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Best Wine Quotes of 2014

Quotes have relevance in a historical context. They tell us about the topics and controversies that are prevalent at a certain time. They also represent a gift that says plenty with few words.

“Making Cabernet Sauvignon is like coming home every night to the best black Labrador you’d ever owned. No matter how long you’d been gone, or how late it was, the dog - tail wagging - was thrilled to see you. Making Pinot Noir was like coming home to the worst cat. The cat would look at you as if to say, Where the hell have you been?” ....Winemaker Scott Rich to Karen MacNeil

“It upsets me when I hear people say that a little bit of Brett is ok in Pinot Noir. I think, obviously you don’t know what it is like without it, or you wouldn’t say that. It takes the magic away.” ....Matt Thomson, The Science of Wine

“If we can chew the stems through them we’ll put them in. I’d put in 100% whole clusters if we could. It’s a better ferment.” ....Nick Mills, winemaker at Rippon, NZ

“The use of stems in Burgundy is on the rise, in part because a warming climate has allowed for more mature flavors in the stems, and because of the absence of one of the most respected advocates of destemmed fruit, the deceased Henri Jayer.” ....Jamie Goode, wineanorak

“What I take issue with is this sense of self-importance some New World tastemasters (some of them are also winemakers) ascribe to their personal interpretation of what they believe Pinot Noir to be.” ....Alfonso Cevola

“Pinot Noir is the glass coffee table of grapes. If you start putting your hands on it, you’re going to leave fingerprints.” ....John Dragonette

“With Pinot Noir I’m looking for perfume, freshness, delicacy, texture and harmony....and I’m also looking for that sweet attack at the front of the palate which you get with good Pinot.”....Richard Bampfield, MW

“I think that marginal ripening is the key to successful varieties but especially for persnickety Pinot where the window of optimum maturity is so short.”....Mark Savage MW

“On one hand, New Zealand’s best vineyards are producing increasingly multidimensional, detailed Pinots. And on the other hand, leafroll virus is threatening to rain on this parade by preventing existing plantings of the grape to reach full maturity. It’s the single biggest issue.” .....Steve Smith, Wine & Spirits

“We are currently stuck in a dead-end where alcoholic, unpleasant, food-antagonistic wines fetch high scores and command high prices, while wines that are actually pleasant to drink are too often overlooked. ....Curtis Phillips, Wine Business Monthly

“Young wines are exciting; old ones can be moving.” ....Hugh Johnson, The World of Fine Wine

“One thing a profound wine always does is to seize your imagination and hurl it a thousand feet into the air. That is the story you need to tell, so peer back at the innocent bottle, and nod a small thanks for showing the way to the sky.” ....Terry Thiese, The Journal of Fine Wine

“There are 6,000 Californian Pinot Noirs and more than 4,000 of them are in the same bottle. That’s 4,000 brands trying to tell you they are best using only a four-inch piece of paper. No wonder the wine consumer is dazed and confused.” ....Kevin Shaw, Wine Business Monthly

“The ‘middle’ is falling out of the market and any producer in the middle is ‘dead’ as it has no future. There is now only ‘value’ and ‘luxury’ positioning.” ....Sir John Hegarty

I think that many sommeliers today need to evolve to the level of chefs. We talk a lot about farm to table, low carbon footprints, etc., but what about vineyard to table? If we go to France, Italy, Spain....we rarely, if ever, see the wines any country except the one we are in....In most cases, we only see the wines of the particular region we are visiting. In this country, it’s almost as if we are embarrassed by our own wines. We often see them treated as bastard children, New York restaurants being the biggest culprit.” ....Emmanuel Kemiji MS, Wine & Spirits

“You should drink organic wine but drink it because it is good and not because it says it’s organic on the label. The entire wine industry would be more credible if consumers trusted their palates more and trusted marketing departments less.” ....Miles Edlmann, The Journal of Fine Wine

“Organic practices are often more damaging to the environment than the chemical alternatives.”....Miles Edelmann, The Journal of Fine Wine

“If you look back at the 10,000-year history of civilization, it’s intimately intertwined with alcohol. Some say the reason people stopped being nomads is that they wanted to ferment stuff. Then there’s the counterargument, which is that they stopped moving and then things started fermenting.” ....Alexander Rose, Sunset

“Wine is tribal. It’s one of our most ancient foods, so it isn’t surprising that in a postmodern, globalized world, the primal attractions of wine would lead people to band together around it.” ....Joshua Green, Wine & Spirits

“Myself and a couple pals said, ‘We spend a lot of money on wine,let’s make our own, it will be cheaper.’ That has proven to be one of the most ignorant things that has ever come out of my mouth.”....Les Claypool, owner Claypool Cellars

“I believe half of what people think are managed inoculations, are actually more influenced by native yeasts, or a mixture of both.” ....Peter Mathis, winemaker at Ravenswood, Wine Business Monthly

“We would like to think winemakers have a good idea of what they’re doing. But most vintners I know admit that they do what they think is right and hope for the best.” ....Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator

“There’s a wine inside of me trying to get out, and that’s what I’m trying to make.”....Cathy Corison, winemaker at Corison

“Grapes on the vine taste nothing like finished wine, which depends primarily on flavors and aromas developed during fermentation and aging. What few elements are fully formed in the grapes are covered up by 25% sugar and accompanied by zero alcohol. So when winemakers can find the right balance point in ripening grapes and think ahead to how the fermented juice might taste in the glass, that’s pretty amazing. No automated lab analyzer can handle the job.” ....Tim Patterson, Wines & Vines

“There is no downside to aging wines sealed with a twist-off, and the upside is obvious. No cork-tainted time bombs ticking away in the cellar....twist-off caps do a better job of preserving a wine’s expression of terroir. Those elements that reflect the place where the grapes grew to make the wine are muted by even a low level of cork taint and amplified by freshness. For me, that’s game, set and match.” ....Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator

“For me, a vine seems to enter its prime around twenty-five to thirty years of age. Young vines can certainly express terroir, but the expression is perhaps not as strong, not as consistent and usually, there is something that falls a little short on the texture front.” ....Jeremy Seyses, Domaine Dujac, Wine & Spirits

“In chemical terms, minerality is an ill-defined quality in wine, but when it does occur it is commonly explained as being terroir character.”....Jamie Goode, The Science of Wine

“I suppose it (minerality) is easier to describe what it is not, that is, it is not fruity, nor acidity, nor tannins, nor oak, nor richness, nor fleshiness. It is not really a texture either, for texture is in the middle of the palate and minerality is at the end. I think it is just there, a sort of lifted and lively stoniness that brings a sense of grip and also a sense of depth, but it is neither grippy (which is tannin) nor deep (which is fruit)..... Stephen Spurrier, UK wine writer, SOMM Journal

“Though I am well aware of what soil scientists say about minerals or other elements in the soil and the impossibility of their traveling through the vine and into the wine, the roots deep enough into those minerals are affected and the wine shows that effect. I think of minerality as a wet stone quality in a wine.” ....Paul Draper, winemaker at Ridge, SOMM Journal

“There is a distinct difference between the aroma perception and the flavor perception of minerality. Wines that have strong ‘mineral’ odors do not necessarily have a strong mineral impression on the palate and vice versa. Minerality in taste has a lot to do with acidity, while minerality in smell is a different matter, a little more connected to boxwood and lemon but little to do with the taste of minerality.” ....Ann Krebiehl, The World of Fine Wine

“Take terroir. It’s on nearly all wine-moistened lips, yet is routinely defined so broadly as to be vacuous, so vaguely as to be muddled, or so tendentiously as to be merely a marketing tool.” ....David Schildknecht, The World of Fine Wine

“We almost cannot conceive of wine without personifying it.” ....Dr. Ernesto Suarez-Toste, Science of Wine

“The context in which we drink is as important as what we drink.” ....The Manifesto, Alquimie

“What I like in wine is what I cannot control: the unknown. This is precisely the expression of nature.” ....Frédérick Mugnier, The World of Fine Wine

“An intrinsically good wine can easily be dismissed as a result of not allowing sufficient time to listen to it or wait for it to start singing.” ....Mark Savage MW, The World of Fine Wine

“Rarely have I come across a wine where I wanted more oak.” ....Molly Battenhouse, Wine & Spirits

“New oak is like garlic or chili in cooking; if you use too much of it you will kill the flavor.” ....Bo Barrett, winemaker at Chateau Montelena

“Wine has more and more flavor, but it tends to be the same flavor in all wines picked to the criteria of superripeness: intense black fruits going in the direction of jam. And even if this is interesting in itself when young, it clashes with food and is likely to have nothing but the grin of alcohol as it ages.” ....Benjamin Lewin MW, The World of Fine Wine

“I am going to flunk a wine that doesn’t have intensity.” ....Robert Parker, Jr.

As we come to the end of another year, it is always remarkable to look back at how far the quality of Pinot Noir has come over the last fifty years in this country. I ran across a book, Wines of California, written by Robert Lawrence Balzer and published in 1978. Here are some quotes he made about California Pinot Noir in that book which seem laughable today.

“Pinot Noir, both the grape and the wine, remains an enigma to California viticulturists and winemakers alike.”

“The shy-bearing vine can be as temperamental as a spoiled child.”

“Pinot Noir in California seems to elude even the most intelligent application of enological science in the production of wines comparable in stature to those of the French Côte de Or.”

“I can cite isolated examples of superlative California Pinot Noir, but they are few and far between.”

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