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How NOT to Write a Wine Review

reallygoodwineAfter having already been to the market, and forgotten to pick up my coveted weekend copy of the Globe & Mail, I settled for a quiet cup of tea and some wine reviews.

I was a colossal fan of Billy’s Best Bottles when Billy was witty, concise and hilariously jolly about his wine writing(pre 2010). Billy was not a wine critic, he was an enthusiast and a writer. Every wine was an underdog waiting for its time to shine, we just had yet to discover it.

Billy’s Best Bottles no longer gets published, and the ‘branding’ has positioned Billy as a wine critic cum travel agent. It’s a shame really, because Billy’s humour was what set him apart from the over-the-top-have-to-prove-something wine critics,and inspired most people to explore new wines. After all, any vino that slid in under his ‘Cheap & Cheerful’ category could only be wonderful.

Alas, I am left with wine reviews that are dry, pretentious, and make me wonder if these critics aren’t all sitting back with wildly mischievous grins on their faces because they know they are full of the finest el poopo out there.

The first review I read today described a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon as having aromas of menthol, tobacco, clay and beeswax. Are you kidding me? Clay and beeswax? At $S80, I’d say it’s a bargain, wouldn’t you?

Then there was, “…it offers raspberries, anise, some violets, plums and (wait for it…) oolong tea. Oolong tea? Yah chooch, I know what Oolong tea smells like, and if I wanted some, I’d brew it.

Having, “…plenty of incense”, really isn’t something I’m looking for in a wine. I get smoky, but incense? Please monsieur, put your thesaurus away.

Now, every girl wants to uncork, “Sappy and focused on the nervy finish.” For the love of all that’s holy! That’s why we’re opening the bottle in the first place! We need to get away from sappy and nervy. Definitely not picking up this beauty.

I think the crowning glory of wine elitism gone terribly awry is, “It possesses copious notes of garrigue, loamy soil, balsam wood, underbrush…”. Stop right there Shakespeare. Put the pen down and back away. Clearly you are in dire need of help removing your brains from your arse.

Having grown up in the country, I thought that the first reference to aromas of  tobacco, clay and beeswax were the tiniest bit, romantic. But, “melted road tar,” trumps that by far. Melted road tar? Don’t tell me,  your ideal wine smells like new permanent black marker, flowing gasoline and sulphur-like flatulence, doesn’t it sweetie?

If I were a wine producer, I would be suing some of these goofballs for slander.

Now, having said that, there are reviews that make me want to run out and buy cases of wine.

How about this? “It has enough fruit generosity but it also has a clear, honed elegance. Plum spice, cloves, red cherries. Succulent red. Lipsmacking. Excellent depth and impact..” (about Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2012 by C.J. Katz,, Feb 28, 2014). Yes! I’ll take lipsmacking any day!

Or perhaps, “…dark and brooding bouquet offering cedar, black furits and fine French oak; the palate shows great intensity, whilst remaining light on its feet, with tannins that are very fine and polished; a sleeper waiting to awaken.” (Ben Edwards,, July 17, 2012). Mmm! Mmm!

Sure, I can hear my critics say that critics can say all that great stuff, but the wine might be plonk. Sure, that could very well be the case. But I’d rather take my chances on lipsmacking and a 2012 waiting to awaken than melted road tar.

Gone may be the days of good old reviews such as, ” Expect some Baco-style wildness, and edge. Wimps beware.” (Billy Munnelly, Billy’s Best Bottles 2012 about Colios, River Rock), or his lusciously lovely descriptor; gulpable.

Thankfully we have writers such as Katz and Edwards who are relatively down to earth, although, lacking the Irish humour I love so much.

My advice for wine critics; have some fun. Wine is meant to be gulpable. It is the fuel for friendship, creativity and passion.






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