30 Second Wine Advisor: Taste the wine, not the label

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Taste the wine, not the label

If you grew up in the age of television - and that essentially includes us all - you've probably long since learned not to place all your faith in advertising claims.

Yet even the most wary wine lover may overlook the possibility of promotional excess on the back label of our wine.

Now, a little perspective: This is not a rant, and I'm not likening our friends in the wine-making business to old-style snake oil salesmen. Well, not by much.

But it's worth remembering that the strict legal regulations governing the use of variety, vintage, producer and geographical origin on the wine label do not extend to the explanatory material or even the tasting notes on the back of the bottle. There, promotional language may prevail, and usually does.

To keep things honest, let's use as an example today's featured wine, Perrin 2009 Côtes du Rhône Réserve Blanc. It's a wine I like from a wine-making family that I like, so I have no reason to pick on them. But I couldn't resist chuckling as I read the back label while I tasted the wine.

Let's see here. It's "hand harvested from vineyards which have been cultivated for over 2,000 years." Wow! Great! That's really old vines! Of course, the Grenache Blanc, Bourbolenc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier that went into this bottle are modern, but hey, the ancient Romans planted the Rhône valley's first wine grapes back around the start of the first millennium. That counts for something. Doesn't it?

Then I got to the tasting notes. The label assures me that this is a "rich, full-bodied" wine ... "Golden-hued, peach-scented, intensely flavored dry white."

Gold? I see straw. Peaches? Maybe it's just me, but I'm not getting that. My fruit impressions veer closer to pears, limes, some mango, maybe. Mango's not too far from peach on the aroma wheel, but it's not there either. Rich and full-bodied? I like its texture, and it's well past "light." I'd say "medium-bodied."

My advice? To avoid having your impressions tainted by suggestion, hold off on reading the back label's tasting notes until you've reached your own conclusions.

The bottom line: No matter how helpful the back label tries to be, the only nose and palate you have to please is your own. Enjoy! My tasting notes are below.

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California Wine Club

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Today's Tasting Report

Perrin 2009 Côtes du Rhône Réserve Blanc ($12.99)


Transparent straw color. Fresh and pleasant white fruit, a hint of fresh pears and lime juice and a higher-pitched note of fresh mango. The flavors carry over on the palate, crisp, mouth-watering and fresh. Medium-bodied, with moderate 13% alcohol; zippy limey acidity hangs on in a long finish that invites a taste of something good. A typical white Rhône blend of Grenache Blanc (50%), Bourbolenc (20%), Marsanne (10%), Roussanne (10%) and Viognier (10%). U.S. importer: Vineyard Brands Inc., Birmingham, Ala. (Nov. 28, 2010)

FOOD MATCH: A versatile food wine, it was fine with turkey noodle soup on the first night; the refrigerated leftovers go just as well the following evening with a diverse autumn platter of roasted pumpkin, potato, onions, bell peppers and tomatoes and a bite of locally pastured pork bratwurst on the side.

VALUE: Worth this low-teens price, but look for the bargains; I'm paying a local premium compared with many vendors listing it at $10 or less on Wine-Searcher.com

Côtes du Rhône = "Coat doo Roan"
Click this link to hear "Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône" spoken in excellent French on the importer's site.

WEB LINK: Here's the U.S. importer's info sheet on Perrin Réserve. Check the column of links on the right-hand side for abundant information about the wine and its producer.

Find vendors and compare prices for Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve Blanc on Wine-Searcher.com.

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