I am in Italy, where I have been invited to judge for the most selective wine competition in the world, organised by Vinitaly. The idea of a wine relative in this country amounts to an Uncle Pio, who lives down the road and has made the same red wine that is drunk only at Christmas with the rest of the family, and the rest of the year is used to strip paint off walls, or keep the livestock headilywarm. Far from such, my rant is about the relativity of all the elements that make up wine. Here are a few factors that can influence how one perceives a wine and how, in almost all cases, they shouldnt.
Racism goes beyond people. How can we let the colour influence our perception of aromas and taste that is yet to come/form Sure enough wine is art and hence must involve aesthetic but it isnt exactly a visual form of art or, for that matter, at all. Judging a wine by its colour is likely to spring many a surprise during blind tastings.
I have always maintained that wine or women, such commentary is generally lewd and does nothing to ameliorate ones social position. Legs are the tracks left by wine when, upon swirling, it trickles down the inside surface of the glass. Depending on how the glass may have been washed, or what was in it before, or the ambient temperature, these legs can vary and are not a good measure of quality by far. If you must comment, go with the nose nothing defines a wine more, especially on the after-taste when the aromas and flavours that one may have detected on the nose re-emerge in a lasting, classier composition.
Sugar, I admit, is a lovely winemaking tool. It is like that magic wand in photo-correcting software that just always knows what to do and make the picture more vivid. Sugar masks flaw, accentuates fruitiness, and lends a sense of body and weight to the wine on the mid-palate. But its presence shouldnt immediately be attributed to any one of those reasons. Many a time, when handled well, sugar will add a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. It is not undignified or make one any lesser a connoisseur just because one likes a slightly off-dry wine.
As I have learnt, it is incorrect to award too much weightage to a label but it is definitely a gross misjudgment to subtract many marks from a wine because of its labels. A badly presented wine will not sell well and that is poetic justice served up naturally. But to take away marks, especially in consumer tastings, just because a wine label is not found to be excessively handsome (just momentarily tired of finding wine labels pretty), is to miss out on the real deal. For the last point, I will mention that one thing that is highly controversial and many a wine critic will hate me for it, perhaps even call me names (but I am sure they already have reasons aplenty to. So I guess Ill never find out why), and that is I strongly believing in having a handle on the price while judging wine. Here again, I dont subtract marks because a wine is expensive but it is definitely a bonus if it is great and also affordably appreciable. Most of us pay for a wine (even some of us journalists do sometimes, believe it!) and what with the heavy taxes and the inexplicably heavier hotel and restaurant margins, there is no point paying for a glass what one would pay for the bottle elsewhere. In short, gold medals are all good, but they are more deserving when we arent paying prices pegged to it. So much for my Italian sojourn. With that off my chest, I can now safely go back to my plate of fresh pasta with garden-picked sundried tomatoes.
The writer is a sommelier