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Controversy Over UK Government Wine Cellar

Political opponents of UK Prime Minister David Cameron are insisting that his office disclose the contents of the government's wine cellar. The value of the collection is estimated at £864,000. The wines are used when hosting dinners for foreign dignataries.

The Government Hospitality office has disclosed the brands represented, but they don't want to reveal vintages or purchase prices. Their stated concern is that doing so could somehow impact the wine market and, more specifically, the government's ability to buy wine at favorable prices. Of course, they also realize that disclosures would make it even easier for their opponents to insist on what they really want— the sale of of the UK governement's wine collection.

But, though the £864,000 value is considerable, selling the wine would not make dent in the UK deficit which was £159 billion in 2009 [source: UK Office for National Statistics]. The government could serve only fish and chips in newspaper cones at state dinners and not improve the economy nor have a noticeable impact on UK debt. Frankly, they would make more money by selling the naming rights for the Palace of Westminster to J.K. Rowling. She could dub the place "Ministry of Muggles" and the government would do a huge business selling t-shirts and postcards.

600px-Nightly_Palace_of_Westminster_01

That said, it would be amusing to see the Cameron government post the entire wine collection on CellarTracker or VinCellar for public perusal. They could even post reviews, "Her Majesty found the claret to be fit for a queen but Silvio Berlusconi says he wouldn't serve it to a teenager."

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Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check outour comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved. Photo of Palace of Westminster by Dave Morris.

How Good is Good and Will I Like It?

Good is a bad word. It has too many meanings. Does your soup taste good? Sniff this milk and tell me if it’s still good. Be a good boy and take your medicine. It’s good for you. The field goal is good! He’s sure a good kicker. Did I catch you at a good time? It’s all good. Good grief!

When doctors say drinking red wine in moderation may be good for you, we all know that they mean it may help you stay healthy. And sommeliers know that when you say “it’s good” after you take a sniff of that first little bit of wine they pour, you simply mean that the wine is sound. It has not been tainted by oxidation, a contaminated cork, etc. But, if a wine critic tells you a wine is good, what does he really mean? Is a reviewer “bad” because he said a wine is “good” and you don’t like it? Are reviews useful if they can’t tell you whether or not you will like something?

Wine reviews often call particular bottles “very good,” “excellent,” or even “outstanding.” That does not mean you will like those wines. Numerical scores won’t tell you that either. They aren’t intended to do so. Wine ratings indicate how closely a wine approaches the reviewers ideal for a wine of that style, variety and locale. It also rates the complexity of the wine, the length of its finish, etc.

To make the most out of wine reviews, you do need to have done some tasting yourself. You need some experience with the type of wine being reviewed. If James Laube gives 98 points to a Russian River Pinot Noir, he believes it to be an almost perfect example of Russian River Pinot. If you have tasted and enjoyed Russian River Pinot Noir in the past, you will almost certainly like this wine. If, on the other hand, you grew up in Austria drinking whites wines and have never tried a Pinot Noir, those 98 points don’t tell you much at all. You don’t have a frame of reference.

When you drink a wine, your criteria for determining its quality is probably different than the reviewer’s. You might like or dislike specific flavors. You may want something that will refreshing on a hot summer evening or to go with a specific meal. You might like wine that is a bit sweet, or not sweet at all. Wine reviewers can’t write one review that will satisfy every person for every occasion. Instead, they describe the wine in a general way and provide the qualitative reference.

If you haven’t tried enough wines of a given type to really understand what a specific review means, that review can still be valuable. Buy the wine, taste it and read the review again. Try to match what you taste and smell to what you are reading. Do this enough and you will have given yourself the background to make better buying decisions. Simply discovering that you don’t like a specific variety or style of wine is a good start, though your preferences may change over time.

Of course, expert opinions vary on particular wines. Robert Parker is considered by many to give high scores to red wines that have rich fruit, strong tannins and high levels of alcohol. Other critics may see such a wine as overdone and score it much lower. These disagreements don’t decrease the value of the critics opinions. Good wine reviewers are consistent. When you’ve read numerous reviews by a particular person and tasted the wines, you come to understand how their preferences relate to yours. You can use that information to guide your decisions. Like his opinions or not, Robert Parker is very consistent.

One of the reasons wine has become so popular over the centuries is that is incredibly complex. Sure, sometimes we just want to drink something that will make us happy. And it’s tempting to look for a secret-decoder ring, something to make it easy to find a perfect wine every time. But that isn’t realistic. Individual wine reviews and scores shouldn’t be looked to as a sole basis for your buying decisions.

Embrace the complexity of wine. Take time to learn which wines you love. The learning will help you love those wines even more.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more.
Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook.
Also check out
our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

Pakistani Police Arrest Wine Smugglers, Seize 26,284 Bottles

Two alleged wine smugglers were arrested in Islamabad, Pakistan on Wednesday. Several others, believed to be accomplices escaped. A task force is being formed to track them down. The men were in the process of removing wine from a storage container when they house was raided by police. The remaining contents of the container, 26,284 bottles of wine, were seized by the police.

Prohibition

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check outour comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved. Liquor store plaque banner edited from a photo by Natalie Maynor. The Prohibition photo is in the public domain.