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In This Issue
 Power of suggestion How much influence do our peers' comments - or published tasting reports - have on our perception of the wine in our glass?
 Schloss Gobelsburg 2004 "Gobelsburger" Grüner Veltliner ($13.49) Fresh and crisp, minerally and complex, this is a splendid Austrian wine for a fair price. But where are the lentils?
 The California Wine Club Ten days left to save during Santa's Summer Sale!
 This week on
Lots of new articles this week, on such varied topics as East Coast prize-winners, West Coast Syrah, and matching food with sweet and sparkly wines. Our WineLovers Discussion group talks cellar-building, and our weekly Netscape Forum poll invites you to rate your wine suggestibility.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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Power of suggestion

We've all been there and done that, or at least most of us have: You're just about to take your first sniff of a wine you haven't tried before, and your eyes fall on the advertising copy printed on the back label: "This wine's naturally sweet flavor reminds me of wild hickory nuts."

Now they've done it! Suddenly your brain fills up and overflows, and everything you taste reminds you of hickory.

Or you're at a tasting, sniffing Glass No. 3 and trying to parse out that elusive scent, when one of your peers yells out, "I get licorice and Vaseline in it!" You don't think that's right, not really, but now, suddenly, no matter how hard you fight it, you're picking up licorice and Vaseline, too.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Wine, for most of us, is a social beverage, and when we're enjoying wine with fellow enthusiasts, the back-and-forth that accompanies tasting in a group becomes part of the fun of it. It doesn't really matter who first named the descriptive term that wins.

Things get a little more iffy in formal competition or trade tasting, though, where a blue ribbon - or a merchant's buying decision - may hang in the balance. Judges in wine competitions are usually discouraged (indeed, in some cases, flatly forbidden) to compare notes, at least during the early stages of judging.

Wine-buying sessions can get even more complicated, with wine sales representatives doing all they can to plant their own glowing descriptions (or raves from the Usual Suspects), in the mind of the buyer, who may do everything short of putting his fingers in his ears and humming "neener, neener, neener" in an effort to resist.

This issue came to mind over the weekend when I picked up a good, moderately priced Austrian Grüner Veltliner for tasting. Unfamiliar with the producer (Schloss Gobelsburg in Langenlois, on the Danube west of Vienna), I Googled merrily, browsing an importer's Website, and ... ack! A tasting report! I saw a tasting report!

For all the reasons covered above, I try not to read other people's tasting notes before tasting a wine for review, fearing that my perceptions might be subtly influenced. But it was too late: The review was not only clear and precise, it was written by a taster for whom I have serious respect, David Schildknecht of the regional importer Vintner Select, a guy with whom I've often tasted wine and who was recently tapped by none other than Robert M. Parker Jr. himself to write about German and Austrian wines for Parker's Wine Advocate.

How could I possibly read a Schildknecht review of a wine I was about to taste without being influenced by it? It wouldn't be easy, but I would have to try.

Luckily, David made it easy for me: I won't give away the details of his note - you can look it up, if you like, at
- but suffice it to say that it typified his legendary lapidary precision, using no less than 15 very specific descriptors in a one-paragraph report. Chances are that many readers will skip the words and go straight to David's 90-point rating; but I read them all, and fixated on one term, a descriptor so odd and so specific, so quintessentially Schildknecht, that it made me laugh: "roasted lentils."

Roasted lentils? Now, there's a term that I doubt I'll ever find in wine, and sure enough, I didn't find it in this one, although such is the power of suggestion that I had to sniff it long and hard before reassuring myself that I just didn't get it.

The lesson here is a useful one, though: If you want to evaluate a wine with your own taste buds and your own brain, and you're confronted with another taster's opinion that wants to lock itself in, laugh it off. Focus on something else, then come back to the wine.

I'd love to hear your stories about wine descriptors you've had foisted on you by your tasting companions, and any successful strategies you've come up with to fight 'em off. You're also invited to participate in this week's Netscape WineLovers poll, inviting you to tell us where you stand in terms of wine-tasting suggestibility. See the links below.

Gobelsburger Schloss Gobelsburg 2004 "Gobelsburger" Grüner Veltliner ($13.49)

Straw color, transparent but bright. Intriguing scent: Wine scribe David Schildknecht wrote "roasted lentils" - an aroma that I have never found in a wine - and now I can't get the idea out of my head. I'm not sure I find it here, though; but there's fragrant white pepper for sure, green garden peas, and more than a hint of something peachy. The aromatics almost lead me to expect light sweetness, but it's bone-dry and crisply acidic, delicate and light-bodied, yet there's steel in there, and rocky Austrian minerality. An outstanding wine at quite a fair price. U.S. importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, NY; a Terry Theise Estate Selection. (Aug. 20, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: GV is gaining attention as a "utility infielder" wine that can play well at many positions. It was fine with a summer dinner of fresh tomatoes lined with pistachio-studded mortadella and filled with fromage blanc, tomato concasse and Greek green olives.

VALUE: One of the summer's great white-wine values at this price.

WHEN TO DRINK: Crisp and fresh and ready to enjoy, and it will hold up well and perhaps gain richness with several years under proper storage conditions.

The winery Website is published in German and English. Click the language of your choice from the home page,

Here's the importer's fact sheet on the Schloss Gobelsburg winery, from which you can click to details about each specific wine:

Find vendors and check prices for Gobelsburger Grüner Veltliner on
(Note that also returns some hits on more pricey Gobelsburg bottlings.)

To read and comment on today's column in our non-commercial WineLovers Discussion Group, click:

Today's article is cross-posted in our Netscape WineLovers Community, where we also welcome comments and questions.

To contact me by E-mail, write I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

California Wine Club The California Wine Club
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Top three reasons to reserve your holiday gifts now with The California Wine Club:

  1. Receive the lowest rates of the season and save up to $89 per gift.
  2. No billing and no shipping until December 2006.
  3. One less thing to do during the hectic holiday season.

Santa’s Summer Sale has become one of The California Wine Club’s most anticipated events of the year. To reserve your holiday gifts now, please call 1-800-777-4443 or visit

This week on

Some highlights of recent articles on that I hope you'll enjoy:

Vino 101: Grape Expectations
Champagne and sparkling wines aren't just for celebrations, says Wine Educator Jorge Castillo, offering advice on pairing bubbly and dessert wine with food. Dave McIntyre's WineLine: Drink locally
There's no good wine from the East Coast? Dave McIntyre is back from judging wine in Virginia to tell us that it just ain't so! Here's Dave's WineLine No. 56. QPRwines: 2001-2004 West Coast Syrahs
When these four vintages are compared by score and price, the 2002 vintage has 14 "Great Value" wines, the 2003 has 13 and the 2001 vintage has six. Although there are only 24 wines from the 2004 vintage, five of the 24 wines (21 percent) are "Great Values," so the vintage will be one to watch. For QPR reports on 645 Syrahs, click to Neil Monnens' QPRwines.

Hot topics in our WineLovers Discussion Groups
Our WineLovers' Discussion Groups are the best places online to ask wine questions and participate in the civil and intelligent discussion of good things to eat and drink. Our WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG) is the Internet's original wine forum, a non-commercial venue intended for wine-related conversations that range from apprentice-level to wine professionals. Our WineLovers Community on the Netscape/CompuServe service is dedicated to wine education, a friendly place to get quick answers to your questions about wine, beer, spirits and all good things to drink.

Building a wine cellar
New to wine collecting, a reader asks for, and receives, a lot of specific advice on converting a basement space into a temperature-controlled wine cellar. Read the online conversation, and add your own comments and questions, in our WineLovers Discussion Group.

Poll: How suggestible are you?
As noted in today's Wine Advisor, some of us are easily influenced by wine-tasting suggestions, while others find it fairly easy to resist the siren song of outside influences. Where do you stand? This week's Netscape WineLovers Community poll asks you to rate the level of your suggestibility and check how other wine lovers stack up.

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:

 Wine Inflation (Aug. 18, 2006)

 More weird wine and food (Aug. 16, 2006)

 Worst wine-food matches (Aug. 14, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Curried summer squash soup (Aug. 17, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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Monday, Aug. 21, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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