Thursday, August 7, 2008

Indy's NC wine tasting panel

Our local alternative rag, The Independent Weekly, featured a story on NC wines this week. As part of the feature on NC wines, they put together a panel of tasters to try NC wines in a blind taste testing. The results were also published in a story this week.

Lucky me, I got selected to be part of this panel as the non-expert but somewhat informed taster , e.g. I don't work in the wine industry, and I represented the "wine consumer." I was honored to be asked to participate, and after a hard slog at the office, a wine tasting mid-week was right up my alley.

I arrived at the Indy's new offices, which are gorgeous by the way, and headed to the conference room where the tasting convened. Peg, from Weaver Street Market, seemed really lovely and she is committed to finding good NC wines.

The other wine professionals worked in a variety of capacities: wine buyers, wine shop owner, wine writer, and sommelier. Interacting with them was the most interesting part of this experience, way more interesting than the NC wines, unfortunately.

You can read my comments on the NC wines so I won't rehash that here. In summary, most of them were not even good. I don't know about you, but if I'm paying $12 for a bottle of wine, I expect it to be tasty and drinkable. Now, granted, $12 is not a lot of money and I'm not exactly short on cash at the moment, but it's a matter of VALUE. I'm not paying $12 to drink something that tastes like manure. I'm also not drinking unfiltered wine. It's just not my aesthetic though I appreciate that it is someone's. My comments were rather unfiltered, if you like, but that's fine by me.

What I found interesting about the wine professionals is that they seemed to think it is acceptable to ask people to pay $10 or $12 for a bottle of mediocre to below-average wine. Comments like, "Someone might drink this for $10" really got under my skin after a while. It seemed to assume that $10 wines are below par, and that is just not accurate.

Additionally the wine professionals were very careful not to "bash" wineries. Ok I get this is their profession and that burning bridges is a bad idea and all that. But be truthful. Don't try to put lipstick on a bulldog. I am not sure if it was sycophancy or arrogance, but something like that came through among some of the wine professionals. I was also reminded more than once that I was the "consumer," which probably means I don't know anything.

So here's my NC wine theory in a nutshell: Buy local if you want to support local enterprises, but make sure your expectations are level set regarding quality of taste and value.

And my overall wine theory is: Really enjoyable wines do not have to be expensive. I've had good ones for $10. Additionally, food and atmosphere do enhance the wine drinking experience, but a good wine can also stand on it's own. A good wine doesn't need a porterhouse steak to give it legs.

As for wine professionals, if you ever get condescension from any of them, stick to your guns. You know what you like. I like minerally, bone dry whites. Some people like floral whites. Drink what you gives you pleasure and make Bacchus proud.

1 comment:

leandra said...

I haven't liked a lot of the NC wines I've tasted, in fact, I find that they are generally overpriced. I noticed that in some cases the tasters said the wine would be good at half the retail price! Of the NC wines I have tried, the Westbend Chambourcin is my favorite. Might have to try that Old North State Red. :)