What makes for a good wine review?
Tasting notes and wine reviews are the bread and butter of wine writing. Everyone who writes about wine must at some point, if not most of the time, write a review of a wine. In the end, this is what the majority of readers want to know: what does the wine taste like.
What makes for a good wine review? Obviously the components of wine provide for the structure of any wine review: color, aroma, taste, stucture. The worst wine reviews don’t offer descriptions of all these elements. They deliver something about taste and aroma and that’s it. The very best reviews cover all these bases but go one step further: they offer something about the context of the wine under review. They tell us how a wine fits in to the world of wine.
I was provoked into considering this issue when I came across a review of a client’s wine written by Jane Garvey in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She wrote about the 2001 Roshambo Alexander Valley Zinfandel. She included all the necessary sensory information but went a bit further to give the wine some context too:
"The 2001 Roshambo Zinfandel Alexander Valley actually is from a single high-elevation vineyard… Zinfandel is a bit rare in Alexander Valley, which lies north of Napa and Sonoma valleys…Alcohol is high (15.3 percent), but the fruit handles it nicely, proving once again that you can’t just go by the numbers."
This is the kind of information that really makes a review worth reading. Sure, I want the review to describe the wine using descriptors that are accessible (chocolate-mint aromas) versus descriptors I’m probably not familiar with (antique lacquered Russian cigar box). But it’s the context that gives a wine review its utility and that gives the reader something to ponder beyond what lacquered Russian cigar box smells like.