Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sometimes It's Tough to Be A Wine Taster! [Mac McCarthy]

One thing I love about working on the SavvyTaste project is that it gives me yet another excuse to taste wines, go to wine tastings, go to dinner-wine pairings, go to wine festivals, and so on. Man, tough job!

But I keep running into a little problem: So many of the wines I'm offered are made in very small lots, or by very small wineries. I put my tasting notes into – but seriously, how will they help the average wine drinker who's looking for a good wine to buy for this weekend? Maybe you'll see one of these wines on the results page and click on it to find out more, and discover "Only 200 cases made," or "Available only at the winery." So how does that help you?

It doesn't. Which is frustrating, because the majority of winetasting events in the San Francisco/Northern California area are of just such wines – small or new high-end wineries trying to generate interest in their wines, or larger established wineries trying to generate interest in their more expensive labels.

The other week, for example, at a wine pairing Taster's Guild event (Taster's Guild is wonderful, by the way, see if there's one near where you live, you've never tasted such wonderful wines and wonderful foods in your life!) – the winery being featured brought a dozen superb wines, and with every wine, the salesperson said "200 cases" or "400 cases of this wine made." Of one wine, just to rub it in, she said "There were 200 cases of this wine made, but only 50 are left."

I sighed and put down my pen. No point doing a taste profile of these, nobody's going to be able to find them in their wine shop, let alone in their supermarket or liquor store!

At the Livermore Harvest Wine Festival in September 2008, I made a point to stop in at Concannon, one of the larger wineries in the valley, so I would be able to taste and rate some wines that might actually show up on the shelves of your local store – and they were only serving one wine, and that one was labeled "LR" – for Limited Release – in fact, it was only available for purchase at the winery!


So to get into the SavvyTaste database some wines that might actually be USEFUL to you, we've started holding SavvyTaste Taste Days – an afternoon where we get together with a dozen local wineloving friends and taste some popular, widely available wines, then put them in the database.

We've had two of these events so far and taste-tested 22 wines – these are wines which are available across the country, in enough volume that most people will be able to find it locally no matter where they live in the U.S., and at prices you can actually afford to buy them without draining your bank account!

It's been a lot of fun, and it also helps me because we're drinking wines that a lot of regular people drink, which helps me keep my taste buds in line after all these high-end tastings of limited-release that cost an arm and a leg – if you can even find them to blow all your money on!

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