It's work; I stop what I'm doing, dirty lots of glasses that we then have to clean, make small talk with people I'd sometimes rather not and occasionally taste bad or mediocre wine often with silly, kitschy labels that oh so obviously don't belong in our store. And then there is the very unromantic but necessary spitting of every sip of wine I drink (well almost every...) because to do this job well, you have to keep your palate clean and your brain clear so you don't make some stupid decision to buy too much of a not so great wine.
|Tasting Dumangin Rose required cheese...|
So what am I looking for in those sometimes 40 plus wines that I taste in a day? The first thing I taste for is balance; Is there too much fruit or not enough? Is the wine soft and elegant or just flabby with not enough structure? Is the acid present but not overpowering? Is the oak in check or overwhelming the fruit? Is the alcohol level noticeable on my nose and palate or well integrated? After I quickly assess all of those things in few sips that I then spit out into the bucket, I want to know the price. What is the quality to price ratio in my terms? Is it in the grocery stores or limited to fine wine shops and restaurants? If it fits into all of my criteria, then I need to see if I have a spot on the shelves for it now or should I pick it up later? And most importantly, is it a wine I could drink on any given day, because if it is not good enough for me, I'm not going to sell it to you. Period.
So all of this is leading to finding a diamond in the rough yesterday when tasting with Linda from Republic and Holly from Hess Selections. While the Hess wines are not something I carry, not so much from a quality standpoint but due to their obvious presence in grocery stores, they also represent some other products from South America and South Africa that I tasted. The standout was the Glen Carlou Chardonnay from Paarl, South Africa. At a whopping retail price of $14.99, this wine is a steal for those who like oak, but find many Californian Chards too over the top. A very balanced wine, with nice acidity, the perfect amount of French oak, beautiful fruit yet elegant on the palate, this wine will be in soon, (not enough room on the shelves this week) and is something I could and will drink any day of the week. Lovely!
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate Review, 89 points: 2010 Glen Carlou Chardonnay - Entirely fermented in barrel with 30% new oak, the 2010 Chardonnay has an attractive nose of beeswax, honeysuckle and apple-blossom that carries the oak well. The palate is medium-bodied with fine waxy texture, good acidity with a light, elegant, caramel-tinged finish. This is good value South African Chardonnay. Drink now-2018+
Established in 1985, Glen Carlou is one of Paarl’s most familiar names and has been part of Hess Family Estates since 2003.Winemaker Arco Laarman oversees a portfolio that ranges from the entry-level “Tortoise Hill” range to Prestige single-vineyard releases. There is certainly consistency here and even their top-level wines are reasonably priced.