Democracy Of Reviews
Hooray for more wine reviewers. But stay away from most “celebrity” endorsements.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week June 2015
When it comes to the formal evaluation of wines and spirits, the advent of the internet and the rise of social media have fundamentally altered, to some degree even leveled, and largely democratized the playing field. Now practically anyone with a computer can give voice to their views.
Such developments as this are to be welcomed and applauded. It is nearly impossible for a single individual, especially one with a day-job, to keep up with the rapidly growing number of wines and new spirits being regularly introduced into the market. More folks out there writing up their impressions, means more opportunities for small producers to get their products noticed. Also, these additional viewpoints lessen the influence of the few, self-appointed keepers of taste and opinion.
The remaining problem for consumers is how to figure out which reviewers’ tastes most align with their own. Thankfully, there is a simple and hopefully enjoyable solution: taste several of this or that reviewers’ recommendations. This requires the expense of a few bottles and the time to compare your perceptions to what others have written. The writers that entertain, inform, and expand your perspective may then become valuable guides for greater appreciation of the broad world of wines and spirits.
Also, since some sort of weeding out process is generally a good idea, we think it a safe bet to avoid “celebrity” products.
One example we recently became aware of is instructive. There is a “comedian” and Instagram “star” named Josh Ostrovsky who sports a vertical ponytail goes by the monikers, “the Fat Jewish” or “the Fat Jew.” He has lent his “star” name to a wine: a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and White Zinfandel called “White Girl Rosé” that is meant to be drunk from the bottle with a straw. He will presumably be able to sell a ton of this to his many of his 4.5 million Instagram followers… though maybe not. There are a great many other such “celebrity” backed products out there for folks to spend their money on.
Suffice it to say, at least one of us will not be giving this one a taste (it is thankfully not kosher). And we will also be sticking with wine glasses rather than straws in the future. This week we are enjoying a fine, kosher, Israeli rosé. A blend of Barbera and Merlot, the Recanati Rosé 2014 ($15) is a refreshingly bright summer wine with grapefruit and floral aromas which expand into spicy strawberry, red berry and citrus flavors, accented with herbal and mineral notes. No straw required.
Spirits-wise, this brings to mind a legit “gag” celebrity product we’ve reviewed previously called: Ron Burgundy Blended Scotch Whisky. One of us lost the coin toss, and so still has the sample bottle that was sent to us collecting dust.
For the uninitiated, “Ron Burgundy” is a silly comedic movie character played by Will Ferrell in 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. This product was part of a promotional blitz for the utterly passable 2014 movie sequel — Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. As it happens, this gag whisky was a legit product, and while much better whisky can be had for the same money, it actually wasn’t terrible.
Ron Burgundy Blended Scotch Whisky, “Great Odin’s Raven” Special Reserve (40 percent abv; $25): The nose is clean with young, vibrant yet balanced notes of both the sweet cereal malt and heavy grain whiskies, and some sweet caramel and toffee; the palate carries through from the nose, with maybe a touch more malt, some grassy notes, mild heat, slightly sweet, and an ever so slightly citrusy quality. The medium-long finish is slightly rustic and ever so slightly warming, adding a touch more vanilla, raisins, and a touch of grain. Not complex, but utterly unpretentious, tasty, and easy to drink — especially well-suited to cocktails, a splash of soda, or on the rocks. L’Chaim!