Fine Wine Writing by Jonathon Alsop

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Wine Spectator Full Of... News
by Jonathon Alsop
September 1997

The Wine Spectator has a pretty good gig going. By taking numerical scores to a new extreme -- the scale is technically 0-100, but an 80 means you're out of business -- their editorial influence over consumers has grown immense. Naturally enough, their influence over wine retailers, wholesalers, and others with a financial interest has expanded as well. Between the Spectator's covers, there's insight, a little witty writing, but mostly a guide to what people are going to be asking for in wine shops at least until the next edition comes out.

Next Month: Apples Vs. Oranges -- You Make The Call!
Leading off the most recent issue is a comprehensive comparison of California chardonnay and French chardonnay, previously known for the last several centuries as white Burgundy. The interesting twist here, however, is that white Burgundy is benefiting from the comparison, not the other way around. Sure, top-drawer white Burgundy meanders around the $30 to $60 range, but guess what -- so does top-drawer California chardonnay these days. I'm suspicious that the point of these comparisons is to lure people to put a little wine money overseas while the domestic economy is strong. "Age is a great equalizer," says the Spectator. So is money, especially in the $40 bracket.

Fitting Round Wine Into A Square Barrel
An item on page 21 might have been better served in the April 1 edition. Winemaker Andre Porcheret from the Hospices de Beaune -- famous especially for red Burgundies of unfathomable price -- is experimenting with a square wine barrel. His reasoning: "A square barrel has a flat bottom." With him so far? "The lees remain lower down and come in contact with less wine." The lees is all the gunk that collects in the bottom of a barrel as the wine sits. Of course, as any eighth grade geometry student with a calculator will tell you, this isn't so. The surface area of the same amount of lees will actually be greater in a square barrel than a round barrel. My own hunch? Last month was probably One-Half-Off-All-Square-Barrels Month at the local Barrel World Outlet in Beaune.

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