Monday, July 28, 2008

GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology

New readers of this glossary will need to know that experienced tasters notes have a four-part sequence of events. When analysed, the remarks break down, in order, into perceptions about:

a) Colour/clarity of the wine when the wineglass is tilted and its contents viewed against a light source.

b) Smell - (known in the general sense as the "nose").

c) Taste - (first in the "mouth" or "palate", followed by the "finish").

Using these perceptions, the tasters attempt to communicate their feelings about the wine under review to others by descriptive words or phrases. The following glossary is an attempt to categorize those words/phrases.


All wines contain acetic acid - (ie: vinegar). Normally the amount is insignificant and may even enhance flavor. At a little less than 0.10% content, the flavor becomes noticable and the wine is termed acetic. Above 0.10% content is considered a strong fault. A related substance, ethyl acetate, contributes the smell associated with acetic acid content.

Acid ... term used to describe a tart or sour taste in the mouth when total acidity of the wine is high. Acidity ... term used on labels to express the total acid content of the wine. The acids referred to are citric, lactic, malic and tartaric. Desirable acid content on dry wines falls between 0.6% and 0.75% of the wines volume. For sweet wines it should not be less than 0.70% of the volume.

AFTERTASTE (see also FINISH, LENGTH) - a.k.a Farewell, Fairwell.
Term used to describe the taste left in the mouth after swallowing the wine. Both character and length of the aftertaste are part of the total evaluation. May be harsh, hot, soft and lingering, short, smooth, tannic, or nonexistent.

White wines tend to turn from a greenish hue in young wines to a yellowish caste/tone to a gold/amber color as they age. Reds usually possess a purple tone when young, turning to a deep red - (Bordeaux wines) - or a brick red color - (Burgundy wines) - detectable at the surface edge in a wineglass as they age. Rose's should be pink with no tinge of yellow or orange.

Cellar aged red wines at their peak will show a deep golden-orange color as it thins at the surface edge. If the wine color has deepened into a distinctly brown-orange tint at the edge it usually indicates a wine past its peak and declining.

This constituent of wine is a natural by-product of fermentation. It is one of the main pillars of perceived flavor, the others being "Acid", "residual Sugar" (and/or "Glycerin") and "Tannin". The presence of these components define a wine that has "good balance". For tablewines the wine label must, by law, state the alcohol content of the wine within the bottle, usually expressed as a percentage of the volume. Table wines do not usually exceed 14% alcohol content - (11% to 12.5% is generally considered the optimum amount) - although a few, such as the "jaune vin" of the Jura region of France are fermented in a special manner to attain consistently higher levels in the 14.5 to 15.5% range. Sweet dessert wines fall in the same range. Fortified wines - (eg: Sherry, Port etc) - range from 17% to 21% alcohol content.

The total effect of dominant, tart-edged flavors and taste impressions in many young dry wines. Has opposite meaning to round, soft or supple.

Refers to smell or aroma of a wine, usually carrying additional modifiers. "Ripe apples" describes a full, fruity, clean smell associated with some styles of Chardonnay wine. "Fresh apples" does the same for some types types of Riesling. "Green apple", however, is almost always reserved for wines made from barely ripe or underripe grapes. "Stale apples" applies almost exclusively to flawed wine exhibiting first stage oxidation.

AROMA (see also BOUQUET, NOSE below).
The intensity and character of the aroma can be assessed with nearly any descriptive adjective. (eg: from "appley" to "raisiny", "fresh" to "tired", etc.). Usually refers to the particular smell of the grape variety. The word "bouquet" is usually restricted to describing the aroma of a cellar-aged bottled wine.

"Ascescence" is the term used to mark the presence of acetic acid and ethyl acetate. Detected by sweet and sour, sometimes vinegary smell and taste along with a sharp feeling in the mouth.

Descriptive of wines that have a rough, puckery taste. Usually can be attributed to high tannin content. Tannic astringency will normally decrease with age. However, sometimes the wine fails to outlive the tannin.

ATTACK (see also LIGHT, THIN below).
The initial impact of a wine. If not strong or flavorful, the wine is considered "feeble". "Feeble" wines are sometimes encountered among those vinified in a year where late rain just before harvest diluted desirable grape content.

The winetaster liked it anyway; a slight put down for expensive wines, a compliment for others.

Usually used in description of dry, relatively hard and acidic wines that seem to lack depth and roundness. Such wines may soften a bit with age. Term often applied to wines made from noble grape varieties grown in cool climates or harvested too early in the season.

BACKBONE (see also BODY).
Refers to big, full-bodied red wines with evident tannin and/or acidity.

Describes a wine that retains youthful characteristics despite considerable aging. This usually indicates that it will take longer to reach maturity and requires even more aging in the bottle or barrel. Opposite of forward.

Denotes harmonious balance of wine elements - (ie: no individual part is dominant). Acid balances the sweetness; fruit balances against oak and tannin content; alcohol is balanced against acidity and flavor. Wine not in balance may be acidic, cloying, flat or harsh etc.

Equates with the ripe, sweet, fruity quality of blackberries, raspberries, cranberries and cherries. The aroma and taste of red wines, particularly Zinfandel, are often partly described with this adjective.

The overall flavor of a wine, white or red, that has full, rich flavors. "Big" red wines are often tannic. "Big" white wines are generally high in alcohol and glycerin. Sometimes implies clumsiness, the opposite of elegance. Generally positive, but context is essential - (eg: A Bordeaux red wine shouldn't be as "big" as a California Cabernet Sauvignon).

BITTER (see also SALTY, SOUR and SWEET).
One of the four basic tastes. A major source of bitterness is the tannin content of a wine. Some grapes - (Gewurztraminer, Muscat) - have a distinct bitter edge to their flavor. If the bitter component dominates in the aroma or taste of a wine it is considered a fault. Sweet dessert wines may have an enhanced bitter component that complements the other flavors making for a successful overall taste balance.

The effect on the taster's palate usually experienced from a combination of alcohol, glycerin and sugar content. Often described as "full", "meaty" or "weighty".

"Botrytis Cinerea", a mold or fungus that attacks grapes in humid climate conditions, causing the concentration of sugar and acid content by making grapes at a certain level of maturity shrivel. On the Riesling grape it allows a uniquely aromatic and flavorful wine to be made, resulting in the extraordinary "Beerenauslese" style of wine.

Near synonym for "aroma". Term generally restricted to description of odors from poured bottled wines.

Term used mainly to describe young red wines with high alcohol and tannin levels. Certain red wines from Amador County, California, can be examples. The mild epithet "tooth-stainers" is sometimes applied to this style of wine, denoting respect for strength.

Denotes the act of allowing the wine to "breathe"; ie: when wine is poured into another container, such as a wineglass, the admixture of air seems to release pent-up aromas which then become more pronounced, in many cases, as minutes/hours pass.

Term reserved for wines from the best grape varieties, the so-called "noble grapes". Denotes wines judged to have reached classical expectations of aroma, balance, structure and varietal character.

Denotes a wine having an aggressive, prickly taste best described as "peppery". Sometimes combined with the adjective "brawny" to characterize a young red wine with high alcohol and tannin content.

Very clear (and transparent in white wines) appearance with no visible particulates or suspensions. May be sign of flavor deficiency in heavily filtered wines.

Measurement system used for sugar content of grapes, wine and related products. A reading of 20 to 25 deg. Brix is the optimum degree of grape ripeness at harvest for the majority of table wines. A quick conversion method for users requiring Specific Gravity units of measurement is to take the Brix reading, deg. Brix (as Sucrose, for which most refractometers are calibrated), and multiply by 0.00425 and then add 0.9988 to the resulting number. This will give a close aproximation to the equivalent figure for the S.G of Sucrose at 20 deg. C. Ex: A Brix reading of 18 equals S.G. 1.074. Using the conversion technique above gives a figure of 1.075 which is close enough for most users.

Denotes ageing in a wine. Young wine color tints show no sign of such "browning". If possessed of good character and depth, a wine can still be very enjoyable even with a pronounced "brown" tint. In average wines this tint, seen along the wine surface edge in a tilted glass goblet, normally signals a wine is "past its peak", although still very drinkable.

Describes taste sensation found in better white wines, particularly Chardonnay.

Refers to the perfumed fresh fruit aromas and flavors of the grape which can be attractive in wines made for early consumption. These include pink Rose style, "nouveau" Beaujolais etc. Many consider it a less desirable characteristic in longer-aging reds and better whites.

Aroma component often found in fine red wines.

A patronizing comment applied to wines that don't quite fulfil the first expectations. Implies lightness, an expression of "attitude". Sometimes used to describe certain wines made from the Chenin Blanc grape and styled after a type of wine originating from the Loire region of France.

Refers to a high total tannic component of a wine. Figuratively, one cannot swallow this wine without chewing first.

Near synonym for "tobacco" aroma detected in the nose, especially if a "cedarwood" component is present. Spanish cedarwood is the traditional material for making cigar boxes.

Describes aroma and flavor reminiscent of citrus fruits. Most common is a perception of "grapefruit" content. Most often detected in white wines made from grapes grown in cooler regions of California or other countries.

Term descriptive of currently poor character definition but with all the correct characteristics. Usually expected to develop with age. Applies mainly to young, intense wines vinified for long life expectancy.

Opposite of clear. Noticable cloudiness is undesirable except in cellar aged wines that have not been decanted properly. A characteristic of some unfiltered wines showing the result of winemaking mistakes and often possessing an unpleasant taste.

CLOYING (see also SWEET below).
Excessive sugar component annoys with dominating flavor and aftertaste. The wine is then demonstrably unbalanced relative to the other components.

Almost a synonym for "breed". Possesses that elusive quality where many layers of flavor separate a great wine from a very good one. Balance combines all flavor and taste components in almost miraculous harmony.

Wine has unpleasant taste/smell. Reason is thought to be chemical changes in the wine due to insufficiently sterilized cork stopper inserted at bottling source.

Refers to "silk-like" taste component of wines subjected to malolactic fermention as opposed to the "tart/crisp" taste component of the same wine lacking the treatment. Almost a synonym for "buttery". Opposite of "crisp".

Wine has pronounced but pleasing tartness, acidity. Fresh, young and eager, begs to be drunk. Generally used to describe white wines only, especially those of Muscadet de Sevres et Maine from the Loire region of France.

A method by which cellar-aged bottled wine is poured slowly and carefully into a second vessel, usually a glass decanter, in order to leave any sediment in the original bottle before serving. Almost always a treatment confined to red wines. The traditional method uses a candle flame as the light for illuminating the neck of the bottle while the wine is passing by. The low intensity of the light is ideal for viewing since it does not strain the eyes. Care must be taken NOT to allow the flame to heat the wine while performing this ritual.

Any wine demonstrating somewhat mild, but attractive characteristics. Occasionally used to describe well-made wines from the so-called "lesser grape" varieties.

Refers to a premium wine that demands more attention, it fills the mouth with a developing flavor, there are subtle layers of flavor that go "deep."

Has two meanings:
Fortified wine - eg: Sherry - where alcohol is added in the form of Brandy or neutral spirits.
Sweet or very sweet wines of any alcohol level customarily drunk with dessert or by themselves and usually in small amounts.

Everything present in this wine is immediately obvious.

DIRTY (see also YEASTY/YEASTLIKE below).
Describes any of the undesirable odours that can be present in a wine that that was poorly vinified. A characteristic imparted by improperly cleaned barrels or various other processes performed incorrectly. Usually detected first in a wine by the smell of the cork stopper or from a barrel sample. Not to be confused with corked wines where the stopper is thought to be responsible.

Description of a wine made deliberately to possess little or no sweetness. Commonly defined as containing less than about 0.5% residual sugar.

Characteristic description of a young wine with yet-to-develop aromas and flavours. A synonym for "closed-in". Named so because it seems "unable to speak".

Covers situations where a "mother-earth" component is present. Earth is soil-dirt, but an earthy wine is not dirty as in "DIRTY" above. The term appears to be applicable to wine thought, by some, to be made from grapes grown on vines planted in land previously used for growing certain vegetables containing components which "marked" the soil in some way. European tasters use the term in a broader sense to describe "terroir" characteristics.

Undemanding but pleasant, doesn't require good taste, just tastes good.

What to say when there is great balance and grace in the wine, but you can't quite find apt words of description. Almost a synonym for "breed".

ESSENCE (see also NOSE below).
Two meanings:
Refers to "odor kits" containing vials of representative flavor essence.
Used occasionally by wineries to describe a late harvest, sweet red wine. Most frequently appears on bottle labels for Zinfandel red wine made from grapes picked at 35 deg. Brix or higher sugar content.

A substance which contributes the smell associated with acetic acid content.

Refers to the coloring imparted to wines during the fermentation process by the skins of the grapes used. Can also occur in the further step known as "maceration" where new wine is allowed to steep with the skins again. This second step usually results in a "highly extracted" style of wine, deeply colored with strong flavors and tannin. Rose's, (aka "blush" wines), are normally made by limiting contact with the skins, the opposite of "extraction".

Fills the mouth without aggression. The wine "feels" and tastes a little obvious and often lacks elegance but is prized by connoisseurs of sweet dessert wines. Not quite right even for a late harvest Moselle Riesling, but just right for a classic Sauternes. Fatness/oiliness is determined by the naturally occurring glycerol - (a.k.a glycerin) - content in the wine.

Wines that have had suspended particulates resulting from the fermentation process removed. Important for future clarity and stability of a wine.

Use of various materials for clarifying wines. These materials precipitate to the bottom of the fermentation process vessel carrying any suspended particulate matter with them.

As in "this wine has a (whatever) finish".

Attacks the palate with acid or tannic astringency. Suggests that the wine is young and will age. Nearly always a positive comment and very desirable with highly flavored foods.

FLAT (see also MEAGER, THIN).
Opposite of "firm". Usually indicates very low acidity, so tasting insipid and lacking flavor.

Refers to both body and texture. A fleshy wine tastes fatter than a meaty wine, exhibiting some excess oiliness if too pronounced. Often suggests great smoothness and richness.

Synonym for "stoney". Derived from French phrase "gout de pierre a fusil", literally a smoky, whiff of gunflint, almost acrid taste. These terms are presumably metaphorical approximations based on the flavor sensations allegedly present in wines made from grapes grown on a limestone/silica rich terroir. "Flinty" describes an initial evaluation indicating a young white wine made from cool region grapes under cold fermentation conditions. Characterized by high acidity, a tactile "mouthfeel" that is filling and yet has a flavor sensation that is cleanly "earthy".

Suggests the aroma or taste, usually aroma, of flowers in wine. "Floral" usually employed as an adjective without modifier to describe attributes of white wine aromas. Few red wines have floral aromas.

Opposite of "closed-in" or, as used by some, backward. Means presence of "fruitiness" is immediately apparent. Usually employed as a term denoting that the wine is in peak condition and on its plateau of maturity.

Common descriptive word used to note the presence of the unique musky and grapey character attached to native american Vitis. labrusca grapes such as the Concord or Catawba varieties. Derived from the french phrase "gout de renard" which literally translates as "odor" or "taste" of fox, but means something more like "presence of fox" in the intangible sense. The aroma and flavors defy verbal description. The best way to imprint "foxiness" in the memory is to mentally compare the flavors of fresh Concord grapes and any fresh California table grape. Most people find the juice or jelly from the Concord grape quite sprightly and delicious. In dry table wines that same flavor is considered obtrusive and even quite disagreeable.

Implies the lively fruity acidity, maybe a little bite of acid, found in youthful light reds, rose's and most whites. All young whites should be fresh. The opposite is flatness, staleness.

Used for any quality that refers to the body and richness of a wine made from good, ripe grapes. A fruity wine has an "appley", "berrylike" or herbaceous character. "Fruitiness" usually implies a little extra sweetness.

As opposed to "thin" or "thin-bodied". Fills the mouth, has a winey taste, alcohol is present, the wine has "weight on the tongue".

1970's jargon word. Defies precise definition. Used by some Canadian tasters when reviewing provincial Liquor Control Board offerings.

Descriptive term for one of the flavors/aromas considered particular to Burgundian style Pinot Noir red wines. Reminiscent of taste and flavor associated with cooked wild duck and other "gamey" meats. Thought to to be caused by contamination with "brett" - (brettanomyces strain of yeast). Sometimes referred to as "animale" by french winemakers or "sweaty saddle" by Australians. Considered a major flaw when flavour is overly-pronounced.

Gives a sweet taste on the tongue tip. Higher concentrations are found in high-alcohol and late-harvest wines, leading to sensations of smooth slipperiness giving a sense of fullness to the wine body. Is a natural by-product of the fermentation process.

Grapefruit flavours are characteristic of cool-climate Chardonnays. See citrusy above.

GRAPEY (see also VITIS LABRUSCA elsewhere).
Content has simple flavors and aromas reminiscent of a certain type of fresh wine or table grape. Used by some as adjective alternate for "foxy".

Slightly vegetal-tasting undertone often part of the overall character of Sauvignon Blanc and certain other grape varietals. European tasters sometimes use the word "gooseberry" to describe this flavor. In minute presence it can enhance flavors. As it becomes more dominant the more it loses appeal leading to unattractiveness.

GREEN (see also ANGULAR).
Strictly applied refers to the taste of wines made with underripe fruit. More loosely used it refers to some white wines, especially Riesling, possessing the greenish colour tint indicating youth; does not necessarily mean the sour and/or grassy taste of unripe fruit content as well.

High acidity and/or tannin content leading to a sensation of dryness in the mouth, a degree of puckery-ness. Useful for detecting young red wines suitable for aging. Characteristic preferred in dry white wines that will accompany shellfish.

Very astringent wines, usually with high alcohol component, often have this rough, rustic taste characteristic. May become more tolerable with ageing but also may not be worth the wait.

Refers to wines with slight particulate content when viewed against the light. Occurs most often in unfiltered or unfined wines where there is no need to worry. If the haziness is intense enough to cause loss of clarity however it may indicate a flawed wine.

HEARTY (see also STURDY).
Most often applied in description of full, warm qualities found in red wines with high alcohol component. Examples are found in the sturdier so-called "jug wines", some California Zinfandels, lesser French Rhone or Algerian red wines and in the occasional lesser Australian Shiraz.

Adjective used in description of wine with taste and aroma of herbs, (usually undefined). Considered to be a varietal characteristic of Cabernet Sauvignon, and to less extent, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

Missing middle between "attack" and "finish". Caused by too many grapes on insufficiently pruned vines. If very noticeable, called "empty".

HOT (see also AFTERTASTE).
Defines a wine high in alcohol and giving a prickly or burning sensation on the palate. Accepted in fortified wines, but not considered as a particularly desirable attribute in Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. Positively undesirable in light, fruity wines, (eg: Moselle Rieslings).

Word most often encountered in descriptions of California Zinfandel wines made with Amador County grapes. Refers to the natural berrylike taste of this grape.

Somewhat analogous to "vegetal". Desirable in minute detectable amounts, if adding to notes of complexity in the wine.

LEAN (see also BODY, THIN elsewhere).
More body would be good, sort of thin in the mouth, often too much astringency, sometimes a compliment for certain styles.

LEES (see also NUTTY).
Refers to residual yeast and other particles that precipitate, or are carried by the action of "fining", to the bottom of the fermentation vessel. US winemakers use the term "mud". Imparts distinctive flavors to the wine depending on type. Derived from French term "lies" as in "sur lies".

LEGS (see also FIRM, TEARS).
Two interpretations.
Term used when referring to the liquid rivulets that form on the inside of a wineglass bowl after the wine is swirled in order to evaluate the alcohol concentration present. Usually the higher the alcohol content, the more impressive the rivulets appear because of reduced surface tension effects. (Some still cling to the erroneous belief that glycerin content causes these rivulets). Valuable technique when used in "blind" tasting competitions.
Alternatively, is used by some as a near synonym for "balance" as in "This wine has _legs_", ie: underpinnings. Indicates the wine has all the basic characteristics looked for in when making an initial assessment.

Descriptive of a somewhat acidic white wine. These wines contain flavors reminiscent of that fruit. Apart from that, may be well balanced in all other respects, sometimes with a touch of extra sweetness.

How long the total flavor lasts in the back of the throat after swallowing. Counted in time-seconds. Ten seconds is good, fifteen is great, twenty is superb. Almost a synonym for "finish", as in "this is a wine with an long, extraordinary finish".

Low alcohol and/or sugar. Since about 1981 a wine containing fewer calories per comparable serving than a regular glass of wine has been legally designated as such. Used as a tasting term, "light" is usually a polite expression meaning "watery".


Almost a synonym for fresh. Implies detection of barely discernible spritzyness. Applies most often to white wines, but some reds also qualify.

LUSH (see also SWEET below).
Describes impression of wines with high amounts of residual sugar. Adjective almost entirely reserved for sweet dessert wines.

Distinctive brown color in wine due usually to period of air exposure. Regarded as synonym for "oxidized". Originates from the taste/appearance of Madeira wines. "Sherrified" is commonly used synonym.

Secondary fermentation occasionally detected in bottled wines. Its action converts the naturally occurring Malic acid into Lactic acid plus Carbon Dioxide gas. Reduces total acidity by this action. Since the gas is contaminated with undesirable odors, if it remains trapped in the bottle it becomes a minor fault unless allowed to dissipate. Malolactic fermentation is a commonly used technique for reducing the sharpness of cool climate Chardonnays and the Lactic acid component gives an admired "creamy" or "buttery" texture.

Describes the odor of Sulphur Dioxide gas, described by some as similar to the smell of "burnt matches", found in minute amounts very occasionally trapped in bottled white wines. Dissipates with airing or decanting.

Lacks "body" and "depth". Has definite feeling of flavor dilution. Seems to occur in some select varietal wines vinified from grapes subjected to late season rain, although there are other explanations as well.

MEATY (see also FAT, OILY).
With much body as though you could chew it. The reference is to lean meat, so indicates less body present than "fleshy".

Wines possessing intense flavors which seem to affect every sensory nerve in the mouth. Usually slightly high glycerin component, slightly low acid.

A wine that displays unpleasant "mildew" or "moldy" aromas. Results from improperly cleaned storage vessels, moldy grapes or cork.

Not the fleshy sense-organ/projection on the human face. Is near synonym word for "aroma" and includes "bouquet". Strictly applied it refers to the totality of the detectable odor, (grape variety, vinous character, fermentation smells), whether desirable or defective, found in a wine. One would speak of a mature wine as having, for example, "varietal aromas, flowery bouquet and hint of vanilla oak combining to give balanced nose".

The sense organs of the human nose can be educated by the use of purchased odor comparison kits known by such names as "Le Nez du Vin", "Component Collection" or "Winealyser". These can sometimes be obtained at the various Home Wine Makers mail suppliers (etc.) around the country.

NOUVEAU (a.k.a. "Nuevo").
Indicates young, immediately drinkable wine - (eg: "nouveau Beaujolais").

Table wines that have been exposed to air display this aroma which resembles that of certain sherry wines. Considered a flaw by some in red wines, but a desired flavor component in certain white wines by others. (eg: Chardonnays with extended "lees" contact in the fermentation vessel).

The taste or aroma of freshly sawn oak. When a wine, especially a red, is "oaked" just right, the "nose" will carry a bare whiff of vanilla aroma. Sometimes, oak flavors overpower other component wine flavors, in which case it is considered overoaked. Oak flavor is introduced from contact with storage barrels made from that wood. New oak barrels contribute stronger flavor to a wine than older storage barrels. The "oaky" components encountered include "vanillin", and so-called "toasty" "charred" or "roasted" elements. "Vanillin" comes from the character of the hardwood. The three others derive from the "charring" of the barrel which occurs from heating the iron stave-rings which hold the barrel staves in place after contraction and the flaming of the interior.

OILY (see also FAT, GLYCERIN/GLYCEROL elsewhere)
Describes the vaguely fat, slippery sensation on the palate in contact with the combination of high glycerin and slightly low acid content. Mostly encountered in high quality Chardonnays and late harvest sweet wines.

Some bottled cellar-aged red wines possess the peculiarity that, when the cork is first pulled and the wine poured, the full flavors do not immediately make an appearance. However, after the passage of several minutes in an open glass goblet, the wine develops unsuspected flavor characteristics that can verge on the sublime. This phenomenon is referred to as "opening-up". Conversely, these flavors can disappear just as fast in just 30 minutes, leaving a subsequent impression of a flat, stale, "over-the-hill" and/or mediocre wine.

A grape precondition necessary for making certain styles of Californian Zinfandel wines. Left on the vine to dry in the sun, certain grape varietals will develop the desirable "raisiny" character and concentrated sugar necessary for making specialty wines such as the famous Hungarian Tokay.


Term almost solely applied to "spicy" wines, such as Gewurztraminer among the whites, or the red Rhone Syrah and Australian Shiraz wines. Component which can almost be described as pungent in quality, being reminiscent of anise, cinnamon etc.

Synonym for "floral". Implies also a degree of extra residual sugar.

The diminutive of "fat", also implying a degree of "charm" as well.

Even less balanced than a "hearty" or "sturdy" wine. The sole impact is one of high alcohol and "body" character. Little or no acid/tannin content. An everyday red wine, similar to a french "vin ordinaire" country wine sold by alcohol content, can be an example.

Close to being a synonym for BRAWNY.

Overripe, sun-dried grapes can induce an undesirable pungent quality into table wines; sometimes compared to "the taste of dried prunes".

Synonym for ASTRINGENT.

Traditional method of wine clarification. Sequential transfer of wine to several containers, each transfer leaving behind some particulate matter.

Mildly rich flavor due to excessive heat in the growing area which dries out grapes still on the vine. Considered a fault in most dry table wines.

Term for well-balanced wines. Mostly refers to reds, such as Zinfandel, which normally turn "powerful" in the barrel. Almost a synonym for "elegant".

Percentage, by weight or volume, of the unfermented grape sugar in a bottled wine.

Giving a full, opulent flavor impression without necessarily being sweet. Richness supplied by alcohol, glycerin and oak vanilla nuances in dry wine. The sweeter wines qualify for this adjective if also characterized by ripe, fruity flavors.

Refers to edge of wine surface as seen through a "ballon" (goblet) style wineglass held at an angle of about 30-40 deg. from the vertical and viewed against white piece of paper or cloth using natural light. Used in evaluation of wine age. In "blind" tasting is about the only way to get an informed perception about the probable life and/or condition of the wine from that date on.

Favorable adjective bestowed when the varietal characteristics of the grape are optimally present in a well balanced wine. Ripe-tasting wines tend toward being slightly more fruity and sweet than otherwise normal wines.

ROBUST (see also BRAWNY).
Vigorous, full with a lot of heart, a big scaled wine.

Smell of Hydrogen Sulphide gas in wine. Thought to be a characteristic imparted by certain yeast strains. A decided flaw.

Flavor or texture give no pleasure. Acidity and/or tannin are predominant and coarse.

ROUND (see also REFINED).
Describes flavors and tactile sensations giving a feeling of completeness with no dominating characteristic. Almost the same as fat, but with more approval. Tannin, acid and glycerin are sufficiently present but appear as nuances rather than distinct flavors.

Synonym for "rough".

One of the four basic taste sensations detected by the human tongue. Sensed by the taste buds that lie close to the tip of the tongue and just behind.

SHARP (see also CRISP, HARD).
Excess acid predominates, disturbing the otherwise balanced flavors.

Normal, everyday, well-vinified table wine of straightforward character.

Apparently has two meanings:
Some use the word in the same sense as the smell/flavor that separates smoked (anything) from ordinary (anything).
Refers to aroma contributed by the charred oakwood in barrels. It can have a variety of impressions - (eg: such as the remains of a burnt-out fire). Needs a variant, such as "wood-smoke" or "barbeque smoke" or "sooty" to fully convey the meaning.

SOFT (see also LIGHT).
Generally has low acid/tannin content. Also describes wines with low alcohol content. Consequently has little impact on the palate.

SOUR (see also CRISP, SHARP).
Almost a synonym for ACIDIC. Implies presence of acetic acid plus excess acid component. (Is also one of the four basic taste sensations detected by the human tongue).

Almost a synonym for "peppery". Implies a softer, more rounded flavor nuance however.

SPRITZY (see also LIVELY).
Considered a fairly minor fault stemming sometimes from the onset of a brief secondary malolactic fermentation in the bottle. Consists of pinpoint carbonation typically released when the bottle cork is pulled. Frowned on more if occurring in white wines vinified to be dry.

STALE (see also TANKY).
Wine with lifeless, stagnant qualities. Usually found in wines that were kept in large vessel storage for an excessive length of time.

Describes a _set_ of perceptions that seem to indicate a relatively young white wine fermented from ripe, but not overly so, grapes under cold fermentation conditions. Classic examples are made from Chardonnay grapes in the Chablis region of France. Wines from the Carneros region of the Napa Valley in California are sometimes so described as well. High acidity coupled with a tactile, mouth-filling sensation that has a cleanly "earthy" flavor characterize this type of wine. Term is commonly used to describe initial impact, as in "Ah, _thats_ a flinty", (or stoney), "wine".

The flavor plan, so to speak. Suggests completeness of the wine, all parts there. Term needs a modifier in order to mean something - (eg: "brawny" etc).

STURDY (see also HEARTY)

STYLISH (see also LIVELY).
The style is bold and definite, jaunty and a little pesky.

Term often used for young reds which should be more aggressive. More lively than an easy wine with suggestions of good quality. The near synonym "amiable" is also sometimes employed but does not quite emphasise the extra connotation of "leanness" implied.

Refers to one of the four basic tastes detected by the sensory nerves of the human tongue. In the description of wine taste-flavor the term "sweet" is almost always used as an identifier denoting the presence of residual sugar and/or glycerin. Wine aromas require a descriptive term to identify the source of the perceived sensation - (eg: "ripe", "lush").

Synonym for "stale".

A naturally occurring substance in grapeskins, seeds and stems. Is primarily responsible for the basic "bitter" component in wines. Acts as a natural preservative, helping the development and, in the right proportion, balance of the wine. It is considered a fault when present in excess.

Descriptive term used when comparing odor detected in the "nose" of a wine with similar odor retained in a memory trained by the use of a comparison kit of scent essences. Such kits include tar, mercaptan, apricots, mushrooms and other flavoring essences isolated from wines.

TART (see also SHARP, SOUR).
Synonym for "acidic".

The four basic sensations detectable by the human tongue. The tip of the tongue contains the taste receptors registering "sweetness". Just a little further back, at the sides, taste will appear "salty". Behind that, flavour will have a "sour" taste at the sides, finally dissolving into "bitterness" at the near center-rear of the tongue.

TEARS (see also ALCOHOL).
Synonym for "legs".

TERROIR (see also EARTHY, FLINTY above).
French language term for all the characteristics of the vineyard site thought to be imparted to a particular wine. It is a term that includes geographic, geological, climatic and other attributes that can affect an area of growth as small as a few square metres.

Opposite of "full-bodied".

A term for young wines. Almost an synonym for "dumb".

Other, similar descriptors are "caramel" and "toffee". Some also add spicy flavours, such as "cinnamon" or "cloves".

Descriptive term, used by some, to describe a flavor component resembling the taste of raw tobacco leaf in the finish of certain red wines. Seems to mainly apply to Cabernet Sauvignons from Bordeaux, France or the Napa region of California. "Cigarbox" is a common term often used as a near synonym especially if a cedar-wood note in the aroma is detected. (Non-smokers may have trouble with this word and its implication).

Resulting flavor when grapes that failed to reach optimum maturity on the vine are used in the vinification process.

Opposite of "filtered". However, does not exclude other clarifying processes such as "fining" etc.

Opposite of "fined". However, does not exclude other clarifying processes such as "filtering" etc.

Component detectable in the "nose" of a wine. The novice taster can compare odors with the vials of artificial ones provided in kit form.

Component contributed by oakwood barrel staves. Considered to add a degree of "sweetness" to red wines when present in barely detectable amounts, so adding to a desirably complex style prized by connoisseurs.

The particular flavor characteristics associated with a grape picked at optimum maturity - (eg: distinctive "berrylike" taste of California Zinfandels, "blackcurrants" of Cabernet Sauvignon etc).

Considered a flavor flaw when present in distinctive amounts over and above that occurring naturally in the grape. "Grassy" has somewhat the same connotation.

VINOUS (see also SIMPLE).
Akin to "amiable". Nothing basically wrong with the wine, just has no impact on the taster. Implies good "character" in that characteristics of a certain grape fruitiness are detectable but apparent lack of other flavor nuances amount to a dull experience.

The grape species believed to be an impure, cross-pollinated version of the wild grape native to North America. Makes tasty juice, jelly but has wine flavor often termed as "foxy".

The premier grape species used for the world's most admired wines. Also referred to as the "European vine".

VOLATILE (see also HARSH).
Powerful, attack aroma. Usually denotes high level of acidity, alcohol and/or other flavor faults.

Possesses high alcohol flavor offset by counterbalancing flavors and other desirable qualities. Unlike "hot", is a positive attribute.

Synonym for MEAGER or THIN.

WEIGHTY (see also BODY).
Well-structured/balanced wines with an implication of mildly excessive flavor or "heaviness".

Contains all of the essential elements - (ie: alcohol, flavors, acid or astringency etc) - in good proportions.

Almost a synonym for OAKY. However, implies an overstay in a wooden container which resulted in the absorption of other wood flavors besides "oak".

Term describing odors deriving from varietal yeasts carried on grapeskins, molds etc. Includes both desirable and undesirable characteristics. Examples would be the presence of "brett" - (brettanomeyces) - a strain of yeast that produces "gamey/smokey" odors that are considered to add to the character of the wine when barely detectable. Considered a flaw when presence is pronounced. Another, similar example is the "dekkera" wild yeast strain which gives a "fresh dirt/cement-y" flavor component.

Anthony Hawkins and Tom Beard

Ruling Turns a Village of Winemakers on Itself

A view of the wine production area of Château Figeac in St.-Émilion, where wines are re-classified every 10 years.

ST.-ÉMILION, France — For François Despagne, it was the challenge of his lifetime.

His family owned the same vineyard in this southwestern part of France for seven generations. But in 1996, in the reclassification of St.-Émilion wines that occurs roughly every 10 years, Château Grand Corbin-Despagne was downgraded from grand cru classé, one of the highest ratings.

The family disagreed but did not challenge the ruling in court.

“When you’re declassified, you’re the ugly little duckling,” Mr. Despagne said. “People lose faith in you.” The blow is also financial.

One Bordeaux broker called him then and said: “You’re in trouble, you’re declassified. I’ll buy your stock for half price,” Mr. Despagne recalled, still disgusted. “It was hard, morally.”

Mr. Despagne, trained as a biologist and oenologist, went to work. He persuaded his family and the banks to invest some $2 million to modernize the business. More important, he dug 150 holes to analyze the soil on his 66 acres and identified 53 parcels. Where the soil was richest, he grew grass between the rows of vines to force the roots to dig deeper. He put in 27 new vats to make smaller batches, and reduced yield by 25 percent to get a more concentrated wine.

In September 2006, his labor and his family’s faith were rewarded. Although the new classification downgraded 11 other chateaus, it restored Grand Corbin-Despagne to grand cru classé, and Mr. Despagne printed new labels, brochures, corks, capsules and wooden cases. The family celebrated; the workers had a huge party.

But then the bomb went off this year. On July 1, an administrative court, hearing an extended appeal from seven of the newly declassified chateaus, threw out the entire 2006 classification — and threw Mr. Despagne and others who had been promoted into fury and confusion.

The ruling has set families against one another in this beautiful medieval village of 2,500 souls who know one another, marry one another and go to Mass together. Declared a protected site by Unesco in 1999, St.-Émilion, where the Romans cultivated wine grapes, is dominated by a church and a prison tower built in the 13th century.

Now this little area, which contains 770 winegrowers on 13,800 acres classified as St.-Émilion and St.-Émilion grand cru, produces some 32.1 million bottles a year of some of Bordeaux’s finest and most expensive wines. It represents an enormous collective business, with built-in rivalries, that combines science, farming, public relations, fantasy, taste and tough tactics.

And now, judicial and commercial confusion.

The court agreed with the plaintiffs that, because the already classified wines were tasted at a different time than the candidate wines, and because some domains were visited and some not, the classification was “arbitrary” — even though the same procedure had been followed in 1996.

Faced with no classification for the 2006 vintage, which was just being bottled, the French Legislature restored the 1996 classification for three years, or until all court appeals are finished or a new classification is made. That is fine for most, and especially for those just demoted — but it means agony for Mr. Despagne and the others promoted in 2006 who had their reward ripped away.

Mr. Despagne spits out the words, like a bad vintage: “It’s not good for the image of St.-Émilion, it’s not good for justice and it’s not good for the community of St.-Émilion.”

The ruling also punished two other chateaus, Pavie Macquin and Troplong Mondot. They were elevated in 2006 to the rarefied air of premier grand cru classé B, which brings even more rarefied prices.

Xavier Pariente, who owns Troplong Mondot with his spouse, is beside himself.

“We are the laughingstock of everyone; everyone feels this injustice that we are living,” Mr. Pariente said. “If we wanted to damage St.-Émilion, there would be no better way.” Jean-Pierre Taleyson, the cellar master, said, “When I heard about the judgment, I nearly started to cry.”

For Nicolas Thienpont, director of Pavie Macquin, the court ruling is like “a donkey on the roof.” It is absurd, he said, “to promote the troublemakers while the good students get demoted.” He has already bottled and labeled his 2006 vintage under the new, higher classification, expecting a final ruling to confirm the promotions. “It’s a risk, but I feel morally premier grand cru classé,” he said. “We worked 10 years for this!”

Even the patriarch of St.-Émilion, Thierry Manoncourt, 90, who owns the magnificent Château Figeac, has his grievances. His wine was not affected by the 2006 classification, but his application to be promoted from premier grand cru classé B to A — to join the two most elevated names in the region, Ausone and Cheval Blanc — was denied again.

Not because of the quality of the wine, the reviews, the elegance of the chateau or any other obvious reason, he fumed. “But because they said my prices were not as high! It’s a circle — you can’t sell at the same price because you’re not premier grand cru classé A!”

Mr. Manoncourt has the standing to reject some of the slavish following of the preferences of wine raters like Robert M. Parker Jr., whose influence over the American market remains extraordinary. Mr. Parker likes deeply colored Bordeaux, so many here alter the temperature of their first maceration to extract the most color, even if it slightly affects the taste. Mr. Manoncourt, offering a glass of a 2001 Château Figeac that Mr. Parker did not like at a first tasting, recalled saying, “Cher Bob, I don’t manufacture ink.”

As to the current uproar, Mr. Manoncourt said gently, “It’s always unpleasant when there’s a controversy — especially when it’s not very transparent.” And when, he implied, there is so much money and pride at stake.

Pierre Lurton, who runs Château Cheval Blanc for the multinational LVMH, said he approved of the regular reclassification of St.-Émilion wines, which he called “courageous” because it kept winemakers on their toes.

But the court ruling, Mr. Lurton said, “puts everything into disequilibrium. It’s confusing, and it gives the sense there’s something wrong in the system.” For Mr. Despagne, he said, “it’s totally unjust — it’s like he regained heaven, and now he’s thrown back into purgatory.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

5 Tips For A Memorable Wine Tasting Party

A wine tasting party is a great way to get friends and family together to learn wine and experiment with different varieties of wine and appetizers. Wine appreciation is a great hobby to share with friends and family and if you decide to host a wine tasting party, you can range from a formal gathering to an informal, fun party. The friends and family wine tasting party should be based on the type of people that will be invited. Wine enthusiasts and hobbyists in the friends and family gathering would be the best resource for selecting wines. If friends and family are not big wine enthusiasts, then a nice informal occasion can be used to learn and experiment with wine and foods. Preferably, a wine tasting party should have a light, fun and informal atmosphere.

Preparation and Invitations for the Wine Tasting Party
In order to prepare for the wine tasting party, you will want to purchase plastic or glass wine glasses in two varieties. The tall, slender glasses are best for sparkling and white wines while round, wide-rimmed glasses are best for red wines. You will also want water glasses for rinsing the mouth and foam cups for spitting in if necessary.

Include dump buckets for pouring out left over wine and don’t forget the paper napkins and plates. You may also want to purchase a large plastic appetizer platter. Also, print off a wine tasting party tally sheet for family and friends to record what they like and dislike about each wine while they experiment.

Rita Fae

Removing Red Wine Stains on Carpets

Red wine stains on carpets can ruin an evening if you are not prepared. A light colored carpet, a bottle of Merlot and a frisky cat or toddler or some overly zealous adults can add up to a wine stain disaster. There are many tried and true remedies for removing wine stains on carpets, but there are some remover’s that simply do not work as well. Prepare for red wine stains on carpets by knowing what works and what does not.

Never ‘rub’ or ‘scrub’ red wine stain on carpets. This does two things, first it rubs the stain into the carpet instead of blotting the red wine stain out of the carpet and secondly it frays the natural and synthetic fibers of the carpet.

The longer a stain sits, the more it will set and removing wine stains becomes hard. If there is not enough time to use a home remedy mixture to remove the red wine stains on carpets, pour salt or club soda on the stain to prevent the red wine stain from setting into the carpet.

Salt is a classic remedy for red wine stains on carpets. Salt can be used for removing wine stains when the stain is still fresh. When the red wine stain is still fresh, cover with regular iodinated table salt until the salt is no longer absorbing the stain. The salt will change color. Allow the salt to dry and vacuum the stain away. However, this method does not work with all red wine stains on carpets all of the time.

Rita Fae

Wine Basics

Understanding wine basics might seem like a complicated process, but in reality, it’s rather easy to understand. Viticulture, or the growing of grapes for wine, has been a time-honored tradition for literally thousands of years. The practice is so old that it is even mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. But wine basics have remained traditionally the same, with just a few additional practices, thanks to the onset of modern technology.

Wine comes from a variety of grapes, but don’t confuse grapes used for viticulture with those you find at your local grocer. Unlike the grapes you eat, wine grapes are usually tart and bitter in taste. Understanding wine basics means knowing the grapes available to winemakers. Wine grapes are numerous in varietals, but many vineyards all over the world rely on a few basic types. The main variety of red grapes used in winemaking are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah (Shiraz in Australia), Zinfandel and Gamay. There are several white grape varieties used in winemaking. They are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chenin Blanc.

The color of wine is derived from how the juices of grapes are processed. A quick note before delving into the “pulp” of wine basics; the color of wine is not always a result of the color of the grape. Wines get their color from the skins of the grape, not from the juice. To make red wine, the red grape skins are infused with the juices while it is going through the fermentation process. White wine, on the other hand, is devoid of the skins during the fermentation process. The sugars from the juice mix with yeast to release the color from the skins during fermentation. This is why there are a few red grape varietals that can be used in making white wine, so long as the skins are removed completely from the juices before it is fermented.

Samantha Rhodes

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wine Quotes 101

The famous German poet once was asked which three things he would take to an island. He stated: "Poetry, a beautiful woman and enough bottles of the world's finest wines to survive this dry period!" Then he was asked what he would leave back first, if it was allowed to take only two things to the island. And he briefly replied: "The poetry!" Slightly surprised, the man asked the next question: "And Sir, what would you leave back if only one was allowed?" And Goethe thought for a couple of minutes and answered: "It depends on the vintage!"

Wine Drinking Dog

"Hey, pour some wine in MY bowl! I'll take a little of that fine blend of the Maggie Merlot and the Pooch Pinot...the one with the great tail-wagging finish."


An anonymously penned 17th century haiku has this to say about sake:
Sake nakuta
Nan no onore ga
Sakura kana

Without flowing wine
What good to me are lovely
Cherry trees in bloom?

Filmmaker/winemaker Francis Ford Coppola says the two professions are almost the same and that each depends on source material and takes a lot of time to perfect. The big difference: "Today's winemakers still worry about quality."

"It sloweth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it abandoneth melancholie, it relisheth the heart, it lighteneth the mind, it quickenth the spirits, it keepeth and preserveth the head from whirling, the eyes from dazzling, the tongue from lisping, the mouth from snaffling, the teeth from chattering and the throat from rattling; it keepeth the stomach from wambling, the heart from swelling, the hands from shivering, the sinews from shrinking, the veins from crumbling, the bones from aching, and the marrow from soaking." --copied from a 16th Century manuscript

Port is not for the very young, the vain and the active. It is the comfort of age and the companion of the scholar and the philosopher. - Evelyn Waugh

"Wine is the most civilized thing in the world." - Ernest Hemingway

"And water is on the Bishop's board and the Higher Thinker's shrine,
But I don't care where the water goes if it doesn't get into the wine." - G.K. Chesterton

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." - John Maynard Keynes

"Gentlemen, in the little moment that remains to us between the crisis and the catastrophe, we may as well drink a glass of Champagne." - Paul Claudel

"I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food!!" - Anonymous

"Champagne for our real friends and real pain for our sham friends!"

“Wine had such ill effects on Noah’s health that it was all he could do to live 950 years. Show me a total abstainer that ever lived that long.” - Will Rogers

In victory, you deserve champagne, in defeat, you need it. - Napoleon

There are two reasons for drinking wine...when you are thirsty, to cure it; the other, when you are not thirsty, to prevent it... prevention is better than cure. - Thomas Love Peacock

Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it. - Anonymous

Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance. - Benjamin Franklin

Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep, and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved. - Medieval German saying

"The First Duty of wine is to be Red...the second is to be a Burgundy" -- Harry Waugh

"In wine one beholds the heart of another" -- Anonymous

"Never understood a single word he said but I helped him drink his wine…and he always had some mighty fine wine." -- 3 Dog Night

"If all be true that I do think, there are five reasons we should drink. Good friends, good times, or being dry, or lest we should be by and by, or any other reason why"

Thomas Jefferson on wine:

"I think it is a great error to consider a heavy tax on wines as a tax on luxury. On the contrary, it is a tax on the health of our citizens."

"Good wine is a necessity of life for me."

"I rejoice as a moralist at the prospect of a reduction of the duties on wine by our national legislature.... Its extended use will carry health and comfort to a much enlarged circle."

"Wine ... the true old man's milk and restorative cordial."

"I wonder what the vintners buy one half so precious as the stuff they sell." - Omar Khayyam

"Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile." - Homer, "Odyssey (9th c. B.C.)

"When there is plenty of wine, sorrow and worry take wing." - Ovid, "The Art of Love" (c. A.D. 8)

"If penicillin can cure those that are ill, Spanish sherry can bring the dead back to life." - Sir Alexander Fleming

"From wine what sudden friendship springs!" - John Gay "The Squire and the Cur," 'Fables'

"Come quickly! I am tasting stars!" - Dom Perignon (1638-1714) at his first sip of champagne

"I have enjoyed great health at a great age because everyday since I can remember I have consumed a bottle of wine except when I have not felt well. Then I have consumed two bottles." -A Bishop of Seville Baron

James Rothschild sent Rossini [composer of 'The Barber of Seville', 'William Tell', etc.] some splendid grapes from his hothouse. Rossini, in thanking him, wrote, "although your grapes are superb, I don't like my wine in capsules." Rothschild read this as an invitation to send him some of his celebrated Chateau-Lafite, which he proceeded to do. - Lillie de Hergermann-Lindencrone, "In the Courts of Memory"

"In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary." - Ernest Hemingway, "A Moveable Feast"

"Wine is a living liquid containing no preservatives. Its life cycle comprises youth, maturity, old age, and death. When not treated with reasonable respect it will sicken and die." - Julia Child

"Writing in my sixty-fourth year, I can truthfully say that since I reached the age of discretion I have consistently drunk more than most people would say is good for me. Nor did I regret it. Wine has been for me a firm friend and a wise counsellor. has shown me matters in their true perspective, and has, as though by the touch of a magic wand, reduced great disasters to small inconveniences. Wine has lit up for me the pages of literature, and revealed in life romance lurking in the commonplace. Wine has made me bold but not foolish; has induced me to say silly things but not to do them." - Duff Cooper, "Old Men Forget"

"[Wine is] poetry in a bottle." - Clifton Fadiman

"To take wine into your mouth is to savor a droplet of the river of human history." - Clifton Fadiman, N. Y. Times, 8 Mar '87

"A bottle of wine begs to be shared; I have never met a miserly wine lover." - Clifton Fadiman, N. Y. Times, 8 Mar '87

"In wine there is truth." - Pliny The Elder [A.D.23-79] "Natural History," Book XIV, Sect. 141

"When [wines] were good they pleased my sense, cheered my spirits, improved my moral and intellectual powers, besides enabling me to confer the same benefits on other people." - George Saintsbury [1845-1913] "Notes on a Cellar Book"

"There can be no bargain without wine." - Latin saying

"I made wine out of raisins so I wouldn't have to wait for it to age." - Steven Wright

"Compromises are for relationships, not wine." - Sir Robert Scott Caywood

"What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch" W. C. Fields

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, a famous German poet, once was asked which three things he would take to an island. He stated: "Poetry, a beautiful woman and enough bottles of the world's finest wines to survive this dry period!" Then he was asked what he would leave back first, if it was allowed to take only two things to the island. And he briefly replied: "The poetry!" Slightly surprised, the man asked the next question: "And Sir, what would you leave back if only one was allowed?" And Goethe thought for a couple of minutes and answered: "It depends on the vintage!"

To me there is no better gift
Than a fine old bottle of wine;
Like a trusted friend, it speaks for me,
But in a voice uniquely mine.
I'll spread this cheer to all my friends,
And send them the gift of the vine;
And they in turn will share the joy--
It's 800wine. - Anonymous

Three be the things I shall never attain: Envy, content, and sufficient champagne."
Dorothy Parker

"I am drinking the stars!"
Dom Perignon, on his first sip of bubbly Champagne

"What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?"
W.C. Fields

"Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of good wine."
St. Thomas Aquinas

"Wine in itself is an excellent thing."
Pope Pius XII Airen

"One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts."
Samuel Johnson

"It had the taste of an apple peeled with a steel knife."
- Aldous Huxley (1894–1963)
Sebastian Barnack, in Time Must Have a Stop, ch 12 (1944)
Assessing a Roederer 1916 champagne.

"By making this wine vine known to the public, I have rendered my country as great a service as if I had enabled it to pay back the national debt."
Thomas Jefferson

"Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance."
Benjamin Franklin

"He who loves not wine, women and song remains a fool his whole life long "
Johann Heinrich Voss

"Wine is the most civilized thing in the world."
Ernest Hemingway.

"I drink champagne when I win, to celebrate
... and I drink champagne when I lose to console myself."

"If penicillin can cure those that are ill, Spanish sherry can bring the dead back to life."
Sir Alexander Fleming

"Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized."
Andre Simon, Commonsense of Wine

"Remember gentlemen, it's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne!"
Winston S. Churchill, 1918

"Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living."
Robert Mondavi, "Harvests Of Joy," Autobiography

"Drink a glass of wine after your soup and you steal a ruble from your doctor."
Russian proverb

"A mind of the caliber of mine cannot derive its nutrient from cows."
George Bernard Shaw

"You have only so many bottles in your life, never drink a bad one."
Len Evans

"The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars."
Benjamin Franklin

"Wine ...moderately drunken
It doth quicken a man's wits,
It doth comfort the heart."
Andrew Boorde, 1562, "Dyetary of Helth"

"In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary."
Ernest Hemingway

"Wine has been a part of civilized life for some seven thousand years. It is the only beverage that feeds the body, soul and spirit of man and at the same time stimulates the mind."
Robert Mondavi, "Harvests Of Joy," Autobiography

"Making good wine is a skill. Fine wine is an art."
Robert Mondavi, "Harvests Of Joy," Autobiography

"A hard drinker, being at the table, was offered grapes for dessert. 'Thank you,' said he, pushing the dish away from him, 'but I am not in the habit of taking my wine in pills.'"
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, "The Physiology of Taste"

"Fermented beverages have been preferred over water throughout the ages: they are safer, provide psychotropic effects, and are more nutritious. Some have even said alcohol was the primary agent for the development of Western civilization, since more healthy individuals (even if inebriated much of the time) lived longer and had greater reproductive success. "
Dr. Patrick McGovern, et al., The Origin & Ancient History of Wine

"It had the taste of an apple peeled with a steel knife."
Aldous Huxley (1894–1963),Sebastian Barnack, in Time Must Have a Stop, ch 12 (1944), assessing a Roederer 1916 champagne.

When Lily Bollinger was asked "When do you drink champagne?", she replied:
"I only drink champagne when I'm happy, and when I'm sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am.
Otherwise I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty."

"The cheapness of wine seems to be a cause, not of drunkenness, but of sobriety. ...People are seldom guilty of excess in what is their daily fare...On the contrary, in the countries which, either from excessive heat or cold, produce no grapes, and where wine consequently is dear and a rarity, drunkenness is a common vice."
Adam Smith, "The Wealth of Nations"

"So far as drinking is concerned, you have my hearty approval; for wine does of a truth moisten the soul and lull our griefs to sleep....[and with small cups] we shall brought by its gentle persuasion to a more sportive mood."
Xenophon, quoting Socrates

"Burgundy makes you think of silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk of them and Champagne makes you do them."
Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

"I drank a bottle of wine for company. It was Chateau Margaux. It was pleasant to be drinking slowly and to be tasting the wine and to be drinking alone. A bottle of wine was good company."
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

"The good talk that is inseparable from a wine dinner is even more important than the wines that are being served. Never bring up your better bottles if you are entertaining a man who cannot talk. Keep your treasures for a night when those few who are nearest to your heart can gather round your table, free from care, with latchkeys in their pockets and no last train to catch."
Maurice Healy, Claret

"After-dinner talk
Across the walnuts and the wine."
Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), The Miller's Daughter, 31

"Pour out the wine without restraint or stay,
Pour not by cups, but by the bellyful,
Pour out to all that will."
Edmund Spenser, Epithalamion, 250

"And they drank the red wine through the helmet barr'd."
Sir Walter Scott

"By comparing what we know today with what the ancients appear to have known we can guess at the kinds of wine they drank."
Alec Waugh

"What though youth gave love and roses, age still leaves us friends and wine."
Thomas Moore

"Burgundy for Kings, Champagne for Duchesses, and claret for Gentlemen."
French Proverb

"May our love be like good wine, grow stronger as it grows older."
Old English Toast

"Age appears to be best in four things - old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read."
L. Bacon

"Fill every beaker up, my men, pour forth the cheering wine: there's life and strength in every drop, thanksgiving to the vine!"
Albert Gorton Greene

"Drink to me only with thine eyes and I will pledge with mine; or leave a kiss but in the cup, and I'll not look for wine."
Ben Johnson

"I drank at every vine, the last was like the first. I came upon no wine so wonderful as thirst."
Edna St. Vincent Millay

"Good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used."
William Shakespeare, ( Othello)

"Good wine needs no bush."
William Shakespeare, ( As You Like It, Epilogue)

"Give me a bowl of wine,
In this I bury all unkindness."
William Shakespeare, (Julius Caesar)

"Give me a bowl of wine:
have not that alacrity of spirit,
Nor cheer of mind, that I was wont to have."
William Shakespeare, (Richard III).

"Wine is a good familiar creature if it be will used, exclaim no more against it."
William Shakespeare, (Othello)

"Wine is wont to show the mind of man."

"With years a richer life begins, the spirit mellow: ripe age gives tones to violins, wine, and good fellows."
John Townsend Trowbridge

"Burgundy was the winiest wine, the central, essential, and typical wine, the soul and greatest common measure of all the kindly wines of the earth."
Charles Edward Montague

"Claret is the liquor for boys, port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy."
Samuel Johnson

"I like Champagne, because it always tastes as though my foot's asleep."
Art Buchwald

"Wine is a food."
Oliver Wendell Holmes

"Wine can be considered with good reason as the most healthful and the most hygienic of all beverages."
Louis Pasteur

"The flavor of wine is like delicate poetry."
Louis Pasteur

"One not only drinks the wine, one smells it, observes it, tastes it, sips it and--one talks about it."
King Edward VII

"When a man drinks wine at dinner, he begins to be better pleased with himself."

"Wine fills the heart with courage."

"Wine improves with age - I like it the older I get."

"Wine is sunlight, held together by water!"
Galileo Gallilei

"Away with you, water, destruction of wine!"

"Drink wine in winter for cold, and in summer for heat."

"Where there is no wine there is no love."

"Wine is at the head of all medicines; where wine is lacking, drugs are necessary."
The Talmud

"A full cup of wine at the right time is worth more than all the kingdoms of this earth!"
Gustav Mahler, Das Lied Von Der Erde

"Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance."

"How is Champagne made? By sheer genius, sir, sheer genius!"
Anonymous, Conversation At White's Club, London

"Nothing equals the joy of the drinker except the joy of the wine being drunk."

"Description of a corkscrew:...the wine lover's best friend and the rarest of tools."

Bacchus in Decline

The plan is to make less wine: drink it while you can

Every now and then in journalism, a metaphor pops up that is almost too perfect to use.

I had that feeling last night, writing up a report for the print edition about the European Commission's plans to drain a growing "wine lake" of unwanted plonk from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal (though other countries are also offenders).

On every level, this wine crisis is the perfect metaphor for Europe's current economic woes.

The central problem is that European winemakers do not want to live in a free market world. They are addicted to subsidies, with hundreds of millions of pounds spent every year propping up prices which duly frees them from the pesky requirement of making wine that paying customers might want to buy.

In contrast, sales of easy-going wine from the New World are exploding with Australian wine exports increasing 19-fold in the past 15 years. In Britain, Australian wines have captured a quarter of the British market and it is easy to forget that not so long ago they were nowhere (remember the Monty Python Australian wine sketch, with its Nuits-Saint-Wagga-Wagga et al?).

In recent years, one in six bottles of EU wine has ended up being distilled into petrol or industrial disinfectant, at vast cost to the taxpayer. The no-nonsense Mariann Fischer Boel, a Dane who is EU agricultural commissioner, has had enough, and unveiled plans for a "root and branch" reform (her pun).

The Commission plan is to grub up nearly a million acres (400,000 hectares) of wines, pay farmers to leave the business, allow modern production techniques (like "oaking" cheaper wines with string bags of wood chips) and simplify labeling rules. (Under current French law, for example, you cannot market cheap and cheerful Chardonnay 2006, if it is made with grapes from more than one region of France it is actually illegal to mention the grape variety on wines that are not from a specific geographical area).

Above all, the plan is to make less wine, and better wine, that people might want to buy. Being realistic sorts, who know their plan has to get past subsidy-addicted national governments, the Commission hastened to add that they would not be cutting one centime from the pounds 900 million a year EU subsidy budget for wine just trying to shift it away from boiling away unwanted stuff.

And what was the reaction in France, the world's largest wine producer, and subsidy junkie par excellence? A flat Non from the agriculture ministry, and protests from farmers, throwing around accusations of "ultra-liberalism", and the destruction of their sacred cultural traditions (which apparently include making bad wine, for sale to the taxpayer).

So, what does all this tell us? Well, yes it tells us that too many Europeans have a problem with the free market.

French wine is losing market share in Britain, in part, because too much of the stuff they make is expensive, and not as pleasant to drink as New World stuff. The labels are complicated, and unless you recognise an individual chateau, it is almost impossible to know whether one random Bordeaux is better than another and it is no good judging by whether something is a grand cru or premier cru, because the designations have not been updated for years, and may bear no resemblance to reality.

The parallels with other sectors of European trade are obvious the red tape, the lack of transparency, the cosy archaisms that are hostile to outsiders but reward existing players, you name it.

And still the French resist all change and get away with it, because public money is spent insulating them from the effects of their stubbornness.

Local chauvinism also plays a role here. German winemakers get away with churning out so much horrid stuff (as well as some great wine), because German consumers loyally buy German wines, and would not think of doing anything else. The same thing happens all over Europe just go to Greece or Portugal, and watch people paying nine euros a bottle for grim local reds, when they could have something much nicer from somewhere else, for half that (yes, there is some great Greek and Portuguese wine too, but I have had much more luck with white than red, on the whole).

Britain, on the other hand, is in the happy state of being a non wine-making nation (yes, yes I know there is English and Welsh wine now, but I have never tasted a decent one yet). So as with so much else, globalisation is the way in our wine stores, and supermarket shelves. Value for money is king, as supermarket buyers scour the world for Uruguayan gems, or the best new growths from South Africa.

It is hard not to see a parallel with continental protectionism in so many other fields. In Britain, we have been through the painful process of losing national champions to foreign buyers, whether car makers or breweries or whatever. And now British consumers are able to choose from a far wider variety of foreign-owned products than their continental cousins just look at the multinational mix of cars on UK roads, or the astonishing number of foreign beers on sale in London bars. Choice is king, and value for money should logically follow.

And yet, and yet.

Just when it all looks so very simple, ha-ha bye bye sleepy old Europe, hello New World hard work we're your British chums, some awkward facts intrude.

I have a hunch that the fact that Britons buy so much New World wine is not entirely the fault of European wine-makers. The truth is, a lot of New World wine is beginners' wine sweet, gloopy jam in a glass, with the labels helpfully in English.

No surprise that it does so well in Britain, where wine-drinking is a new phenomenon for many buyers, and people cannot be bothered with foreign languages. There is nothing wrong with easy drinking wine I have no time for wine snobs who want to make a mystery of what is basically squashed grapes. I just mean that some great European wine is an acquired taste, which more British drinkers may acquire, as wine-drinking beds in as a tradition. It's like British beer you start as a teenager with cold, tasteless lager, and only slowly learn to enjoy real ale.

One final awkward fact, which fits the metaphor exactly, too. The French wine-makers who get all the media attention are the bone-in-the-nose militants, resisting all talk of the marketplace, or changing their ways. But quietly, and without attracting nearly as much attention, French and other European wine makers are already making lots of great, cheap wine designed to compete directly with the New World (some of it with the help of New World winemakers). It is the same with French and European capitalism in general. The French are the biggest obstacles to reform, time and again but they are also fantastically good at business, and globalisation.

French wine makes up a fair amount of the wine drunk in the Rennie household, and makes it into my cellar on the basis of solid value for money. My philosophy of wine-buying is simple: buy the best possible wine for under five euros a bottle. I buy single bottles of likely-looking reds and whites, and if a given wine is good twice or three times in a row, I buy it in big quantities.

To end this long end-of-the-week post, I humbly offer my fellow Belgian residents the fruits of this painstaking research. I welcome your recommendations in return. A warning, as the parent of two small children, my shopping is done in the local discount supermarket, Colruyt, so if that is not your style, stop reading here. Top red of the week: Château Mauleon Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2004 (France). Cheap but chirpy. Top white of the week is from Argentina: Michel Torrino Torrontes. It tastes like flowers.

David Rennie

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

ShipCompliant's Free Temperature Forecasting Tool Enables Wine Shippers to Comply with Mother Nature's Rules

BOULDER, Colo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--ShipCompliant announced today that it has launched a custom temperature forecasting tool for protecting wine shipments. The latest addition to an innovative free tool suite from ShipCompliant is now available for any winery or wine retailer to use on the ShipCompliant website at
Source: Six88 Solutions

Temperature forecasting has long been a problem for wineries and wine shippers. Hot temperatures during the delivery process can negatively impact the quality of the wine upon delivery and, more importantly, for cellaring. Visibly damaged bottles cost wineries in returned shipments and replacement shipment, and customer satisfaction. However, a greater threat comes from the reputation hit that occurs when wine that is not initially recognized as damaged by the recipient, is cellared, and when finally consumed, is below customer expectations.

ShipCompliant’s temperature tool allows a winery to set thresholds on temperatures at which they want their shipments out for delivery, to see resulting destinations to which they should and shouldn’t ship, and ultimately to filter shipment files for zip codes with forecasted temperatures within the thresholds, prior to sending to fulfillment. This process that has previously been completely manual and extremely time consuming can now be completed in a few easy steps.

"We gave a sneak-preview to about 350 people, including over 150 ShipCompliant customers at our third annual direct shipping seminar and users conference on Friday," said ShipCompliant CEO Jason Eckenroth. "The reception of the temperature forecasting tool was remarkable. Our fulfillment partners and winery and wine retailer partners can't wait to get their hands on this technology. The free tool is a great proof of concept and will be extremely valuable to all wine shippers, but we'll really be able to leverage this technology within the ShipCompliant application, where our 1,800 users can take advantage of automated weather holds and releases and exercise unprecedented control over their shipping."

About ShipCompliant:

ShipCompliant is the leading compliance and fulfillment management software solution for wineries and wine retailers, providing 100% accurate compliance checks on orders, auto-populated state direct shipping and tax reports, and many other efficiencies associated with address validation, carrier integration, and accurate tax collection. ShipCompliant's technological infrastructure allows it to easily integrate with other software systems across all steps of the chain between winery and end consumer resulting in easy workflows and time savings for winery staff. To view a demo of the system and see how wineries and retailers are saving time and money, please go to or call toll free at 888-449-5285.

Media Contact:
Elizabeth Hause, 303-996-2344

New Line Of Red Bordeaux


Stanley Cheng, ceo of Meyer Corporation has announced the launch of "Stephanie," a new line of red Bordeaux varietal wines from his family's Hestan Vineyards in Napa Valley. Meyer Corp manufactures Circulon, Anolon, Farberware and KitchenAid cookware.

The debut release includes the 2005 Stephanie Red Bordeaux Blend (940 cases $65), 2005 Stephanie Cabernet Sauvignon (930 cases $50) and 2005 Stephanie Merlot (475 cases $40). Named for Stanley and Helen Cheng's only daughter, whose concert harp is etched in gold on the bottle, Stephanie wines are made by consulting winemaker Jeff Gaffner (Saxon Brown, Black Kite, Xtant) using all five of the red Bordeaux varietals planted to Hestan Vineyards.

Wine & Spirits Daily


UK retailers have made things rather difficult for the likes of Diageo, Constellation and other alcohol companies by imposing huge discounts on alcoholic beverages in their stores and launching private label brands that cost next to nothing. Things were starting to look better once the government got involved over binge drinking concerns, but now Tesco plans to sell a bottle of wine at the same price as a glass in some pubs and restaurants. The chain says it is considering adding wine to its "Value" range, which means it could cost as little as £2.99 a bottle.

In recent years wine companies were forced to sell their brands much cheaper than normal to compete against private labels in UK retail shops. Constellation chief Rob Sands commented in the company's last conference call that the situation in the UK had improved. But are things about to get bad again? The Scottish government has already claimed such a move by Tesco "strengthens the case for government action to stamp out irresponsible promotions and pricing."

The Value wine also comes five months after Tesco said it wanted to work with the UK government on new laws to ensure the responsible pricing of alcohol following widespread concern that cheap alcohol is fueling binge drinking and crime.

Tesco's Dan Jago, director of the beer, wine and spirits division, says the chain's plans are a reaction to the credit crunch rather than any attempt to create a new alcohol price war with its rivals. Tesco already as Value brand beers and spirits and believes wines are a natural extension.

Tesco's Dan Jago said: "In the current climate it would be mad if we weren't exploring the value end as part of our ongoing review. We are inventing what our entry-level wines look like to offer the best quality and tastes that are great for the price.

"If customers say they want less expensive wines, we'll make sure we have them. Just because a customer is not paying £6 does not mean they don't deserve a quality wine."

Wine & Spirits Daily

Cazes: Bordeaux wine tourism is the future

The city of Bordeaux should become a cultural centre of wine, Sylvie Cazes, the new president of the UGCB, has said.

Cazes has just become the 7th president – and the first female head – of the Union des Grands Crus Classes de Bordeaux.

She is also president of the board at Chateau Lynch-Bages and the Cazes family wine holdings, and also sits on the Bordeaux City Council.

In a wide-ranging interview in the September issue of Decanter magazine Cazes says she is keen to increase promotional activities by taking wine events direct to the consumer.

To this end she will explore how wine tourism concepts such as the Relais & Châteaux Cordeillan-Bages hotel, the restored village of Bages with its bistro, bakery, wine store and art workshops, tour companies and wine schools can be extended.

On the city council she will be working alongside mayor Alain Juppé to raise the profile of wine, promoting wine wine tourism projects and promoting economic links between wine and the city of Bordeaux.

'It is absolutely essential to take consumers into our world, to show how for us wine is part of a wider lifestyle, and to create loyalty. Our customers need to be confident that they can rely on us.'

But she admits the Bordelais can sometimes be difficult to persuade to take part in promotional activities.

'The producer should get involved… but the difficulty is in finding the time. Many don't want to work weekends. But if you do things with the consumer, you have to do them when the consumer wants.'

Above all, Cazes says she is looking forward with relish to her immersion in the politics of the UGCB.

'My father was mayor of Pauillac for 40 years so it has been part of my background to be surrounded by politics.'

Adam Lechmere

Monday, July 14, 2008

Branding is everything in China's expanding wine market

Those of us who read articles about wine probably believe that wine sells on the basis of its quality. A few wine lovers believe that price is at least as important. (I strongly reject any direct correlation between price and quality myself, believing there is an army of overpriced expensive wines and a noble cohort of underpriced gems.)

But my trip to China in March reminded me just how significant branding can be, even in the hugely fragmented wine market, which is blissfully unlike, say, that for beer, spirits or sodas, dominated as they are by a handful of big names and huge marketing budgets.

In China, the name Lafite has the most extraordinary and unexpected resonance. Such resonance that Carruades de Lafite, the Bordeaux first growth's second wine and often a thin little thing, can command a higher price than super-second Chateau Cos d'Estournel. And the owners of Lafite's range of basic Bordeaux generic wines called Legende sell for quite extraordinary prices in China simply because they have the magic word Lafite on the label. I saw the basic 2005 Bordeaux, with the name Lafite tucked snugly under the Lafite Rothschilds' famous five arrows symbol, listed at 950 RMB (about $135) a bottle on the wine list at the super-trendy Made in China restaurant in the Grand Hyatt, Beijing. It's worth pointing out that on exactly the same wine list the counterpart from the other Rothschild clan, the Mouton lot, was just 350 RMB. What explains the disparity between these wines that were put together from near-identical ingredients bought on Bordeaux's bulk wine market?

While in China I resolved to get to the bottom of this conundrum. Why should one first growth tower over the others - Mouton Rothschild, Margaux, the highly performing Latour and Haut-Brion - in this particular market?

I suppose we have to begin by acknowledging that China is an intensely image-conscious market. For the Chinese, wine purchases, in restaurants or for gifts, are all about status and "face" on the part of the purchaser. So China is presumably perfectly placed as a target for any sophisticated branding operation. If you go in to China and tell the Chinese that your product is the best effectively enough, those 1.3 billion potential consumers are presumably yours.

Except that my inquiries did not manage to elicit anything so cold-blooded. I went to China via Hong Kong so began by inquiring there why Lafite enjoyed this reclame. Those I asked were all a bit vague. The best explanation I could get was from the first Asian to pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine exams, Jeannie Cho Lee, herself Korean born and American educated. Her best explanation was that Lafite is somehow easier to pronounce in Mandarin than the names of the other first growths. But since she is not a native Mandarin speaker, I felt her testimony was not rock solid.

Once I got to China I asked everyone I could think of. Marcus Ford, the inventive manager of Shanghai's pioneering M on the Bund restaurant, also thought it might have something to do with pronunciation but wasn't sure - even though he has been buying, serving and selling fine wine in China for many years. He did point out to me that Lafite had been awfully clever at capitalizing on its fame in China and that the Legende range of overpriced (my word, not his) appellations-series wines is known colloquially as "Little Lafite." Genius! They should have called it that in the first place.

In China the market is dominated by three main distributors, who are at one another's throats. The biggest and best established is ASC, run by a father-son team, both of whom are called Don St. Pierre. I sat next to Don Sr. at a charity dinner and pursued him relentlessly for his explanation as to why his great rival Summergate's Lafite was so much more popular than his own Bordeaux first growths - Chateaus Latour, Margaux and Haut-Brion - which was rather impolite, I now realize. He raised his shoulders and eyebrows, clasped his hands and admitted he hadn't a clue. Though as a Westerner selling wine to the Chinese for possibly longer than anyone else, he did point out how helpful the 1855 classification was to the Chinese. Not generally being fluent English speakers, few of them have yet come to grips with the tyranny of scores and ratings, but there is great respect (an important quality in China) for the longevity of the 1855 classification of Bordeaux. With its mere five divisions it is easy to understand, and since Chateau Lafite was historically the very first of the first growths to appear on the list, much of that glamour, he admitted somewhat reluctantly, seems to have stuck.

I then tracked down Ian Ford, the American head of Summergate of Shanghai, the blessed importers of a few hundred cases of Chateau Lafite, an impressive lake of Carruades and an ocean of Little Lafite every year. So how come, I asked, does Lafite stand head and shoulders above its peers in the biggest potential wine market in the world?

"I don't know," he said disarmingly. "It's a branding exercise but I certainly don't take the credit for it. It's not because of the taste."

I would certainly agree. I almost certainly love the taste of Lafite more than the average Chinese. Its very dry, almost austere, racy, elegant style must be particularly difficult for newcomers to wine, and torture to drink with most of the food served in China - whether it be the sweet, sour, spicy foods of the various Chinese provinces, or the rich, truffle and foie gras-laden cuisine of the fancy hotels and restaurants at which most bottles of Lafite must be opened by China's mushrooming millionaire class.

"But," he continued, "they were in at the beginning. Lafite president Christophe Salin's first trip here was in 1992. The word Lafite translates phonetically especially well," - so there's one thing that he agrees with archrivals ASC on - "and the Lafite Rothschilds have been very attentive to the Chinese market. Baron Eric de Rothschild's son is studying Mandarin. They also have a very good Chinese Web site."

So there you have it folks. To develop a new market, get there first, have an easy name - and don't forget the Web site.

Jancis Robinson is a London wine journalist. Visit her Web site at and e-mail comments to

This article appeared on page F - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle