Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book Review: Educating Peter Part IV


A missed opportunity followed her unfortunate experience with a Zweigelt from Austria.  "The aromas were rank, almost fetid.  They were certainly well beyond 'rustic' and into the realm of truly bad."  She names the producer (I will not - at least partly because the bottle may have been corked).  Did Ms. Teague return this ugly wine to the wine shop?  No.  Nor did she discuss the possibility that the wine might be off, she chose instead to smear a well-regarded producer.  A fantastic teaching opportunity presented itself to explain how to return a bottle and for what reason, something most consumers do not understand.
Another teachable moment escaped her with this observation: "Even though the first Hourglass vintage was 1998 (a rare bad vintage in Napa, one of the worst of the decade), it didn't affect the quality of the wine."  She does not elaborate.  If it was a "bad" vintage how can the quality remain?
There are almost no truly "bad" vintages anymore, winegrowers, winemakers and technology allow for corrections even in, what I prefer to call them, off vintages.  Different styles result from different weather patterns and some years should include a discount if the quality slips but Ms. Teague speaks well of the quality and still dismisses the vintage.  Good producers make good wine every year but the wines will not be exact clones of one another.
Disappointingly, when the teacher and protege headed to California for a tasting tour, they focused an inordinate amount of attention on hard to find, high end wines: Merry Edwards, Dalla Valle Maya, Harlan Estate and Rubicon.  This is an ongoing gripe I have with wine writers who have special access and often do not pay for their indulgences.  This tour hardly served as a beginner's tour.  Instead, it  presented a skewed view of California wine to a novice.  It did, however, paint a wonderful picture of the general tone of snobbery and snarky elitism so prevalent in the book.  I will address some of this in the final installment but I think I owe Ms. Teague a tip of the cap first.
While I am busy picking her book apart, let me also congratulate Ms. Teague on one of the best descriptions about oak and wine I have ever read!
"Yet the idea of putting a wine in wood, either for fermenting or aging or both, isn’t merely to get the taste of the barrel but to use the wood as a frame, supporting the fruit but also serving as a background flavor, rather than the dominant note.  The fruit of a wine is the painting, and if the only impression you have of a wine is the oak, then you can’t see the picture for the frame.” Brilliant!

Back to the criticism one last time...next post.

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