Imagining Wine Reviews
THIS is New. Very New!
And it’s very, very good.
We’ve been given numbers, stars, puffs, written descriptions, Haiku, X’s, verbal descriptions and the old ThumbsUp-Thumbs-Down. But what I’ve never seen used before to review a wine is a simple image.
"we hope to provide a valuable tool for wine drinkers by using
colors, sketches, photography, and other visual media in order to
convey both the intrinsic components of a particular wine along with a
general impression of it. Wine is art, drinking it should be too!"
This new and very intriguing approach to wine reviews is the work of Benjamin Saltzman at a new wine Blog called CHATEAU PETROGASM.
Is it possible to describe a wine with just a single image? Of course it is. If we can look at a number and discern any meaning at all, we can certainly look at a beautiful photo of a ripe, moldy, summer strawberry and from it learn something about the 2004 DRC Eschezeaux. In fact, we learn much more from this than we do a number or an X or a Star or any other rating. I’d also argue that depending on the writer, this photo gives us much more information than a 100 word description.
To be sure, this is impressionistic wine reviewing that is not nearly as precise as a good written description of a wine, though Saltzman, I think, is quite prepared to argue that the written word falls short as a tool to fully describe a wine due largely to the subjective nature of the impact that wine has on any one individual. And a simple image doesn’t provide the kind of context that I think is necessary in a well-done review of a wine. That fact, however, does not deny that this approach to wine reviewing is down right inspired…on a number of levels.
As Chateau Petrogasm’s founder Saltzman points out in his ABOUT SECTION, using images to convey an impression of wine overcomes the problem of language barriers that any written description of wine must bump up against. This is a problem with the written review that my English-centric mind had never considered.
It helps of course that Saltzman clearly has an eye for evocative and beautiful images. It is probably also helpful that Saltzman comes from a family that cultivated an appreciation of art. Saltzman himself is in the wine industry in Los Angeles, though I confess I do not know in what capacity he works in the industry. However, based on the wines he reviews (that doesn’t seem the right word for what he does at Chateau Petrogasm—perhaps "REVEALS" is the better term) he does have access to some pretty coveted bottlings.
The most pleasurable thing about being provided with an image to "reveal" a wine is that it forces one to
deconstruct the image even as one appreciates it. It’s a fun little intellectual excersize. While some will be turned off by the image of a rotting, ripe strawberry, at the same time we are asked to step to one side mentally and consider the practical implications and meanings of this image without any help from accompanying words: we get to deconstruct the 04 DRC Eschezeaux by considering the inherent meaning of strawberry, mold, ripe and blank background. This is good work for the mind and good for the soul.
If I were Saltzman, I would immediately develop a proposal for a coffee table book based on the idea of Visual Reviews of Wine and present it to a publisher with a proven record for putting out fine art compendiums.
Chateau Petrogasm is the most interesting and provocative wine blog I’ve seen in very long time. It’s an important blog and presents a new way to think about wine and wine reviews.