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Do shelf "talkers" talk to you?
If you shop for wine, you're surely familiar with shelf "talkers," those informative little cardboard tags that many retail wine shops attach to their shelves to proclaim a wine's critical rating and to quote accolades from the major critics.
Sometimes called "hangers," these dangling devices serve to inform, and of course they are also intended to encourage sales. (Have you ever seen one cite a negative review or a point rating in the 70s?)
Wine shops vary in their use of this technique. Some, like the Liquor Barn stores in Louisville and Lexington, Ky., are all but festooned with yellow shelf cards. "Sometimes people don't want to take time to ask questions or talk to a sales person," said Ken Berg, wine manager of Liquor Barn's giant Springhurst store in suburban Louisville. "These make it easy for people to get an idea what the wine is like." Berg said he advises people not to buy on the basis of a wine's rating points but to match the detailed descriptions against their personal tastes.
At another top Louisville wine shop, Old Town Wine & Spirits, shelf talkers are thin on the ground. A staffer said management encourages shoppers to ask about wines of interest. "That's part of the service we provide," he said.
Love 'em or hate 'em, it's hard for even the most self-confident wine enthusiast to ignore them. I confess to perusing them myself, when I'm browsing, although as Berg suggests, I try not to be influenced by a 90-plus score from the usual suspects, reading their words instead and trying to "calibrate" their comments against my tastes. (I know, for instance, that the critic Robert M. Parker Jr. usually awards high ratings to big, oaky wine-monsters that I often find too Technicolor for comfort, so a "talker" that quotes him raving about "gobs of hedonistic fruit," I'll take it as a warning rather than the intended encouragement.)
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Laurel Glen 2001 Reds California Red ($8.99)
A blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane in undisclosed proportions, this inky-dark purple wine shows a distinctly Zin-like personality, but it's built on an earthy, mouth-filling framework that gives it more than a touch of a Mediterranean accent. Smoke and tar add complexity to blackberry fruit on the nose. Cherry-berry fruit is more forward on the palate, structured with snappy acidity and an intriguing whiff of white pepper in the finish. (March 21, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: The back label correctly notes that it's a food-friendly wine, capable of matching anything from Mediterranean fare to burgers and pizza. It made a great match with lamb shanks long braised with Tuscan white beans scented with rosemary and sage.
VALUE: It doesn't get any better than this in the $8 to $10 range.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not a wine made for aging, but previous vintages have lasted for several years with no loss of quality.
WEB LINK: Laurel Glen's Website offers information about Reds here:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: The Laurel Glen Website offers direct online sales where the law allows, plus a list of worldwide distributors. Also check vendors for all Laurel Glen wines at Wine-Searcher.com:
California Wine Club
Ten days left in The California Wine Club's March 2004 Spring Cleaning Wine Sale!
If you've been putting off placing an order during this month's wine sale at The California Wine Club - don't delay any longer. Their twice-yearly sale ends March 31. You'll save up to 58 percent off an impressive collection of highly rated wines. Every wine featured in this month's sale has been hand-selected by club owners Bruce and Pam Boring. Every wine comes from a real working, family-owned California winery and every wine is 100 percent guaranteed.
TASTING NOTES! To view Robin Garr's tasting reports on six of the wines featured in California Wine Club's sale, see last Monday's Wine Advisor,
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Sue's Vinous Passion: The keys to NZ Sauvignon Blanc
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Why drink average, everyday wines?
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Budget Super-Tuscan? (March 19, 2004)
The many flavors of Pinot Gris (March 17, 2004)
Amazing grape: Carmenere (March 15, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Thoughts on chicken (March 18, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, March 22, 2004