In a shocking turn of events, Joe Conrad, wine buyer for Nosh's 60-plus wine list and the Blue Star's 700-plus, says that you shouldn't purchase wine based on its malolactic fermentation.
Wine guys get too involved. I’ve never sold a bottle of wine or bought a bottle of wine based on the amount of time it has spent on its lees. Malolactic fermentation has never made any of my guests smile. Pump-over as opposed to push-down has never been the deal breaker for an important business lunch. These are all terms that help me find good wine, but you don’t need to know that. In fact, I don’t even need to know that. HOW DOES IT TASTE? SOLD!
It's a pretty good read, and Conrad's a pretty good writer. Here's his thoughts on tasting:
I taste in adjectives. I taste dark. I taste rich. I taste soft. I even taste red. What’s great is that it doesn’t necessarily matter. I can fill your head with all of the nonsense I want, but it doesn’t change the way the wine taste to you, so why bother? It won’t be long until I have to be able to taste a wine and tell the world what it is without looking at the label. I thought it would be impossible without the ability to pick up “currants” and “mint” and “vanilla”, and “black cherries covered in a soft vanilla, slightly scorched confectioners sugar caramel.” As it turns out, if you know you like Syrah, then you can detect a Syrah. After you’ve tasted Italian Syrah, French Syrah, Australian Shiraz, California Shiraz/ Syrah, 500 times, you notice patterns. The tough part for me is putting those patterns into words, but I know what they are. The best way I would know to describe the difference between a California Chardonnay, and an Australian Chardonnay would be with some crazy metaphor that anyone could relate to. It would have nothing to do with wine or food. It becomes a feeling.