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If you follow me on Twitter or know me at all, you know that I am a wine drinker. When Workman offered me the chance to review the 2011 edition of The Wine Trials edited by Robin Goldstein, Alex Hershkowitsch, and Tyce Walters, I of course said yes.
I have heard of the wine trials, now in its third year, but never read one of the books. The wine trials involve about 6000 wines, hidden in brown paper bags, served to more than 500 tasters. The wines come from all over the world, cover pretty much every grape, and span the price range. The tasters represent a broad spectrum of wine drinkers, from noted experts to everyday wine enthusiasts.
The trials were developed to eliminate as much as possible what the authors call the placebo effect, which is being influenced by price, region, vintage, vineyard, and/or grape. The wine trial tastings are totally blind. And what the organizers discovered was that the under $15 wines more often than not beat out the expensive wines in terms of taste.
The opening chapters are full of interesting information about the wine-tasting world, including my favorite: When tasters are given two glasses of the same wine from the same bottle, they often rate the two glasses differently! They expect the wines to be different, and their brains and taste buds confirm their exceptions.
Not everyone agrees with the facts and statistics presented in The Wine Trials 2011. But the authors do not shy away from their critics. For example, they mention specific articles by Eric Asimov, the New York Times wine reviewer, that took the trials to task (click here, for one). I admire their openness at showing both sides of the arguments.
The heart of the book is the results of the wine trials and the wine reviews. The winners of the trials are 175 wines from around the world that generally sell for under $15 (US) a bottle. The wines are presented in lists and in individual reviews. Most of the wines are readily available, although some were produced in limited runs.
I live in Pennsylvania, a state that makes you buy wine from a state-run liquor store. As a result, I do not have access to every vineyard and multiple vintages. Regardless, I was pleased to find that many of the wines and the specific vintages reviewed in the book are available even to me. Our prices run between $2 and $3 more than those given in the book, but I expected that.
Mr. BFR and I tried four wines listed as winners in the wine trials. We really liked the three reds we tasted and will definitely be buying two of them again. We didn't like the white as well, but I think a 75 percent success rate is pretty good.
I recommend this book as a starting place to find great wines at low cost. I especially like the authors' attitude that fine wines are in the palate not in the wallet.
I cannot (it's my profession, give me a break) leave this review without commenting that I found a number of copy-editing errors, which put me off a bit. In the end, though, the content of the book won the day, and I will be turning to The Wine Trials 2011 throughout the year.
For more information about the trials and about wine, visit the blog Blind Taste.
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Published by Workman / Fearless Critic Media, 2010
Source: Review (see review policy)
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