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A wine taster's statement

Manifesto says it's all right just to drink, but it's also OK to think

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manifesto n. a public declaration of principles, intentions, purposes, etc.

— Oxford Canadian Dictionary

One of the documents I received as part of an information package upon my arrival at the Peter Lehmann Mentor Retreat/National Tasting (more on this soon) in Kelowna, B.C., was U.K. wine writer Jamie Goode's A wine manifesto.

Published in mid-October via his website (, Goode notes his brief, 25-point document is meant to "capture my approach to wine, and my vision for where it should aim."

We often think of a manifesto as a call to arms, a rallying cry — it's political, and is meant to move people. Goode's manifesto is written in plain, accessible language and is aimed at those of us with a fairly extensive interest in wine, whether as a hobby or as an occupation.

Because it's so deliciously captivating, it's easy to over-think wine — those of us who work with wine often delve into geekery that quickly isolates casual imbibers or wine neophytes.

While Goode's manifesto isn't so radical as to transform the wine world (nor was it his intent, I believe), there are some valuable points worth sharing with wine lovers at all levels.

Some of the key points from his manifesto could be applied to more overarching life issues as well. Here are five of his points, as well as my thoughts why they're important.


Some wines are just wine

Whether you have a glass a week or taste 1,500 or so wines a year (as I think I have so far in 2013), there aren't always words to describe a wine. It might be non-descript, or boring, or devoid of character, or maybe you're tired or don't want to think about what's in your glass. Sometimes wine just tastes like wine, and that's OK.


The taste is not in the wine

"We bring a lot to the wine-tasting experience," Goode says here, which also ties into the previous point. My interaction with a wine (or a person, for that matter) is different depending on if I'm alert, or tired, or am distracted by other things in my life, or am feeling under the weather. Taste the same wine (or talk to the same person the next day) and it's a different ball game.


The wine is a whole

There's a value in my knowing how many months a wine spends in oak barrels, or whether it has been acidified (because the fruit is overripe) or chaptalized (the addition of sugar, typically when fruit is underripe). It's interesting, and useful in coming to a final evaluation of a wine. But most readers just care about the big picture -- does the wine taste good? The whole is more than the sum of its parts -- be it people or wine.


Wine: be yourself

Goode says "There's nothing wrong with commercial wines. The world needs good, cheap wines." He adds these wines should be honest -- they don't need to try and be anything other than what they are. My most exciting wine discoveries are mostly in the $10-15 price range, when I find a wine that doesn't taste like everything else out there -- the wine is just itself.


There is always another wine

So many wine drinkers stick with that one tried-and-true favourite, going back to it over and over again. Do you only ever talk to one person? Why always drink the same wine? You'll be surprised what you'll learn.

Jamie Goode's A wine manifesto is available here:


BERONIA 2008 RESERVA (Rioja, Spain -- $23.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)

This is classic Spanish Tempranillo -- the Old World earth, barnyard, espresso and white-pepper aromas work well with cherry, raspberry and licorice notes. This medium-plus bodied red brings bright fruit -- namely, raspberry as well as cherry skins -- with ash, cola and white-pepper flavours and a splash of acidity. Nice character and extremely food-friendly; try with a hearty stew or a roast. 3.5/5


GROSSET 2011 POLISH HILL RIESLING (Clare Valley, Australia -- around $49, private wine stores)

Fermented bone-dry, the Polish Hill is a tightly wound, focused white. It's aromatically intense, with green apple, lemon zest and petrol notes exploding from the glass. On the light-bodied, racy palate it's crisp and clean, with green apple and citrus notes as well as a chalky component and fresh acidity that brings electricity to this wine without ever venturing into "sour" territory. The select private wine stores that carry the Polish Hill may not yet have the 2011 vintage -- regardless, I've tasted multiple vintages and it's a consistently otherworldly white. It's pricey -- if you want a primer try the Mitchell Watervale (Liquor Marts and beyond, $20.44) or Pfeiffer Riesling (Liquor Marts and beyond, $19.51). 5/5
Twitter: @bensigurdson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 2, 2013 D16


Updated on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 9:04 AM CDT: Corrects formatting.

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