It would seem that the pleasure you might expect from a glass of wine has everything to do with the wine in the glass and nothing to do with anything else. Yet everything isn't what it seems when it comes to a glass of wine. The temperature can have a profound influence on flavor, for example. How long the bottle has been open is another factor that must be considered.
But other than the wine itself, the selection of the glass plays the biggest role in your ultimate enjoyment. Drinking wine from a jelly jar may be a quaint tradition in the old country, but it does nothing for the wine.
If you're going to go to the trouble of educating your palate and figuring out the wines you like, do yourself a favor and invest in some decent stemware. The most important factor is the shape of the bowl.
It should narrow at the rim so you can give your wine a good swirl or two without sloshing. This is important because all table wines, red or white, benefit from aeration. Contact with air dissipates tannins and off aromas, and enhances flavor.
The glass need not be oversized. There is some aesthetic appeal to a large glass, but there's also a tendency to over-pour because 5 ounces of wine gets lost in a 27-ounce glass. I prefer glasses that range from 10-12 ounces for white wines and 14-16 ounces for reds.
You also need not spend a fortune on fine Baccarat crystal to get a good wine glass. Hand-blown crystal has its aesthetic appeal, too, but it doesn't enhance flavor anymore than a sturdy machine-made glass from Riedel you can find at Target and throw in the dishwasher when you're done!
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Tangent 2016 Albarino, Edna Valley ($17) — The Tangent albarino was chosen for best albarino at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition in San Diego a few weeks ago, a testimony to winemaker Christian Roguenant's deft touch with this tricky Spanish grape variety. This vintage shows luscious citrus fruits on the palate with fresh acidity and a clean, balanced finish. Rating: 90.
Cycles Gladiator 2015 Petite Sirah, Central Coast ($12) — Winemaker Adam LaZarre has had some very good success with this grape variety in the past. The 2015 is typical of the LaZarre style, which maximizes extraction for color and body without taking it over the top into full-blown tannin hell, for which petite sirah is famous. The Cycles Gladiator from 2015 shows juicy, ripe black fruits, fall spices and an impressive finish, especially for this grape variety. Rating: 88.
Luca Bosio 2016 Barbera d'Asti DOGC, Italy ($15) — Barbera can be quite tart and acidic when young, and very difficult to handle as an inexpensive quaffing wine. The 2016 Barbera d'Asti from Luca Bosio — made in a fresh, fruity style — is the exception to the rule. The acidity is a bit soft, making this Barbera more accessible at this stage. It's fleshy and round, with smooth, supple tannins, an inviting floral note on the nose and juicy black fruits on the palate. Fire up the barbecue, and serve this wine with smoky, savory meats from the grill. Rating: 87.
Dutton Goldfield 2015 Chardonnay, Dutton Ranch — Walker Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($50) — This dazzling chardonnay from Dutton Goldfield is the epitome of complexity and elegance, a fine example of the heights to which California chardonnay can soar when in the right hands. The vintage delivered exceptional concentration and richness, with complex aromas of mandarin orange, lemon oil, tropical fruit and spice. Despite its decadent richness, it maintains its balance, and finishes with impressive length and a clean finish. Rating: 96.
Cortonesi 2013 'Poggiarelli' Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Italy ($95) — Cortonesi's Brunello Poggiarelli shows classic aromas of dried cherry, leather, spice and herbs, with firm tannins that are only now beginning to mellow at five years of age. It's a truly hedonistic feast for the senses. Complex aromatics transfer to the palate, where the wine exhibits impressive length and a lingering finish that will keep everyone coming back for more. It's drinking well now, but it will show remarkable improvement as it evolves over the next three to five years. Rating: 95.
BelColle 2013 'Monvigliero' Barolo DOCG, Italy 'Monvigliero' 2013 ($75) — The Monvigliero Barolo from BelColle in this vintage delivers a rare combination of richness and power coupled with mouth-puckering tannins. Those drying tannins are grape tannins (as opposed to dreaded wood tannins) and will resolve over time. The evolution of this wine promises to be exciting for at least the next 10 to 15 years. The richness somewhat mitigates the impact of the tannins at this stage, making it perfectly acceptable to serve now (think roasts and stews), but the far better option is to lay it down for another five years. Rating: 94.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.