Category Archives: Wine Tips

Tips to make wine ratings work for you

magazines290 points. 92 points. 88 points.

Scores, ratings, critic’s reviews, whatever you want to call them, they can be confusing. And controversial. There are those who live and die by the 100 point scale, refusing to consider a wine not scored over 90 points by their favorite critic. Others disapprove, believing scores have led to a conformity in wines as producers strive to earn scores that will sell, rather than produce a wine of character. This is true; if one crafts a wine in order to achieve a high score from a specific critic, that hurts the integrity of the wine and the scoring system. Wine should have a sense of place, a sense of varietal and preferably, a team dedicated to showing the best of those two features.

That said, scores and ratings should not completely be overhauled. There are a number of critics out there (we use 13 different critics/publications on Wine.com) and each has their own approach.

To really get the most of ratings, it’s helpful to learn a bit about the publication or critic that reviewed it. If you try a wine that is rated 94 points and don’t like it, look at who the review came from. While you don’t need to memorize every critic’s biography, learning who has similar tastes certainly helps finding wines fit for you. A few tips to help:

-READ the review. Scores are not just a number; there is an explanation behind that number with much more importance than the number itself. Look for terms that speak to you. I love Rhone wines, but if a 94 point Rhone mentions any term that refers to “barnyard,” I avoid it. You may know you like supple tannins, or prefer tart fruit over ripe fruit – look for these terms in the tasting notes.

- If you try a wine a love it, look it up (on our site or others) to see who may have given it a score, if any. If you see a score from say, Stephen Tanzer, take note that Tanzer (and his colleagues) may be similar to your palate preferences in that particular wine category.

- Exploring wine takes practice, and if you want to use ratings in helping you explore, that takes some practice too. You’ll hit a few ugly ducklings before you learn which wines are your swans.

As always, we try to provide you the most information possible at Wine.com so you can find the perfect wine for you! Happy shopping :)

Aussie Wines Rocking My World

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What do we really know about Australia and the wines made there? Maybe less than we should! Not only is Australia a huge country (sixth largest in the world) but it’s also the source of some of the world’s most spectacular wines. If you still equate the country with large-production value Shiraz and not much else, it’s time to take a closer look.

I got a full immersion into the wide variety of Australian wines when I judged in the Sydney International Wine Competition in 2012. As one of three Americans, I was treated to an Australian wine education by the Aussies, Kiwis and Brits. I was just a bit surprised by the complex methods used at this judging. The organizers brought in a top level chef to create dishes to match the categories. We were asked to write complete thoughts as well as recordings of our findings on tape.  In addition to participating in an incredible  judging event, we enjoyed wines from the cellars of many of the participating judges.

In the last month I’ve had two exciting Australian wine encounters that rocked my world. First, Michael Twelftree – Proprietor & Managing Director of Two Hands Wines – visited the Wine.com offices. Listening to him as we tasted his wines was simply amazing. The intensity and passion he conveyed made the tasting an experience of a lifetime. I learned that Twelftree was very adamant about producing wines of integrity and elegance in order  to shed the preconception that Aussie wines are mostly big and brawny. Three weeks later, I attended a presentation by Sue Hodder – Senior Winemaker of Wynns Coonwarra Estates – and found the wines equally remarkable; they were wonderfully rich and well-balanced. Both winemakers had succeeded in convincing me that their country produces truly world class wines.

While Shiraz remains high on my charts of Australian wines, I am taking a new path and seriously looking at Cabernet Sauvignons. Two of my current favorites are the super-rich 2012 Two Hands Sexy Beast and the elegant yet persistent 2012 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon. Try either of these wines with a juicy steak and prepare to have your world rocked by Australia too!

Happy Bastille Day: Classic Bordeaux

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People often have the wrong idea of Bordeaux. While the names of Latour, Margaux and Pétrus dance so gracefully off of our collective tongues, these are not the wines that “regular” folks drink. Those of us who are more value drinkers are more in tuned with Bordeaux AOC, Bordeaux Superiore and Bordeaux Rosé (pink has risen up to the top of consumer awareness and is now being sought out).

In a recent trip to Bordeaux, those are the wines that I drank; never did one glass of the “big” name classifieds crossed my lips. Not that I would not have enjoyed a glass of Lafite, instead I ended up drinking what most everyone enjoys on a day-to-day basis and guess what? There was no less enjoyment to be found; the everyday Bordeaux took care of my needs quite nicely.

So what should we be drinking in everyday Bordeaux? Château Bonnet Blanc has been one of Bordeaux’s top white wines for more than a decade. Vintage after vintage, the wine shows pure fruit and crisp acidity as it finishes with a food pairing bite. The Château Bonnet Rosé is another winner, showing a shading of salmon and pink in its color; crisp and bright, the wine asks for a lightly grilled salmon. On the red side, I recommend the 2011 Domaines Baron Rothschild Reserve Speciale Rouge. The wine is straight-forward and delightfully balanced; perfect with grilled hamburgers.

Let us celebrate Bastille Day and liberate Bordeaux from the shackles of its high priced profile. Yes, the classifieds (1st to 5th growth) are wonderful, but mainstream Bordeaux values provide an everyday enjoyment that we can afford.

A serious pink that is a lot of fun!

11_09_13 Billecart-Salmon@Aleander's_640_BlogIn the world of pink (wines) no one can deny that Billecart-Salmon Champagne Rose is one of the kings of the wine world. Elegant, stylish and more fun, this serious wine is one of the world’s most renowned Champagnes. Made from Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, the winery actually positions this as a red wine. So don’t call it pink to their face, you may be the one who ends up blushing. An incredible food-pairing wine, I have often chosen this one with sashimi (yellow tail, red tuna, tuna belly…way yum).

The house of Billecart-Salmon goes back seven generations and is situated in the charming village of Mareuil-sur-Ay. Currently represented by the 6th generation, Francois and Antoine Roland-Billecart, this independent house seems to be in excellent hands. Chief winemaker, Francois Domi has been at the helm for nearly 30 years; the man has a great track record. Denis Blee, Director of the vineyard, has 20 years under his belt. With such a great production team, the vines cared for and respected. #champage #champagnerose #Billecartsalmon

Preparing Wine for Big Holiday Gatherings

Following up from our post from Omaha Steaks blog post share, we wanted to share some of our own wine tips for your holiday gatherings!

2 glasses- Have enough wine! The cardinal rule is never run out of wine, so always get a bit more than you expect to use. Make sure you get something you enjoy so that you can continue to drink the leftover bottles well after the party – my parents are still drinking the awesome sparkling wine we served at my sister’s wedding last year because we over-bought. But unlike ordering too many appetizers, the wine never goes bad, and you won’t hear them complain!
– Pre-chill. Make sure those bubbles and whites are well chilled before the event. Though ice buckets can be useful and fast, they can also be messy. If everything is well chilled, the bottles can be out a bit in room temperature and not get too warm, without you having to soak them.
– Pre-open. Here’s where I love screw cap wines - they are perfect for parties. For cork closures, make sure you open a few (especially for large gatherings) so you don’t have to take time away from checking on any food cooking.
– Make sure you have enough glassware, and make sure it’s clean! pre-count, make sure you have enough, and for large gatherings, have some wine charms to get you through the evening.
– Finally, don’t indulge too much. Hosts should be relaxed, but not too much so!