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Finer points of fine wine

Greg Schreier
Food & Wine Magazine Editor Ray Isle presents a seminar called Does Vintage Matter? on Saturday at the Sky Hotel. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)
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Barometric pressure, oxidation, acidity – is this a wine tasting, or 10th-grade chemistry?All right, maybe the lingo seems more fitting for a laboratory than a dining room, but it all matters when selecting a fine wine. And so can the year.Food & Wine Magazine Senior Editor Ray Isle lent his expertise in Saturday’s Does Vintage Matter? seminar, part of the Food & Wine Magazine Classic. So does it? Eh, depends on your palate and the mood of the reviewer.

“Occasionally, the hype builds up a little bit more than the vintage deserves,” Isle said.The day’s selections aren’t the most appropriate for an amateur wine enthusiast who thinks a bottle is expensive if it costs more than a 10-spot. For a vino ignoramus, every year is a bit overhyped if it isn’t in the budget.Carefully laid out on tables were samples of a 2003 and 2000 Morey-Blanc, a white wine; a 2000 and 1999 Massolino, a red; and a 2002 and 1996 Chateau Lagrange, also a red.

Isle carefully explained the craftsmanship behind each one, with every wine creating its flavor with an array of fruits like apples, cherries and currants – even the wood it’s stored in before bottling. For a guy whose only wine lesson was the flick “Sideways,” all six might taste pretty darn good. But the way flavors linger on the tongue, the texture of the seemingly plain juices, differs with every year’s crop.Isle said the weather during a year’s growing season, the amount of sugar in the grapes and other variables can determine if the special grape juice is dynamite or a dud.

Of course, not everyone can conduct an in-depth study of the weather in the Napa Valley or in some French vineyard. But Isle says good wine stores have staffs that know what’s good.But the best way to find a good vintage is to listen to your taste buds and drink what you like. Just because a magazine says it’s brilliant doesn’t mean you’ll dig it.”Don’t let some random person force you to drink what you don’t like to drink,” Isle said.Greg Schreier’s e-mail address is gschreier@aspentimes.com


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