Another day, another year, another vintage and still no progress on my wine whines. The whines have now evolved into wine gripes so I will recount them and scontinue to encourage those in the wine industry that are dragging the chain to pick up their acts. It is very disappointing that some people in the wine world, who should know better, really let everyone else down by being slack or even lazy.
Here are four of my wine gripes that need addressing.
A wine variety refers to a grape. The grape, Cabernet Sauvignon, is a variety. Confusingly the word varietal is also used in the wine world. Varietal refers to a wine not a grape. So Cabernet Sauvignon is the varietal of a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Why these two different terms are needed makes little sense to me – but, that’s not my Gripe.
My Gripe is that some leading writers and/or reviewers of wine, state that the Variety is Rose; or Cabernet blends; or Sweet; or Fortified; or even Other Fortified!
If educators, mentors and teachers of wine are too ill-informed or lazy to put in the effort to describe the variety then perhaps they should hang up their corkscrews.
The quality of wines, even great wines, can vary by vintage. This means that the vintage can be an important factor in the decision to buy a wine. If the 2018 vintage gets rave reviews and the 2019 vintage gets good reviews and I decide to buy the 2018 vintage then I expect to receive the 2018 vintage.
Too often wine retailers, even self-appointed “fine wine sellers,” do not declare the vintage they are selling. Very often those wine retailers that do declare the vintage present a different vintage to the one ordered. This is becoming an ever-increasing problem with click-n-collect and delivery services. The caveat that vintages may vary may help but consumers should be informed before completing any transaction that the vintage they ordered is not available and an alternative vintage or refund can be provided.
Unbelievably, even some wineries do not declare the vintages that they are selling on-line. Shame!
Restaurants are also guilty of not keeping their wine lists up-to-date. On far too many occasions I have selected a wine partially motivated by it’s vintage only to find that the bottle presented is 5 years younger. Occasionally the serving staff member has opened the bottle to pour without showing the bottle or disclosing that the vintage is not what was requested, causing embarrassment and discomfort all round.
3 Price Disclosure
It’s surprising the number of wineries that do not disclose the price of their wine until you have added it to the cart. For the life of me I cannot think why the winery or their website designers think this is acceptable.
4 The Dregs
Good wine bars/restaurants have a strict policy on how long opened wine can be kept. Some wine bars/restaurants use Coravin systems. Then again there are some wine bars/restaurants that just don’t care.
I have refused to accept the last glass squeezed out of a bottle of wine when the pourer has no idea when the bottle was opened.
I have even asked the pourer to smell and taste the glass of oxidized dregs against the freshly poured glass from a new bottle. The response has often been – “they smell the same to me” even when there is a huge difference.
Enter the wine bar/restaurant with a Sommelier and things can change. My most impressive experience of wine servers that do care was at Maha in Melbourne. A group of us had booked the second sitting for dinner and, because we arrived a little early, we were directed to the bar. I ordered a Palo Cortado – I love this style of Sherry.
Firstly, I was surprised that Maha had a Palo Cortado – big tick in the box for them.
The bar server took a bottle from the fridge and poured a glass. He then smelled the wine and decided he was unhappy. Without saying a word to me, he took out a second bottle from the fridge and poured a second glass. Again, he smelled the wine and appeared unhappy. He sought the Sommelier who did the whiff test on both glasses, shook his head and a third bottle was called upon. After a whiff and a taste, the Sommelier gave the nod to the bar server who poured me a glass and presented it without a word of explanation other than “Sorry for the wait.”
When quizzed, the bar server said the first two glasses did not smell right so he called the Sommelier to get a second opinion.
I can only say that I was amazed at the care shown by the bar server and the Sommelier and also by their preparedness to set 2 bottles aside in order to provide me with a delicious Palo Cortado. That was my introduction to a wonderful meal at Maha with matching wines. Needless to say this experience left an indelibly positive impression on me. Congratulations Maha.
It’s good to end on a positive note so, enough whining for one day. It’s time to start wine-ing.
Please share your views on any of the whines above and, if you haven’t tried Palo Cortado, your palate is missing a treat.
M T Wineglass
Photo by Alexander Jawfox on Unsplash