No sane man can afford to dispense with debilitating pleasures; no ascetic can be considered reliably sane.
Wine writers have been around for almost as long as there has been wine, but in the past, generally speaking, most wine writing was uncritical and emphasized wine as a romantic, historic beverage. Criticism and comparative tastings were eschewed for fear of offending the trade, which most writers depended upon for survival.
I think the Japanese love young, tannic red wines much more than most Americans do. Perhaps it is because Asians have a great fondness for tea, and tea is a very tannic beverage. Therefore a young, tannic red wine is something familiar to an Asian palate.
As far as vintage Champagne goes, I loved 1990; it's a great, great vintage. I bought a lot of 1990 Blanc de Blancs Champagne - my favorite kind - and I plan on drinking it all by 2005.
Trevisan is one of the few Paso Robles producers to recognize the potential of the region's old-vine Zinfandel, which he blends with Syrah and Mourvedre and labels with fanciful names such as Problem Child, the Outsider and Cherry Red.
There is no question that Australia's most dramatic assault on the world market has been with its value wines. These are generally not from specific appellations but blends made by huge enterprises like Penfolds, Rosemount or Casella Estate - the group behind Yellow Tail.
I like white wine when it's young and vigorous. I don't think you should cellar white wine at all, unless it's white Burgundy, and definitely not nonvintage Champagne.
Although the French appellation system has its roots in the 1923 system created in Chateauneuf-du-Pape by Baron Le Roy, proprietor of the renowned Chateau Fortia, Chateauneuf-du-Pape never developed a reputation for quality or achieved the prestige enjoyed by such regions as Burgundy and Bordeaux.
What's important in a cellar is having wines that have a broad range of drinkability, which California Cabernet does. Wines with a broad range of drinkability give you a lot of flexibility; they are the sort of wines that make me feel secure. I think of my wine cellar as security - if the apocalypse comes, I can just go down to the cellar.
I believe that the responsibility of the winemaker is to take that fruit and get it into the bottle as the most natural and purest expression of that vineyard, of the grape varietal or blend, and of the vintage.
Generally speaking, when Australian winemakers try to make delicate, European-styled wines of finesse and lightness, the wines often come across as pale imitations of the originals. One exception is Australian Riesling, delicious, dry wines meant to be consumed in their first two years of life.
When I started in 1978, the greatest wine in Spain, Vega Sicilia, wasn't even imported to the United States. The alleged greatest Australian wine, Penfolds Grange, wasn't imported to the United States. There were no by-the-glass programs. Sommeliers were intimidating.
In the wine world, crusaders would have wine consumers believe that the only wines of merit are something completely indefinable but which they call 'authentic' or 'natural.'
When I put my nose in a glass, it's like tunnel vision. I move into another world, where everything around me is just gone, and every bit of mental energy is focused on that wine.
Back in 1990, there were fewer than 20 wineries in and around Paso Robles, a farming community midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Most of the wines produced there were rustic, highly tannic and alcoholic, with little charm or finesse.
When I began visiting Bordeaux in 1979, only a handful of writers were there to taste the wines in the spring (and nearly all were British).
The best Chateauneuf-du-Papes are among the most natural expressions of grapes, place and vintage. Chateauneuf-du-Pape vineyards are farmed organically or biodynamically, and the region's abundant sunshine and frequent wind (called 'le mistral') practically preclude the need for treating the fields with herbicides or pesticides.
Tawny ports have already spent 20 or 30 years in wood - it's not likely they're going to improve. On the other hand, they're not going to get any worse.
No scoring system is perfect, but a system that provides for flexibility in scores, if applied by the same taster without prejudice, can quantify different levels of wine quality and provide the reader with one professional's judgment.
The first famous winemaking consultant was the late professor Emile Peynaud, who reigned over Bordeaux throughout the 1940s, '50s, '60s and '70s.