The favorite wine guide of bargain drinkers, The Wine Trials is back in a brand-new edition for 2011. A panel of wine experts has swirled, smelled, sipped, and spit its way through more than 500 wines to determine this vintage’s 175 best values under $15. Wines were tasted against much more expensive bottles in brown-bag blind tastings, often leading to shocking results. For instance, J.P. Chenet, a $12 French sparkling blend of Airén and Ugni Blanc beat out Champagne’s $150 Dom Pérignon.
The Wine of the Year for 2011 is Dr. L Riesling from Germany’s Loosen Brothers. Blind tasters loved the wine’s “balance of honeyed sweetness with zingy, refreshing acidity,” as well as the “apricot, apple, and clean metallic scent.” And all that for only $12.
Meanwhile, Washington State’s Château Ste. Michelle received 2011’s Winery of the Year award. For three years running this domestic darling has contributed a number of winners to The Wine Trials. Among this year’s picks are Château Ste. Michelle’s Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah, as well as the Horse Heaven Sauvignon Blanc. The sparklers did well too, with both the Blanc de Noirs and the Brut from Domaine Ste. Michelle (another arm of Château Ste. Michelle) earning themselves spots in this year’s guide.
A few emerging wine regions showed quite well this year as well. Bulgaria had three wines among this year’s winners, with the Targovishte Sauvignon Blanc’s bright citrus and green apple flavors wooing blind tasters. Turkey, a country whose winemaking history is long, but whose practice of exporting is not, also had two bottles make it into this year’s guide, including the Lâl Rosé, whose minerality and faint fruit helped catapult it to become the winner in the Rosé category.
The other Best of the Wine trials winners are Bogle Sauvignon Blanc (California, $9) in the light white category, Yalumba Unwooded Chardonnay (Australia, $10) in the heavy white category, Monte Antico (Italy, $12) in the light red category, and Doña Paula Los Cardos Malbec (Argentina, $12) in the heavy red category.
Fifty-five of the 175 winning wines in The Wine Trials 2011 represent new vintages of winners from the first two editions of The Wine Trials. Previous winners got no special treatment, and competed in a pool of more than 500 wines nominated by wine industry experts and blind-tasted by the panel.
You won’t find esoteric words like “elderflower” or “pencil lead” in The Wine Trials 2011. The book is written in an unpretentious, conversational style that’s just as accessible to everyday wine drinkers as it is to wine experts. Each review includes the panel’s blind tasting notes, discusses each wine’s provenance and style, and even includes a cheeky discussion of the bottle and label design.
The book also includes an updated version of co-author Robin Goldstein’s “blind tasting manifesto,” which explains how the power of price-based expectations dominates our experiences of wine, and offers advice on how to beat the placebo effect and unlock our palates. In the words of the New York Daily News, Goldstein’s essay is “a powerful piece of advice to consumers: like what you like, not what you think you should like.”
The manifesto is an engaging discussion on the field of wine perception, and a strong argument against the validity of 100-point numerical wine ratings from magazines and medals from competitions. Goldstein also discusses his “Osteria L’Intrepido” exposé, which revealed the Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence program to be functioning largely as a mere advertising scheme.
New to the “blind tasting manifesto” for 2011 is a presentation of the conclusions of a study revealing a correlation between Wine Spectator scores and the purchase of advertising space as well as the results of a series of studies that tracked the consistency of wine judges.
THE WINE TRIALS 2011 concludes with a detailed, step-by-step guide to blind tasting at home.
|Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc||New Zealand|
|J.P. Chenet Blanc de Blancs Brut||France|
|J. Lohr Estates South Ridge Syrah||USA (CA)|
|Parducci Sustainable Red||USA (CA)|
|Yalumba Shiraz Viognier||Australia|
|Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc||USA (CA)|
|Big House Red||USA (CA)|
|Brancott Sauvignon Blanc||New Zealand|
|Gabbiano Chianti Classico||Italy|