A day in the life of a wine judge

11_01_04 0830 SF Chron_221_Blog

What is a day like for me as a wine judge? Well, as fun as it sounds, a day of wine judging is a lot of work and responsibility.

As a wine judge and as a consumer, it’s good to know why wineries enter their wines into competitions. Wineries seek re-affirmation of the wines they have made, as well as awards to help market to consumers looking for a stamp of approval on quality. Wine judges have to be skilled and honest. All wines are tasted blind and judges have to be ready for a rigorous day of tasting. In most wine competitions, the day begins around 9:00 AM and often lasts until 4-5:00 PM. It is long and tiring, even for long-standing, experienced judges.

At the sound of my alarm clock, the judging day starts! I wonder who will be on my panel at this competition.  Will they be old friends or new ones?  Will they be experienced or newbies?  Of course all of this does not matter because I have a job to do. On most judging days, a panel will take on 125-175 wines. I look over the assignment list to see what our panel has drawn (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, etc.) Some competitions offer the judges a choice, but most assign you what they think you would like or can handle. In the end it does not matter, the job is to judge wines, and there are many.

The first flights arrive. We typically taste silently. The judges give their individual awards and the scores (Gold, Silver, Bronze and no medal) are recorded. We then break down the awards and arrive at a consensus for the panel’s group award. This goes on flight after flight until the day is done. All the while, I keep myself organized as I record my notes and scores for later use long after the competition has been completed. I drink lots of water, refresh my palate with crackers when needed and even roast beef to cut the tannins in red wines. You may be thinking: Does Wilfred ever gets tired? You bet I do, but the show goes on. Between flights, I will stretch my legs, take photos of the event and just take a breath.  It’s a long day, but I find it educational and enlightening.

I have been on the circuit for a long, long time. My wine judging career began in the mid 1980’s and has now spanned 30+ years, more than 200 competitions, 30,000+ wines and five countries (the United States, France, Spain, New Zealand and Australia). As an extreme wine researcher, covering all aspects of wine from vineyard to bottle, wine judging remains the finest equalizer. In a year’s time, blind tasting under these circumstances keeps my palate well grounded. If you give me a bottle of Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon to evaluate, my brain is already making qualitative decisions on the wine’s quality. In a blind tasting, my palate has control and the brain cannot influence it by knowing the price or producer. Over time, a wine taster improves in the understanding of what is in the bottle by tasting in different situations. Days as a wine judge are not always the most pleasurable, but they serve a great purpose.

 

 

How do you make rose? #DrinkPink

MiravalRose2Rose, rosado, rosato, vin gris, blush… whatever you choose to call it, it’s the season for drinking pink.  Like seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, we enjoy seeing the summer through a rose-colored wine glass.

While rose is delightful year round, it is especially popular during the summer months. Perhaps the image of sipping Provence rose on the Mediterranean beaches comes into play, but most likely it’s because rose is refreshing, unique and an ideal wine for aperitifs, picnics, BBQs and just about everything else going on in the summer.

Rose is most often (and almost always looking at the rose sold by Wine.com) made using red grape varietals. These grapes most often correlate to a wine’s region. Southern France focuses on Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault. Rosado from Spain is often Tempranillo or Grenache. Sangiovese-based Rosato from Italy, and then the California rose, which can be made from Pinot Noir, Rhone varieties and just about anything else.

Rose finds its pink color by utilizing brief contact with the red grape skins – much less contact than red wines. The length of time the wine spends with the skins, as well as the grape variety, determine the color of the rose. Longer time of course leads to a darker color, while shorter time results in a lighter-hued pink.  Rose presents a range of colors, from orange-salmon to deep-almost-purple . After skin contact, the juice is separated and fermented like a white wine.

With that in mind, rose is served cold, like white wines. These wines lack tannins due to the short time they spend with the grape skins. Pink wines offer bright acidity, red fruit flavors and excellent texture – flavors and structure of course vary by region and variety.

Stay tuned for more on rose, but in the meantime, check out my top rose picks!

Cheers to drinking pink this summer!

 

 

Introducing our brand new website!

You might have noticed that things look a little different around here. Scratch that, A LOT different. Welcome to our newly-redesigned website, created with you, the customer, at the very center. The first of many changes are now live, so we’d like to show you around.

blog_screen11

THE WORLD OF WINE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
It’s now easier to find the perfect bottle. Here’s how:

New navigation: Our main navigation has been re-organized and simplified with easy-to-use menu cards. You’ll find categories for Wine, Gifts and Discover (more on that one later). Categories like regions, varietals, and popular lists are now right there to see.

New expandable/collapse-able categories on the left side of every search page: Whether you’re shopping by price, vintage, region, or…anything really, there are now more ways than ever to narrow down to your desired list.

New gift categories: We re-organized our massive gift assortment into categories that make more sense, to help you find the right gift, for the right occasion, at the right price. Popular gift categories are easily accessible through our re-designed menu card in the website’s top navigation.

blog_screenwine

SHARING OUR PASSION FOR WINE
Our new look better captures our excitement for great wine. Whether you’re toasting major milestones or relaxing with friends on the weekend, wine represents the shared moments and memories of our daily lives. To reflect that, we added a few key touches to the website.

Remodeled homepage: Our goal is to help you better enjoy wine by providing a broad selection of great choices, offering help and advice when you need it and making shipping and delivery free and convenient for our customers. Those messages are now beautifully displayed right up front, where it counts.

Brilliant photography: You’ll notice that category pages are now topped by images showcasing the real vineyards, regions, and varietals that go into each wine.

THE PERSONAL TOUCH
Wine.com is so much more than a website that sells wine. We’re real people who enjoy wine (and food, and travel, and…the list goes on) as much as you do. Check out our new Discover menu in the top navigation to see the following features:

Live chat: Real-time, convenient help from a wine expert during business hours.

Easy-to-browse lists of wines recommended by our staff.

Quick suggestions on wines you might like based on your past purchases.

blog_screendiscover

These are just a few of the upgrades we’ve made to the Wine.com website. We’re always looking to improve the customer experience, so please check out the new site and let us know your feedback.

Many more exciting changes are in the works. Stay tuned and until then, Cheers from the Wine.com Team!

Wine Wedding Gift Guide

It’s wedding season! Since mriedel bliss decanterany of us are living alone before we tie the knot, when we do decide to co-habitate, we already have a set of dishes, flatware, throw pillows and the like. Our registry needs may not be what they once were. So skip the towels and cake platter and give the couple a gift of love – WINE. The wine-loving couple can never have too much wine, so here are some ideas for you to impress the lovely couple.

Wedding Milestone Gift Set ($99.99)
This trio of wines is a perfect way to celebrate the couple today, and give them  a way to celebrate over the next 5 years. It includes a bottle to pop open on their 1st, 3rd and 5th anniversaries. Beautiful package, meaningful gift.

Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle Coffret with 2 Flutes ($149.99)
Weddings are about celebration, Champagne is about celebration. Natural pairing. Laurent-Perrier is delicious on its own, but when gifted with two Champagne flutes in this lovey box, you have a perfect offering for the happy couple.

Riedel Bliss Decanter
Love and wine, this classic Riedel crystal decanter is a beautiful presentation and belongs in any wine-loving newlywed’s home.

So be the favorite guest at the wedding with one of these gifts!

It’s bubbles for June, of course!

13_07_19 1000 John Clark_400_Blog

What is so great about sparkling wines? Do they tickle our noses? Do they sparkle in our glasses? Are they fun to drink? Yes to all of the above and then some. For decades, bubbles in the glass have been used to toast, celebrate and dance the night away.  Now that we are in wedding season (June), sparkling wines and tying the knot are primed to be perfect partners.

Looking at the history of Champagne, Dom Pérignon (1638-1715), the monk and cellar master at the Benedictine abbey Hautvillers, is widely credited as one of the stars who helped improve the quality of Champagne. By the way, he did not invent or discover the champagne method, as some historians had implied. But without the good monk, the techniques of making sparkling wine may have taken a different path.

As a young wine professional, some 40 years ago, I found myself with one of the world’s finest Champagnes: Krug Grand Cuvée. By far one of my favorite sparkling wine memories. I just could not remember if the bottle or the room was spinning. All kidding aside, from Spanish Cava to Grand Cru Champagne, few wines provide smiles like a good bubbly. Sparkling and fun, there is a reason why they show up as invited guests at weddings, graduations (only for the adults, please) and other special moments. As I was looking at what to recommend, I found so many in my sweet spot that I couldn’t stop at three. I chose six that I felt needed to be showcased.

Bodegas Naveran Brut Cava 2011 is a sophisticated sparkler that is great when the whole family shows up and wants to dance the night away. Frisky, with appealing complexities, this is one of the best cavas in the marketplace. Also from Spain is the even more stylish Gramona Grand Cuvee Cava, dashing and almost handsome, this one is sure to sweep your guests off of their feet.

Going into one of the world’s secret sparkling wine regions, Adami Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut Bosco di Gica serves up seductive flavors reminiscent of the Champagne region of France. Many Americans enjoy drinking sparkling wines made in the USA and why not? Who can argue with the quality of the Domaine Carneros Brut 2009 or the Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs 2009? Time has already proven how outstanding both of those wines are. They taste delicious when they are released and age nicely over time.

You probably thought I forgot about Champagne from France!  Bruno Paillard Brut is one of the region’s finest. With plenty of fruit and complexity, this well balanced effort stands tall at the head of its class.

So go ahead and celebrate! Wine.com has sparkling wines from all over the world in a range of price points. You may also like to challenge the chef in the house to create a dish ideal for pairing with bubbles. You will be surprised how well it performs in a fine dining atmosphere.

The Official Wine.com Blog