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Who doesn't want to watch Canada's best wine minds squirm and sweat for your enjoyment?
There’s few things the public likes more than stories that skewer the perceived pompousness of the wine world. There’s the New Yorker classic saying wine critics can’t tell the difference between red and white wine when served blind at the same temperature. Last week I read (and enjoyed, to be honest) this little scientific paper taking on the biodynamic principle that wine tastes different at different times of the lunar calendar.But far and away the most entertaining and insightful take on the perils of putting yourself out as a wine expert is a long running series of videos created by WineAlign, an online publication made up of some of many of Canada’s best wine minds (and, full disclosure, VanMag‘s drinks editor DJ Kearney and three of our Wine Awards judges—Anthony Gismondi, Rhys Pender and Treve Ring—are part of the operation). The videos all take the same format: three wine world luminaries sit around a table while a somber James Chatto pours them some anonymous wine from a decanter and they swirl, sip and discuss it ultimately having to peg where it comes from, what grape it’s made from , how old it is and how much it costs. They frequently get it spectacularly wrong as in the latest video where no one even comes close to guessing the grape of the region of a French Bordeaux and sometimes they get it spectacularly right as when two Master Sommeliers, John Szabo and Bruce Wallner, nail a California Cabernet while there third Steve Thurlow swings and misses. The drama comes from the fact that we know what the wine is and we can either squirm while they start going down a terribly wrong path or marvel when they somehow find the right one.
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I’m sure there are critics who use these videos to say that deep down wine writers, educators and sommeliers don’t know anymore than the next slob, but such a base level view totally misses the point. The more salient lesson is that wine in an unbelievably complex creation and that even those who’ve spent years studying it are occasionally mystified and that’s amazing. Even more amazing is that these critics are happy to pull back the curtain and show you the often messy process of learning about wine even if it means they have to come face to face with a wine they totally misidentified while the entire online world watches. And that’s the type of person you should trust when it comes to diving into the world of wine.All the videos are available here.