Decanter Magazine: Honesty Trumps Hype

January 19 2008 - 12:58 PM

I admit I read Wine Spectator on the odd occasion and get sucked into their top 50 lists, especially with certain varietals and regions being foreign to me. Maybe I just don’t get it but it seems to be all about the marketing at the end of the day. 

Unfortunately, and I hate to admit I’ve done this myself in the past, people pick the wine based on the rating. When you don’t have enough information to make a decision you find yourself relying upon other sources. Unfortunately Wine Spectator ratings seem to somehow correlate with prices.

there is a British wine magazine that also tends to hype things with
their own top 50 lists (hey, they need to sell magazines), but also
provides quality journalism.
Decanter is also not afraid to take defiant stands, and one example of this is in their January 2008 publication, where a panel of tasters reviewed California cabernets. According to their subheading, “acidity was lacking in many examples”.

It gets better: “the panel was disappointed” and one member felt there was “manipulative winemaking” going on. The article went on to say “too much extraction, too much oak, too much ripeness, too much sugar.” One reviewer said “80% of these wines are not good value”, and that “the cheaper wines were just boring or not very good”. 

line, ostensibly by a Brit pondering American wine drinking habits that
I think sums up California Cabs the best is: “Do they drink them by
themselves? Because they don’t go well with food.”  Ouch.
I don’t remember seeing a lot of steakhouses in England, because about
the only thing I remember pairing with a Califonia cab is a juicy steak. Nothing else, in my opinion, pairs very well.

article discusses a theory regarding the popularity that Chateau Lafite
(a very pricey) Bordeaux as “easy for rich, neophyte collectors to
pronounce”, which implies anything is fair game for these writers who
eschew diplomacy.

Whether you agree with the article or not is a matter of debate. I
prefer trying to mete out the flavors of European wines, as opposed to being overpowered by cherries and blackberries, and, duh, oak. Not to say there aren’t great cabs out there….I have a select handful.

they rate wines as well on a “star” basis, but the primary content in
Decanter seems more focused on uncovering the many regions of the
world outside Napa. And the American wine
magazines do try to be more worldly, but of course the American market
loves the big flavors and gets sucked in by the shameless promotion. I
get it, I suppose.

witticisms are seldom found in our stateside publications, and it is
great to know that a publication such as this is readily available in
major bookstores.  And if you don’t take it from me, take it from their
immodest claim that they are "quite simply – the worlds best wine