Don’tcha just love it when you get subjectively inapplicable advice? Representations that your backside looks slim in those pants, that the poppy seed between your teeth looks like an onyx in the ivory, or that the Kimchee has beguiling complexity. So is it with us in the wine commentator racket when we take our readers to the woodshed if they don’t embrace the wines we like. With my omnipotence, my omniscience, how could you disagree with me, you uncultured swine?!
Let’s just say that I loved Kimchee (this is a huge hypothetical)... you know, the result of perfectly good spiced vegetables left to rot into a slimy, yet crunchy substance. By waxing on poetic over the wonderful regurgitative (Note to reader... Spellcheck and I disagree that is a word...you read it first here...ahem) nuances of what only a Philistine would call food, I may convince you Kimchee was actually good, or better than the average autolytically attacked flora. Conversely, I could wordsmith you into disliking it based on my staunch and unblemished record of detesting Kimchee, over which I would prefer to eat live goldfish. So is it with wine that one person’s treasure is another’s trash. And I am here to make the case that anyone else’s wine opinion should not be viewed as the rule, but rather, as a rough guideline to provide some guidance, but nothing more than that.
When I officially entered the wine industry in 1972, wine writers were hell-bent-for-election on promoting insipid, over-oaked, high alcohol Chardonnay... and calling it Pinot Chardonnay... we all bought in. They said the French had it all wrong, that the wines went well with food, and that they would age, and that it was the way the Creator intended Chardonnay to be made...all wrong.
I would love to have one of today’s wine fashionistas talk smack about the sweet Concord sipped every evening by my most inspiring maternal grandfather George Neidhart..“young man, you wanna step outside...?” This wine and similar sweet reds were his evening celebration, his reward. If grandpa had listened to us wine columnists, judges, tasters, aficionados, whatever, he would have never found the perfect wine for him.
In one of my previous writings, which I view as a victimless crime, I noted that the heavily favored, inexpensive wine we wine judges consumed with dinner was summarily dismissed the next day in the judging. It went well with food, but lacked the viscosity to be meritorious by the panel. If the restaurant owner had used our competition results, it would have been yanked from the menu, cheating us out of a good time.
Recently I tasted a wine that smelled like the south end of a north-bound mule that had freshly painted toenails, after which I wanted criminal charges brought against the winemaker. Then, guess what a friend brought to dinner? You got it; that exact bottle of wine. And, as he extoled the virtues of the wine he bestowed, I took a lethal three ounce dose of reflux inducer, and with watered and crossed eyes, asked him if he thought Kimchee would pair with it. Good thing he didn’t talk to me before that or I could have embarrassed myself.
Also, understand that not all wines are tasted by commentators or panels. Wine publications and competitions don’t go out and buy wine to taste... Heaven forbid. Wineries send wines to HQ or the competition to be tasted. So if you rely upon your buying guide to be in print or online, only a fraction of the wines will get ink... or megabytes. Moreover, wine snapshots are inherently inaccurate because the wine changes over time, making most everything soon yesterday’s newspaper. How do you know whether a wine is good when someone hasn’t told you whether it is good? Taste the wine yourself and make up your own mind...what a concept!
Some wine commentators are wine dictators...perish the thought that the ocean of bargain wine, consumed by folks around the world, would be heralded as consumable by a self-appointed expert. My guess is that you learned more from your mistakes than you did from your successes. And as much as I would like you to be the beneficiary of the tens of thousands of wines I have tasted over the last forty-plus years, my humble opinion of what you like will likely fall short of your mark. There is a big difference between crazy and stupid, so my suggestion is to keep your eyes wide open, lose your gullibility and try the Kimchee... what the hell do I know?!
Look, my taste is only my taste, and is not your taste. You carefully select food, cars, homes, clothes, occupations without someone telling you what is for you. There are even different brands of Kimchee, for some reason, from which you, not me, can select your favorite jar of biodegraded sludge. Then when it comes to wine, you pick up some rag that says a wine is great, or not, letting some other dude make your selection...hmmmm. Behold your own opinion with commentary as your starting point, not your finish line.
So, my advice is this: don’t take my advice. Or the advice of others for that matter. Make up your own mind on the wine you like. Use what we present here at WinePress Northwest and at various competitions as rough guidelines to select wines, for occasions and friends, with or without Kimchee, to be consumed in moderation, frequently.
--COKE ROTH is an attorney who lives in Richland, Wash. He is an original member of Wine Press Northwest’s tasting panel. Learn more about him at cokerothlaw.com.
This story was originally published March 11, 2014 12:00 AM.