AY-YAY-YAY.....another wine blog!! Of course this reaction crossed my mind when I concluded that I needed to add my voice to the cyber-sea of wine opinions. On the other hand, as a former vigneron/winery owner, wine shopkeeper and wholesale wine buyer over the past 36 years, I feel that I have much to contribute to the conversation. As I've mentioned in discussions with various wine writers/reviewers over the years - there seem to be two categories of wine writers out there: ones that have a knack for communicating and writing, but have limited wine knowledge and tasting skills (you know, the naive enthusiasts), and ones that have a good depth of wine knowledge and subject experience, but with limited writing skills. Occasionally someone with both of these attributes emerges, but it tends to be the exception. For the record, I feel that I comfortably fall into the second category, so please bear with me as I "test the microphone".
So what's my purpose here? I feel a bit like a crusader against the current state of affairs in the wine information realm. That is, I strongly feel that today's wine consumers are not being well-served by the major publications and their excessively subjective style of reviewing - coupled with a (usually 100 pt.) rating system which is all too often self-serving as well as misused by the readership. The wine industry is sorely in need of a new paradigm in wine reviewing. I realize that I can't accomplish this lofty goal alone, but merely hope that I can a be a part of a larger movement towards more informative wine discussions and reviews for the consumer. Above all, I would like to help stem the tide of wine publications whose ratings tend to reflect a "penchant for the obvious" in wines, while hopefully enlightening consumers about a wine's subtler attributes which make it distinctively different from its peers. In the process, I will share stories of my encounters and experiences in cellar and vineyard. By the nature of my status as a lone publisher with a limited budget, I feel that I must confine myself mostly to a particular segment of the wine world, so I've chosen to focus on the area where I have the most familiarity: Southern France - esp. the Languedoc region. I will also limit reviews of wines from my native Willamette Valley, Oregon because of conflicts of interest due to my relationship with many producers here. However, part of of my mission is to bring attention to the great wine values in the market, so I intend also to cover wines under $30 from other regions, including Oregon. This need is prompted by the tendancy of the main-stream wine press to focus largely on the prestigious appellations and collector-type wines, often to the detriment of covering the numerous great affordable wines for everyday consumption.
Above all, my approach to reviewing will emphasize a wine's authenticity & typicality of region and variety, not just the hedonistic pleasure it may deliver. In an effort to lend more objectivity to my reviews I will limit my descriptors to less esoteric terms (if I hear the over-hyped term "mind-boggling" again I think I'll gag!). As well, I will use icons to indicate more essential wine components (please see below). Realizing that it's simply not practical (nor acceptable by the consumer) to avoid assessing a wine's overall quality, I've chosen to apply three basic quality levels to wines reviewed, indicated at the end of this article. My hope though is that readers will balance this categorization with a wine's description in making decisions about their preferences. Again this is in keeping with my goal to minimize subjectivity. I won't include reviews of wines below the minimum ("gratifying") quality level. Having hosted, as a producer, numerous wine writers over the years, I've observed that it's extremely difficult for a wine reviewer to objectively assess a wine when tasting on premise & from barrel etc. Therefore, although I may often discuss and describe wines tasted on site, I will not rate a wine tasted in this way, rather only in comparative blind tastings in a "neutral" location.
Finally, although I can't resist the opportunity to introduce readers to lesser known discoveries made during my escapades in the South of France, I will try to remain focused primarily on wines that are available in the American market - either in local wine shops or via mail order.
Please come back again soon for my first article on select wines of the western side of the Languedoc (Corbières, Minervois, Côte de Rousillon) which I experienced on a recent trip there.
À Bientôt - Russ
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