Wine guides

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Xavier S
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Wine guides

#1 Post by Xavier S » March 20th, 2018, 4:42 am

Hello experts, I searched this topic around here but couldn't find a thread (forgive me if I missed one). Wondering if you could discuss the usefullness of annual wine guides (Hachette, Cernilli aka Doctor Vino, etc.). I do not sell wine for a living, nor do I purchase hundreds of bottles a year (yet :P), so I've been wondering about its utility to me (my vantage point is a consumer who's also an avid 'student of wine'), especially since they are updated every year.
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Eric Ifune
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#2 Post by Eric Ifune » March 20th, 2018, 1:37 pm

When I lived in Italy, I would follow the Gambero Rosso guide annually to follow the current wine scene. But they tend to give more a moment in time rather than a broad overview.

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RichardFlack
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#3 Post by RichardFlack » March 20th, 2018, 4:50 pm

For me Hugh Johnson Pocket wine guide does the trick. (Although it's many years since it's really fit in a pocket!).

Xavier S
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#4 Post by Xavier S » March 20th, 2018, 5:26 pm

RichardFlack wrote:For me Hugh Johnson Pocket wine guide does the trick. (Although it's many years since it's really fit in a pocket!).
What do you use it for? That's what I was wondering about, if I'm learning about wine, what does the guide give me? In other words, is it an educational tool or really just a consumer tool?
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Ian Sutton
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#5 Post by Ian Sutton » March 21st, 2018, 4:19 pm

A difficult question to answer, as although I have bought a good many over the years, they can be too easy to rely on, and they risk us trusting them over our own palate.

What they tend to tell you, is who the established names are in a region. Some fine under the radar producers never get a mention, whilst others trading on historic reputation continue to get a mention.

It is interesting to read opinions, and better to get a balance of opinions. The glory years of Robert Parker were when people slavishly followed hkis every score, believing his was the greatest palate and ignoring their own. The field is a little wider now, but the same sheeplike following still exists across a range of critics.

If I had to have a single annual it would be the Hugh Johnson one, essentially the work of many critics edited into a quirky yet dense format. It still tells you the same established names, but never be afraid to try wines from other producers, where the vibe you get is that they may be interesting. I do find it useful for exploring completely new areas or grapes, to get a basic feel of what to expect and to perhaps seek an established name to give a new region or grape a fair chance to spark an interest.

My favourite annual was bibenda wine by the Italian sommeliers association, but it is in Italian, and now only online, not in print. I like books.
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Xavier S
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Wine guides

#6 Post by Xavier S » March 21st, 2018, 6:52 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:I do find it useful for exploring completely new areas or grapes, to get a basic feel of what to expect and to perhaps seek an established name to give a new region or grape a fair chance to spark an interest.
That's the answer. Thanks, this is very helpful. And thank you for mentioning bibenda. I like books too but speak Italian so will look into it.
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#7 Post by Ian Sutton » March 23rd, 2018, 2:15 pm

Hi Xavier
I should give a reasoning of 'why' for the Bibenda Wine.

For
Proper tasting notes (including a food suggestion). So many of the Italian wine guides either have just scores, or take up most space with a fawning write-up of how lovely the estate and people are, leaving little space for the wines. In an annual it should be mostly about the wines IMO. Other formats give better scope for focusing on the winery, the history and the lovely people.

Coverage. Better than most, the written version over 2000 pages before the move to electronic format. Still plenty of producers missing, and some who don't deserve to be excluded, but no guide could ever be perfect.

Restaurant / Enoteca suggestions. A useful addition to other sources of restaurant recommendations, but especially useful as the entries all had to take wine moderately seriously to get a mention.

Against
Written by Sommeliers, one always wondered whether this had too big an influence on the restaurant suggestions. This is Italy, and there are always people to placate to smooth relations.

Like Gambero Rosso, this is a committee effort rather than the work of one person. For those that believe they can get a feel for how palates align, what can you read into the mind of a committee?

For or Against?
Ratings are on a 0-5 grape bunch scale. Pleasingly vague for some (myself included), or frustratingly vague for others

No Drinking windows. Instead a simple unready/ready but will improve/ready scale. Frustratingly vague for some (myself included), or pleasingly vague for some who believe maturity is such a matter of personal taste, that drinking windows are counter-productive.

Regards
Ian
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RichardFlack
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#8 Post by RichardFlack » March 23rd, 2018, 4:15 pm

Xavier S wrote:
RichardFlack wrote:For me Hugh Johnson Pocket wine guide does the trick. (Although it's many years since it's really fit in a pocket!).
What do you use it for? That's what I was wondering about, if I'm learning about wine, what does the guide give me? In other words, is it an educational tool or really just a consumer tool?
Various uses.
Depending on when I get it, ideally at Holday time, an interesting read of his editorial content, basically a hot topic (e.g. Alcohol) and a survey of the current release vintage around the world , and reprise of the prior.
There's also interesting articles at the back on one topic or another. Oh and the Johnson rating scale was a hoot when it appeared. (My favourite was the two sniffs (I think) "faint interest, or possibly, disbelief" ... the man can write).
Sections on grape varieties, food matching (incl a section on food with finest wine) are always worth a look.
These alone justify the fairly modest price.

Then there's the quick look at various favourite producers, regions whatever to see if there's new content. Depending on which one, entries may " stick" for a few years.

After that, it really is the best place to go first for a succinct take on a new (to me) wine / vintage. The polar opposite of 'oven roasted blueberries with lime zest' style of writing.

Finally, and this might be another way to define a wine geek... I like just dipping into it, sort of like a dictionary, to peruse a couple of entries (ok occasionally a page) at random. And being short, it needn't take a lot of time.

It's gotten fatter, like many of us, over the years. And, as has been pointed out, has a large coterie of contributors so as to cover all the many regions of the world. So I don't often take it to restaurants or whatever. But the good thing about the interweb is the restauarants have their lists on the online so I can look things up before I go. I think there's irony lurking there.

Educational? Yes but I think better word is informative. I learn from it all the time.

PS. Looking over this, it maybe a bit over the top. There are other guides I have and use, but most are dated (come on down, Mr Parker) , this is the only general guide I buy on a regular basis. That says something I think. Aside from that, it's Purple Pages and Wine-Searcher!

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#9 Post by RichardFlack » March 23rd, 2018, 4:18 pm

The OP included the word annual. I think if we open this up to periodic we have a wider and more interesting selection available. E.g. World Atlas of Wine.

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