The culmination of the year's academic activities and completion of all administrative obligations connected therewith had left me in a somewhat festive and celebratory mood, so I ventured over to Binny's to pluck from their hands some Chateauneuf du Pape that was being offered at a very attractive price. The old cellar, or should I say wardrobe, was a little lacking in that vinous region. Assuming it had not just fallen off the back of a lorry, or was not the product of some fake wine label operation on the south side it was an almost can't lose situation. Nonetheless, I sought the advice of CellarTracker prior to completing the deal. Fully fledged winos are probably familiar with this web-based cellar management software already since it boasts some thirty thousand members. Developed by some ex-Microsoft guy with way too much time on his hands (or so it seems), it represents a giant data-base which interconnects every bottle (some five million or more) and its attendant data by name. Every member can be his own Robert Parker and declaim loudly on the virtues (or not) of a wine to those who care to listen. The site now boasts upward of 300,000 tasting notes (TNs in the business). Dulcie and Aylwin confess to having contributed their share to this superfluity of information. I find they provide the benefit of being a largely independent and honest (if not necessarily educated) opinion of a wine. I am moved to give these notes more weight, their poor spelling and lack of style or grammar not withstanding, than their more illustrious "professional" counterparts. Jancis Robinson (trying hard here to suppress the envy) for all her flair cannot be everywhere all the time; and in any case who pronounced her palate to have some divine right? Wine stores like to post the Parker ratings or their equivalents (whenever favourable of course) as an inducement to purchase. The following is not atypical, "Nevertheless, it is an enormously endowed effort revealing notes of licorice, blackberry and cherry fruit, melted asphalt, tapenade, truffles, and smoke." (This in regard to a Chateau Beaucastel 1999) I guess it needs a lot of that to be worth $265 a bottle; but can we really believe it, and what does it all really mean when it comes down to it? Does the melted asphalt distinguish it from the also-rans? What if I, the humble peasant, cannot find the asphalt? What do I do about not having the faintest notion what tapenade smells or tastes like? Dulcie questioned whether this was a review of a wine or a mulch.
Some of the CT-ers like to out-Parker Parker with their run-on lists of adjectives and similes and, in a way, provide their own entertainment for those with ample time on their hands - like me at this moment. This one in regard to a Hermitage is representative, "The nose has all the typical N Rhône notes of meat, grouse blood, wet earth, pepper, dark fruit. The palate is fruity - perhaps there is also a touch of unfortunate sur maturité also..." Grouse blood? I can imagine the scene at a wine-tasting class where various fouls are slaughtered and the smells of the freshly run blood compared. Well it would be grouse of course to evoke game, wealth and prestige. Sparrow or crow would not do at all. Dulcie observed that similar exotic smells could be had from the laundry basket, though it is possible the descriptions may be a little too gamey or intimate for some. Modesty forbids me to pursue that line of creative thought further. And the little foray into French - "sur maturité" - adds that "Je ne sais quois"
We are thinking of adding to our TNs Gerald Samperesque food recommendations in the style of Cooking with Fernet Branca which just arrived from Amazon - a perfect match for otter chunks for example.