YOUR YEAR IN WINE 2012 -- WHAT WERE YOUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENTS FOR THE YEAR?

Yo Berserkz,
I thought I’d start a nice Xmassy/Hannukahish/Kwanzakaish non-denominational holidayish “Year In Review” type thread for everyone to post about their developments as a Wine Berserker and how you changed and grew over the 2012 year as a Wine Berserker. Feel free to share yours here with everyone.

To start the thread, here is how I’ve changed and developed as a Wine Berserker over the past year:

KICKING THE ICEWINE HABIT: For a guy addicted to icewine which is how I got my whole start in this whole crazy wine habit, I actually drank shockingly very little of the stuff in 2012. In fact, after going over my collection spreadsheet I was astonished to see I drank less than a half-dozen bottles of icewine the entire year. This is partly due to the now rather large size of my collection of sweet wines from all regions and categories of the world, but really it’s mostly due to my diversifying tastes as I came to appreciate more and more sweet wines from the rest of the world. I still enjoy icewine very much (I just finished a great Jackson-Triggs 2007 single vineyard Riesling icewine this very week) and it will always hold a place in my heart as my first wine love, but it’s nice to see how far my palate has come even within just the sweet wine range.

BECOMING A PORT-LOVING FIEND… : Shades of Roy Hersh and Andy Verbeil! The sweet wines I both acquired and drank the most of in 2012 were… Vintage and Tawny Ports! In fact, if I throw in fortified Muscats and Spanish Sherry wine in there, fortified wine in general made up the gross of my sweet wine purchases by value and bottle consumption for this year! Shock! :open_mouth: I’ve loved the complexity and unique flavors of Port wine since Todd Estroff and Michael Grammer introduced me to real true aged Vintage Port but I never would’ve imagined that Vintage and Tawny Port would actually become my favorite wines of the year.

… AND A COGNAC/ARMAGNAC/BRANDY/CALVADOS-LOVING FIEND… : In 2012, I finally took the plunge into the truest expression of wine and ventured into Cognac and Armagnac and fell in love with the stuff immediately. Having had the benefit of the board’s knowledge and the honest expertise of a trusted LCBO consultant at the Summerhill flagship store to guide me, I made the wise decision of seeking out smaller family-run houses and medium-sized houses such as Audry, Popeil, Croizet while avoiding the behemoths like the plague. As a result, I managed to snag several bottles of extremely high-quality XO and Hors D’Age level cognac at ridiculously good prices that the mainstream LCBO and SAQ customer were unfairly ignoring to my advantage. This new love now encompasses Spanish Brandy and French Calvados as well. It’s good to finally be a part of the Spirit world.

… AND A TENTATIVE WHISKY EXPLORER: This year I also took my first ventures into the world of Whiskey. While I was tentatively exploring a few samples once in a while at the LCBO tasting bars, it was the coverage of a Forty Creek special event and meeting revered Canadian whisky maker John Hall that finally turned the tide for me. My first whisky purchases consisted of sweet wine cask-finished Glenmorangie 12 year olds but a chance tasting of a couple of 18 year old whisky really opened my eyes up to what truly great whisky should taste like. More exploring to come in 2013 including my likely attendance at the 2013 Toronto Whisky Show.

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO: On the opposite end of the spectrum, in 2012 my love for two specific types of sweet wines really fell by the wayside. One took a while to come and the other was a shockingly fast development.
I really experienced some major disenchantment with Sauternes this year for some reason. While I still love the stuff and have plenty in my collection I intend to consume, I wasn’t as excited in 2012 for the stuff as I was in 2011.

There were a number of reasons for this. There were far less great finds at the LCBO and the SAQ this year than last; the ones that were brought in I thought were far overpriced for what they offered; and I was exposed to other botrylized sweet wines from Austria and New Zealand that really blew me away and offered far greater value than similarly priced Sauternes.
Of course, keep in mind that a few good bottles could completely turn this around next year for me just as 2011 was a great year for Sauternes for me. Not so much for Madeira with me. The reason this one shocks me is that it wasn’t that long ago that I posted a positive thread on how much I liked my first Madeiras.

You see, at this year’s annual Gourmet Food and Wine Expo, I had the chance to sample some 15 and 20 year old Bual and Malvasia madeiras as well as some colheitas… and they weren’t significantly any different that the simple 10 year old Madeiras I’d previously tried.
Don’t get me wrong – they were all pretty damn good. That wasn’t the problem I had. The problem I had was that unlike Vintage Port and Tawny Port from the same region which become increasingly better and better with a larger age designation, Madeira tasted exactly the same to me the higher the age designation got. I honestly couldn’t discern any noticeable difference between the 10, 15 and 20 year olds. And that’s a problem for me because it means there is no value in acquiring higher aged bottles.

In comparison, I find such a difference between 10, 20 and 30 year Tawny Port that I actually refused to drink 10 year old Tawny Port all throughout 2012. Keep in mind, if I get my hands on an old Terrantez Madeira from 1937 this could all change dramatically. Since this likelihood is actually quite small, I’m afraid I’ve fallen quite a bit out of love with Madeira almost as quickly as I fell in love with it initially.

JOINING THE BLOGOSPHERE: In late 2011, I finally decided to start blogging about food and wine. I had actually registered a blog on WordPress but it never moved past one article. That’s because I also submitted a few articles to my friend Ange Aiello’s successful wine club blog as well. As she has become far too busy with actual paid writing assignments and TV/radio appearances, the situation reversed itself where she asked me to not only submit articles directly to her, she also often requested my presence directly to cover industry wine events. Rather than have to establish myself from scratch for a couple of years before earning the trust of the industry’s players, this allowed me to jump in immediately off of her own already established credentials.

A perfect storm, as they say, which led me to actually write most of this year’s articles on the iYellow Wine Club’s blog and see what it’s actually like to be a player in the industry. Two of the most striking aspects to me about wine blogging: how bloggers are becoming just as if not more valuable to the industry than standard mainstream media and the lack of integrity of some bloggers who use their positions merely to glom onto as many free events as they can while providing little and sometimes even no coverage in return.
We currently have a thread on the board regarding the lack of ethics of established media wine critics and writers and how it has a ripple effect on those with ethics. I can assure everyone that the blogosphere’s inhabitants are exactly the same. Just because we don’t work for powerful media companies with lots of money and are more independent, doesn’t mean we’re more ethical.

FOLLOWING THE BUSINESS: Another big change is that this year I actually began paying really close attention to the business side of wine and spirits which I never used to do before. I have posted before on my Niagara Wine Country trip summaries of the stories the wineries would tell me about doing business with the LCBO. I have broadened that knowledge now to the wine and spirits business worldwide in general. It really is fascinating to see all the work that goes into not only making but marketing and selling our favorite beverages and the political machinations that surround it.

MATCHING AND COOKING FOOD WITH WINE AND SPIRITS: While I’ve always been a life-long foodie, adapting to matching food with wine and spirits was an interesting challenge because of the presence of one crucial ingredient – alcohol. A molecular scientist and wine blogger explained to me this year that as alcohol evaporates it carries molecules that make up the flavanoids in foods further into the palate as well as up into the nostrils. This actually happens naturally without alcohol, but alcohol makes the process happen a lot faster and it’s carrying the flavanoids of the alcohol’s source as well as the food. This is also why the finish of a well-made wine or spirit lasts so long on the palate.
This single bit of knowledge was far more beneficial than the usual non-helpful food-matching verbal diarrhea that even so-called experts put out: red with meat, white with fish; only light fruit desserts with icewine; etc.

Once I knew how the process works in the palate, it became a lot easier to not only match prepared food to wine and spirits but to cook with them as well. The pinnacle of this challenge was the Whiskied Salisbury Steak and Salisbury Steak Diane I made this year and wrote about in a thread. Wine and spirits simply elevate food, even comfort food, to a level beyond when used properly.

TRANSFORMING INTO AN ELITIST BARGAIN HUNTER: One of the great advantages this board has afforded me is quite simply the frequent name-dropping that keeps occurring in threads. Both by dropping names directly and giving me the knowledge to find and research names of producers I should be looking into instead of the large commercial ones being shoved down our throats, I’ve managed to get really good at obtaining real wine and spirit bargains.

See, the mainstream consumer thinks a bargain wine or spirit is simply a cheap one. A true bargain hunter knows a bargain is actually based on the quality obtained per dollar, or what the members of this board lovingly refer to as QPR. As every member of this board knows, a $100 bottle of wine can be a far better bargain than a $20 one if the QPR of the former is much higher. But it goes beyond just that.

See the average consumer doesn’t put in the research that we do here on the board. That’s why they go for the $238 Remy Martin XO Cognac, for example, and ignore the fabulous A. Edmond Audry that’s a steal at $168. But then it gets better. Because it won’t sell among the mainstream public, the LCBO drops it to a mere $138 to clear it off the shelves. And the average consumer STILL ignores it. So it drops AGAIN to $109. And they STILL FREAKIN’ IGNORE IT. So guess who gets to snap up two bottles of the stuff at an amazing price?
And that’s just one of the many scores I’ve done this year at the relatively restrictive LCBO thanks to the mainstream public’s ignorance. Another is the Dennis Old Tawny port from Australia. Imagine what a field day I’d have if Ontario, Canada had an open free market for wine and liquor.

Pretty recently Ive decide to buy less cote d’or reds and more wine from Chablis, Beaujolais and Jura.

Evening,

2011 Germans have thrown a bucket of petrol on my already intensely burning passion for small-scale, botrytis-free Rieslings.

I have vowed never to buy vintage Bollinger again.

I’ve sold half my wine collection, including my one bottle of the finest red wine I have ever drank (Mugnier Musigny 2001), to afford rent.

Other than that it’s been business as usual, really.

Anon,
David.

Why’s that David?

As much as I try to avoid the Grand Marques in the main, I was very much impressed by a Bollinger Grand Annee 2000 at a champagne tasting earlier this month. It’s probably up there in my top 5 champagnes of the year. I won’t buy any unless I see it at a decent price but if I got the opportunity to pick it up for under €50/bottle then I wouldn’t hesitate…

Hello Will,

After trying several bottles of 2002 that were all showing an even more oxidative style than previous vintages, and trying a number of not terribly old bottles that had died because of this stylistic choice, I’ve just grown tired of Bollinger. Sure, it makes for wines that are accessible on release, but they simply don’t age. I like my fizz to be either fresh and vibrant when young (which young Bollinger isn’t) or capable of maturing into something properly intricate and profound with age (which Bollinger doesn’t). The ‘pretend maturity’-style of the oxidative wine-making employed by Bollinger leaves my aesthetes profoundly untweaked.

But then I have exacting standards [snort.gif]

Anon,
David.

PS. I feel for a friend who was given a six-pack of 1996 as a wedding present. He thought “Ace!” and indeed it was glorious when young. However, when we popped the first bottle it had long since shuffled off its mortal coil and gone to join the choir invisible. I suggested he serve it all to the person who gave it to him - HA! neener

That is the best red wine Ive had too. Sorry you had to sell it.

It hurt, Berry, a lot.

David,

Has bollinger’s style changed? I had a fabulous original release 75 last year…

Dan

Hi Dan,

I first noticed it with the 1990, and it’s been getting more noticeable (or I’m getting more vexed by it). I got a couple of cases of 85 on release and had my last bottle last year - still scrummy! Shame they’re not like that now…

David.

In terms of my 2012 from a wine perspective, the main development was finally admitting to myself that I don’t really like anything other than champagne, burgundy and German Riesling enough to spend the sums required. Hence, all my remaining Bordeaux, rhone, etc etc went for sale recently.

I’ve got some 96 RD that I should probably try!

Excellent work, Dan - top man! But you still buy Sherry as well, I trust?

D.

I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you all. Too much work, that.

Ahh, the year end ‘what have i learned’ topic…funny, i was thinking the other day of starting this discussion but I got distracted off by something shiny and forgot. As I think about it, I learned the following.

  1. Great burgundy is, well, great burgundy. The 99 Grivot Richebourg and 96 Cathiard Romanee St Vivant were simply memorable. As I started the year, and kept spending on burg as I did exiting 2011, I learned fast that I simply cannot have a balanced cellar and budget if I try and steer off into burgundy without some restraint. Thus, I cut way back on burgundy purchases in 2012, save Chablis. I suspect 2013 will look like this too, although I am still going to target in on some NSG and Volnay stuff as I continue to develop a love for this area.

  2. I reaffirmed what California continues to offer, which was wines that thrilled me. Continuing to look for wines that show balance, an absence of oak and heat, verve–Copain comes to mind, which is my standard bearer. For those who pursue a linear, one continent strategy and forget that CA is cutting some excellent paths with things here, you’re missing out.

3, Chenin Blanc. Oh I love this varietal more than I did in 2011, really Huet and that damn Sec Le Mont. What a bottle of wine that is. I have continued to load this varietal into my cellar, and the beauty of these wines is that they do not smash the budget. What a great value and pleasure to drink.

  1. Generosity. Another year of friends sharing wine with me, giving of their own cellars, of their kindness. Thank you.

I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings.

I’m sort of the same, but it’s only red Burgundy that I really like enough. What I have realised this year, though, is that I know what it tastes like and the way to enjoy it properly is to ration it. Of course red Burgundy only goes with a limited range of foods/cuisines but I’m increasingly happy with something modest or nothing at all.

This was probably the year I got back into California wines. A number of articles from John Gilman gave me confidence that not all California wines had gone to the dark side. I happened to speak at a seminar in Napa this summer and got to visit long-time favorites Ridge and Chateau Montelena but also went to older wineries like Mayacamas and Stony Hill. I now want to try to sell my overprocessed, overoaked California Cabernet from the mid-1990s and replace them with wonder balanced wines from wineries like these.

But, a lot of my attention this year (and likely next year) has been focused on my true love in wine - red Burgundy. I truly love the wines I have tasted so far from 2010 and likely 2013 will be my year of 2010 Burgundies.

Went to Burgundy in November. While barrel tasting at Jadot I had my ‘moment’ with the wine. I get it now.

Tom,

Burgundy=red burgundy was a given!

Dan

Not there yet I’m afraid.

I’m really surprised that this thread fell back onto Page 3 so quickly, without much reply traffic. What’s with 2012?

And, I missed one wine development. Not only did Mike Stoneking drink Burgundy, he’s buying Burgundy. That IS a development!

And back to the thread…nobody else have any takeaways from 2012 worth sharing?