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Wednesday Warblings
Good Points on Other Blogs

By Charles Olken

By some estimates, there are over 1,000 wine blogs. I try to read most of them every day, but, sad to say, I am an abject failure in that pursuit. Not only do I like my words better than most blogs, but it takes time to compose my words and so I am usually limited to the half dozen blogs that I read regularly and the half dozen that I read once in a while.

Yesterday was no exception. I looked around, dug into several, looked at the first couple of paragraphs of others and went on my merry way, but did also get involved in conversations on two topics that struck me as particularly inviting.

Over on STEVE HEIMOFF, the eponymous blog of Steve Heimoff, the topic was the greening of Grenache Blanc. It was not so long ago that we saw no Grenache Blancs of any kind in California. Now, with all the attention being paid to the grape, you would think we were awash in them and that the grape was about to emerge as the next big thing. But, with only a couple of hundred acres planted and just a few years of experience under our belts, I think we might be rushing the gun a bit—and said so.

Here are my comments on the topic. And, incidentally, CGCW has begun tasting through every sample we can get our hands on, so the topic is on our minds as well.

“Nice thoughts–although possibly a bit premature in the sense that it is only in the last couple of years that makers like Tangent, Zaca Mesa and others are beginning to capture the crisper side of the variety while maintaining its beautiful aromatics.

The key, and this is also part of my thinking that you are slightly jumping the gun, is to find not just aromatics and brightness but also more depth, bottom and finish. Grenache Blanc can be made brisk and bright, and there is nothing wrong with that, but that has not been its métier in the past, and it would seem that we still have not seen the best that the variety can do.

I like brisk and aromatic, and I see the analogies to some of the better Pinot Gris, but Grenache Blanc has so much more to offer. It is still early days and it may take a more complete version of the grape before it becomes the next big thing.

Not so much disagreeing. Just sayin’.”

Another blog that got me to thinking and commenting yesterday was Tom Wark’s Fermentation. Mr. Wark is far less famous than Mr. Heimoff because he is not a published winewriter but a public relations consultant with a viewpoint, or should I say, several and multiple viewpoints. Mr. Wark has occasionally been referred to as the “Grandfather of Wine Blogs” and certainly has championed this new art form both as a blogger and as one of wine bloggings most important voices.

Yesterday, he wrote a partially tongue-in-cheek article about wine descriptions in which he sort of agreed with the notion that most published wine descriptions are exercises in pomposity, verbosity and pretentionocity. I say “partially” because Mr. Wark ultimately comes to the conclusion that pompous wine reviews are just what the geeks, the collectors want, and, as such, there is nothing wrong with them. Well, as you might imagine, I politely disagreed.

Here is, if I may say so, my well-reasoned response to Mr. Wark. Admittedly, it was not nearly as tongue-in-cheek as his original, but, then again, his note also had a touch of criticism of the entire tasting note genre to it, and so a response was necessary in any event.

“I would suggest that great wine descriptions can soar without being pretentious and pompous on the one hand and plain and pedestrian on the other.

A good wine description–one that describes a wine worthy of soaring prose–does also need to describe the wine. If a description fails that test, then the rest of the tasting note is not worth a tinker’s dam.

The notion that different audiences deserve/need different types of descriptions is certainly true as well, yet it is hard to see how pretense and pomposity by themselves serve any audience.

The late, great Leigh Knowles, the head of Beaulieu in its heyday, used to make fun of the “prismatic luminescence” school of winewriting. He was right then, and his sentiments about pompous, overwrought rhetoric still ring true today.”


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