- Category: Newsletter Archives
December 2023 ... We are here, the end of the year, I decided in the review section of this newsletter to look at Chardonnay. Yes, everyone is giving you their favourite sparklings, and I love sparkling wine, I make no bones about it - but I thought I end with a wine I'm a lesser fan of; and I point you in the direction of some really good ones.
The commentary this week is about sparkling wine, but not in the way you think. It's a commentary about a wine writer in Ontario whose scores skew pretty heavy - but suddenly when it's time to skew heavy (reviewing Champagne) they don't ... what gives?
Then finally, below in the rest of the newsletter, you'll find the usual links to videos, articles and podcasts that I have been a part of creating. Hope you enjoy them all.
Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays!
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Musings from a Wine Soaked Mind ...
Now, I'm Really Confused
The title of this rant speaks to exactly how I am feeling. One day, I woke up early in the morning - the first 15 minutes of my day are spent catching up on overnight emails, comments, and a few news articles.
That morning, in my feed popped up an article from the Toronto Star dedicated to sparkling wine for the holidays. Now, many of you should know that the Toronto Star has become the laughing stock of the wine world - the reviewer’s scores are so out of bounds and over the top that It is hard to take them seriously. They have even been accused of taking money, indirectly, for their reviews (listen to this Canada land piece to learn more).
I have also had dealings with this reviewer personally; she was the vice president while I was president of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. In this capacity, we had many conversations on plenty of wine related topics, one being Champagne, which she adores.
This article was devoted to bubbles - “Celebrate with these excellent champagnes at the LCBO”, so I expected high numbers to be attached to these bottles. To my surprise, I found 92 and 93 point scores - well under what I expected them to be. Wines from the likes of Nicolas Feuillate - not a personal favorite, but a serviceable bottle, Taittinger, Laurent Perrier, Pol Roger, Bollinger - a personal favorite, and not just for its 007 connection and Louis Roederer. None would be considered a shrinking violet in the world of champagne; these are all top-notch producers, and wines you pull out the big scores for.
I then looked at the words used to describe the wines: "vibrant", "ethereal", "full of finesse" ... These are not minor words to describe wines, let alone champagne. The writer carried on, each review more glowing than the next: "eloquent expression" , "exquisitely delicate", "cloudlike and airy" ... The glowing recommendations continue, on and on: "effortlessly regal", "opulent aromas", "wonderfully complex", "luminous and fruit driven" ... The words jumped off the page like someone in love with the style. And I know they are. But the scores did not reflect their words. This is someone who gave a 96 to a $7 bottle of wine from Spain. Has thrown 95 and 98 around like they are giving out candy on Halloween. And for these champagnes, some of the most exclusive wines in the world, some of the most intricate, well-made wines that take years to develop; and they give them a … 92?
The writer, in their own words, concludes the article by saying “Champagne is not just a bottle of wine. It's a bottle of wonder".
Let's forget the laziness of the writing for the moment - and focus on the words used. This is not someone who thinks champagne is just any old beverage; this is a person who would bathe in the stuff, basks in its glory and would agree whole-heartedly with the words of Mark Twain: "too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right."
I have spent countless hours in a room with this person. I've been to her house. Sat in her living room. Shared meals and glasses of wine with her – in fact, tasted many wines with them. But lately, this writer appears to have sold their soul, and integrity, for their byline in the Toronto Star.
To my shock, on this morning, I never thought I'd see the day when a bottle of Toro Bravo outscored, a bottle of Bollie ... But here we are.
In the immortal words of Lily Bollinger:
"I drink champagne when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I can consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty."
In the immortal words of Michael Pinkus: "Now I'm confused". As I finish the article, I nearly dropped my phone to the floor. I sat in awe of the scores. Remembering all the inflated ones I've seen over the past one, two, three years. Had this writer finally learned their lesson? Then I remembered the Canadaland piece and thought ... Someone didn't pay enough. That is the state of the wine writing in the Toronto Star these days.
Champagne deserves better, and Toronto deserves better.
Click on any wine name to see the full review:
The Non-Ontario Selection ...
Mallory & Benjamin 2022 Macon-Uchizy ... (France)
Stags' Leap Winery 2020 Chardonnay ... (California)
--- Highlighted Videos This Week ---
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