Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
 

Editor's Letter

 

Tasting Blind Is Not Just for Critics

February 2010
 
by Jim Gordon
 
 
Do you as a winemaker hope that wine writers and trade buyers taste your wine blind? Do you want them to base their decisions on what’s in the tasting glass, or do you want them to carry along their prejudices against your AVA, your brand, your price-point or, God forbid, your personality?

I am guessing that most winemakers would say, “Yes: I want my wines to be judged blind.” Those who don’t agree probably figure that their brands and their personalities already carry positive connotations, and that most of the prejudices by reviewers and buyers would lean in their favor, not weigh against them. Whereas a blind tasting might result in a lost sale or an 82.

But even so, deep down in your artistic psyche, can you grasp that it would be good for your winemaking craft—even if possibly not for the chances of making a sale that day or getting a 90-plus score—if you could get honest, objective feedback? How do you know where to improve if no one points out your wines’ weaknesses?

It reminds me of one prominent wine critic known for his assertive honesty about mediocre, mishandled and flawed wines. He vouches wholeheartedly for blind tastings. He says his goal is to keep himself honest and provide his readers with the most objective advice possible.

Sometimes when a winemaker criticizes this critic for giving his or her wines low scores, the critic turns it back on the winemaker: “You need to know what your wines really taste like,” he might say, “not what your friends and customers tell you because they like you.” He believes that he not only serves his readers well with blind tastings and plainly stated reviews, but that he also serves the wine industry well. Attesting to that is the number of wineries that have cleaned up their acts after receiving low scores and plain-spoken criticism from him.

I agree that critics and trade members should taste your wines blind whenever possible. However, my point in this letter is that you should, too. How can you keep improving your wines if you don’t put your own prejudices aside and see your wines as others do?

This train of thought started rolling during a recent meeting with one barrel supplier and accelerated in a phone call with another. The topic was the same as that of our cover story in this issue, barrel trials. Both barrel makers said more or less the same thing, without mentioning any names: “Most winemakers don’t do them blind, and they really should. How are they going to know if the cooper, the origin and the toast level are right, if they don’t taste objectively? They might be spending too little, and it’s hurting their wines. Or they might be spending too much and not getting what they want.”

During this recession, as many brands’ wine sales continue to slump severely, it’s probably more important than ever to maximize your use of oak. Not to use more, per se, but to use it more wisely. If your revenues are down, and your costs for barrels are not, then you should re-examine what you’re doing with oak purchases and see if there’s a way to do it more economically—just as vintners are doing in every other part of their businesses during tough times.

Properly performed barrel trials can help you save money and/or improve your quality, both of which are important when your wine has to compete harder than ever for sales. Please read the article by Stephen Yafa to get started on conducting better barrel trials.

Steve makes and sells Sonoma County Pinot Noir with his own wine business, Segue Cellars. When he started winemaking a few years ago, Steve did his first impromptu barrel trials the hard way, climbing stacks of barrels at a custom crush winery in the dark with a flashlight, a thief and a tasting glass until he found the aromas and flavors that fit his vision. Back in 2007, he wrote a three-part series for Wines & Vines on his start-up experiences. You can read it on winesandvines.com by entering the key words “yafa going pro” in the search site window at the top of any web page.

Now, after interviewing coopers and winemakers about their best methods for barrel trials, I’m sure he will run more systematic and careful tastings.

I hope he tastes blind.

 
SHARE »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
 
SEE OTHER EDITIONS OF THIS COLUMN ï¿½ CURRENT COLUMN ARTICLES »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
August 2014 $558 million
5%
$7,613 million
6%
August 2013 $531 million $7,167 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
August 2014 $78 million
17%
$1,686 million
10%
August 2013 $67 million $1,530 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
August 2014 218
12%
224
19%
August 2013 194 189
     
 
MORE » Released on 09.15.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • September 22-23
     
    Wine Industry Financial Symposium
     
  • September 23-24
     
    Experimental Design and Chemometrics for Chemists
     
  • September 27
     
    Red Mountain AVA Block Party
     
  • October 8
     
    Exporting Wine to China
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: New York OKs Out-of-State Grapes »
 
If the resultant wine, using out of state juice,bears the "American" on the label, I...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Financial Impact of Napa Quake Rising »
 
I still think the numbers are low and don't include legal fees. Section 165 was...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Tasting the Effects of Wine Closures »
 
In addition to oxidation of somee of the SO2, post-bottling chemical changes are a continuation...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Tasting the Effects of Wine Closures »
 
I agree with the 14:46 post. I have switched to screwcap on most of my...
Reader: Chris Baker
 
Article: Tasting the Effects of Wine Closures »
 
What I have found in the past between the type of closures is this. A)...
Reader: Guest
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2014 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 Sales And Merchandisin...
 Los Angeles West, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Bar & Barista
 Los Angeles, CA
General Administration and
 Communications Special...
 Modesto, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Delivery Driver
 American Canyon, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Restaurant Manager
 Geyserville, CA
General Administration and
 Wine Buyer For Napa-Ba...
 Yountville, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Bottling Line Maintena...
 Guerneville, CA
Winemaking and Production
 National Sales Manager
 Willamette Valley, OR
Sales and Marketing
 Assistant Manager
 Newton, MA
General Administration and
 Retail Wine Associate
 Lexington, MA
Sales and Marketing
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.