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james laube's wine flights

Back to the Fundamentals

Baseball's spring training is a great time to brush up on the wine-tasting basics
Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Mar 9, 2017 3:45pm ET

Baseball players use spring training to fine-tune their fundamentals. It doesn't matter which nuance of the game they're working on, spring training presents a time to get back to basics. I've taken spring as a good time to brush up on the ABCs of wine tasting.

I find it useful, for example, to taste more than one kind of wine at a time. It allows for comparative analysis purposes.

It can be any kind of wine provided there are two, or even more if you like. What I've learned is that there are ways to see similarities in certain wines, such as Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, or ones that are seemingly opposites, such as a late-harvest Sémillon vs. Chardonnay, or even a Syrah vs. a Riesling.

What you learn from comparing different types and styles of wine highlights varietal character, wine weight and viscosity, aromas, oak influence, earthiness and herbs or spices, etc. One place you can start is right here online at WineSpectator.com's Learn Wine section.

I often meet people who want wine-buying advice, and I routinely direct them to our Daily Wine Picks page—the range of wine values is impressive, even for those of us who taste on a daily basis.

Yesterday's under-$15 pick was my recommendation of Bridlewood California Pinot Noir 2015 (88 points). At $13, I don't see how you can lose by trying it. You'll almost certainly learn something about the wine and, ultimately, your preferences.

Russell Quong
Sunnyvale, CA —  May 5, 2017 11:48pm ET
This comment is tangentially related to your blog about fundamentals of tasting. It's more a letter to the editor.

Wine preferences are personal. This applies to the WS reviewers too. My own preferences align from poorly to well with different WS reviewers. So, how could a reader quickly get a sense of the reviewers whose preferences match their own?

My proposal: WS chooses say ~20 "reference wines" with decent availability spanning a variety of styles. Have every WS reviewer provide a score and tasting notes of each the reference wines. As a consumer if I can find several of the reference wines, I can then decide which reviewers best match my own tastes. WS could provide say 2 reference wine reviews each month or in larger bunches.

Finding a wine critic that one can trust is fundamental to pursuing wine. And WS could be a vanguard by doing this.

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