and go for no particular reason, and if you write about wine or drink it, that’s something you need to understand. Just because a winery made a great wine one vintage is no guarantee it will be around to make a great wine five years later.

Which is much of what you need to know about the Lyeth Meritage ($12, purchased, 13.5%). In the 1980s and early 1990s, this was one of the world’s great wine values, and then it disappeared. I had not seen it in 20 years until I was digging through the bottom shelves of a Dallas wine shop a couple of weeks ago, and there it was.

Hence this very unexpected — but very positive — Lyeth Meritage review. A Big Wine company bought the Lyeth name and has been turning out a full line of wine for the past couple of years. They have done an excellent job with the Meritage, a red blend that’s mostly merlot and cabernet sauvignon. And it shows just how good cheap wine can be when the producer cares — terroir, even. Look for sweet Sonoma black fruit, earthiness, and tannins that offer some grip, each part in balance with the other.

Highly recommended; big enough so that it would complement red meat, but not so big you can’t sip it in the evening after work. And if Lyeth can come back, does that mean there’s hope for Rockpile?

Wine reviews still matter

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The conventional wisdom in the wine business over the past decade that wine reviews — unless you’re the Winestream Media, writing for an audience that desperately needs to know that its $28 wine got 93 points — are becoming irrelevant. I’ve written this, and I mostly believe it. For example, the majority of the reviews on the blog are among the least read.

The irrelevancy of review comes from new technology, whether Facebook, texting, phone wine apps, or CellarTracker, that gives wine drinkers the ability to recommend wine to their friends and read their friends’ recommendations without the need for a traditional wine reviewer.

So imagine my surprise when the new Wine Market Council study, detailing the behavior of U.S. wine drinkers, found that reviews still matter.

“I think it is to be expected that people who have not been around wine for years and years are a bit more interested in reading about wine and getting input from knowledgeable sources,” says John Gillespie, the council’s president. And he has some intriguing numbers to back that up.

More than half of Millennials and almost half of Gen Xers who drink wine frequently said reviews were extremely or very important in deciding what to buy. This is twice the number of Baby Boomers who said they valued reviews, and three times the number of the oldest group surveyed, born before World War II.

If that still doesn’t seem a lot, consider this: I located two surveys about film criticism that showed much lower numbers — six percent in a poll on ComicBookMovie.com said reviews were important, and a survey of Indian audiences in 2011 found that just 17 percent said the star rating was important. Yes, these aren’t exactly comparable to the Wine Market Council results, but it’s close enough to make me think wine reviews are still relevant.

The one thing not surprising about reviews in the Wine Market Council survey? The Winestream Media’s grip on its captive audience. Two-thirds of high-end wine buyers who drink wine frequently rated reviews extremely or very important. Which is why they’ll always be a Wine Spectator.

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