In February 2011, Eric Asimov wrote in the New York Times:
…most of the gaudy descriptions found in tasting notes will not help to understand the character of a bottle or to anticipate the experience of drinking it.
Photography by Irving Schild
(from his private collection)
The Kosher Scene
While it may seem heretical to say, the more specific the description of a wine, the less useful information is actually transmitted. See for yourself. All you have to do is compare two reviewers’ notes for a single bottle: one’s ripe raspberry, white pepper and blackberry is another’s sweet-and-sour-cherries and spice box. What’s the solution? Well, if you feel the need, the urgent need, to know precisely what a wine is going to taste like before you sniff and swallow, forget it. Experience will give a general idea, but fixating on exactitude is a fool’s errand. Two bottles of the same wine can taste different depending on when, where and with whom you open them.
Wine is a moment, is a mood. A few year’s ago, Yoav Siseley (at the time the distributor of Tishby Wines), said on my radio show that if you drink a favorite wine, as you sit with good friends or a loved one, your taste buds will experience the full rainbow of flavors in that bottle; if, however, you drink that same bottle at a moment when you are upset about something, or someone, the taste experience will be very different. And then, then there is breathing time…
Shortly after we first started this blog, I had a tasting session with walking wine encyclopedia, taste teacher extraordinaire, Costas Mouzouras from Gotham Wines and Liquors, in Manhattan. He had me open a bottle (among others) of a Cyprus’ wine, we tasted it and… I was not impressed! He told me to wait 15 minutes, then half an hour, then 2 hours. While the bottle remained the same, each time revealed new richer notes, the taste kept on improving until it was barely recognizable from that first sip.
John Cleese, of Monty Pithon fame, made a series of videos explaining wine to the uninitiated. In one of them, he invited various celebrities to his estate. Some knew wine, some did not. In many cases the reactions were so different the viewer had to wonder if they were all talking about the same bottle. Because, as we said, wine is a personal experience, an experience shaped by the moment, shaped by the mood.
Barely a few years ago, kosher wines were of the extra sweet Concord, or extra sweet Malaga variety, almost exclusively, with an occasional sweet Tokay thrown in to the mix. Those days are now thankfully well behind us. Kosher wines come in a variety of grapes and mixes of grapes, they range from sweet to semi sweet, from semi dry to dry. There are many world class, award winning, vintages that just happen to be kosher. They come in all price ranges and there is always something to suit your taste.
Yes, you could roll the wine in your mouth – just like the experts – because they try to expose it to all the different taste sensitive parts of the tongue. At the tongue’s tip are the sweetness receptors, just a little back you’ll taste the saltiness. The sides of the tongue will tell you about the acidity or sourness while the back of the tongue will tell you of any bitterness. Yes, you could do all that or you could just relax and sip…