Promoting Elegance in CA Wine
Something very encouraging and thoughtful is happening at the Wine Enthusiast Magazine. It’s a trend that affects it’s scoring of California wines. In a word, that trend is Elegance.
Some folks follow the scores and reviews of wines at wine publications closer than other. I fall into the "closer than others" category not so much because I want to get my hands on the high scoring wines but because these reviews and ratings do indeed drive sales.
What Steve Heimoff seems to be doing with his reviews of California wines is promoting up those wines that deliver elegance and balance over pure power, a characteristic that seems to have been in vogue and still is with many wine consumers.
Heimoff is the Wine Enthusiast’s Senior Editor and the main sources of reviews of California wines. I noticed his trend of scoring up wines that he saw as balanced and "elegant" first when I closely read a set of California Syrah reviews he produced that clearly was an attempt at making a statement. Many of the most sought after Syrahs in California were rated down for being clumsy, over worked, flabby and over extracted.
This morning I was looking over a set of reviews of CA Pinots that appeared in the magazine’s November 1 edition. I was looking at those Pinots that got the lowest reviews and what I found were words and phrases like this:
"Heavy an Soft"
"a bit Sweet"
"a bit heavy"
"a very ripe, almost late-picked style"
"fairly full and heavy for a Pinot"
"A bit heavy and hot"
"This is ripe, super extracted and ponderous"
When looking at the highest rated wines I found words like this:
"the delicate elegance a pinot should have"
"delicate and silky, almost weightless"
"Elegantly silky mouthfeel"
"Texture is delicate and silky"
"high acidity and wonderful dryness"
Get where we are going with this. I don’t know if Steve is attempting to make a statement, or even trying to influence wineries with his focus on elegance and acidity to the detriment of sweet, heavy and overly ripe qualities.
It’s easy enough to check out Wine Enthusiasts ratings and reviews. They’ve revamped their website and it looks good. The review search feature, which requires a free registration, works just fine. My only complaint is I wish I could search all the reviews based on words, rather than just the criteria they allow such as appellation, vintage, varietal, score, etc.
Watchers of the wine industry have stated categorically for years that reviews influence the way wines are made, presumably because wineries want to make wines that get high scores. I think this is a the case to a degree and among some winemakers. If so, I hope they are reading Steve Heimoff’s reviews in the Wine Enthusiast.