When it comes to evaluating wine, one of the many factors that critics try to control for or otherwise eliminate is personal bias. This is a little bit of a fool’s errand, since all taste is subjective anyway, but there are differences in both kind and degree.
Most critics employ some variation of tasting controls to try and keep themselves honest. The most basic is the blind tasting.
This is where the wine’s identity is hidden from the critic until after his evaluation notes have been recorded. The critic is thus blind to any knowledge he might have about the wine which might otherwise cloud, subconsciously or otherwise, his judgment or somehow influence his assessment. This approach is thought the best way to help a critic formulate an unbiased opinion about the wine. Tasting a wine blind is also thought to help force the taster to concentrate on every tiny aspect of the wine, to concentrate on teasing out the aromas, flavors or styles.
The two primary forms of this are the single-blind test, where the critic may know a piece of information such as the grape varietal, category of wine (white, red, sparkling, sweet, etc.), or perhaps the country of origin, and double-blind test, where the critic knows absolutely nothing aboutthe wine before it is poured. All this came to mind recently when a sample arrived of The Chosen Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($35.99). This new-to-the-market wine, an exclusive import from the folks at Kosherwine.com, is a private-labeled offering that presents something of an enigma. Very little information is disclosed about the wine other than that it is an Israeli Cab made from grapes grown in the Judean Hills region in 2012, is 15.4 percent alcohol and is not mevushal (it has OK supervision). To support the “reserve” on the label, the back label informs us that the wine was aged for a period of 20 months, that the grapes were harvested manually and at night, and that the wine is unfiltered. Little else about it is revealed. There is even an uninformative website for The Chosen Barrel brand.
For wine-geek consumers, such parentless products with a bare-bones presentation are often looked down upon. They want to know who the winemaker was and ideally what vineyards its grapes came from, how many cases were produced, what the residual sugar (brix) at harvest was, and the level of acidity and PH.
Savvy wine consumers, who want good wine at a good price, tend not to be so instantly judgmental — though the bar is raised commensurate with the price. Not being told info that reinforces their sense of security — such as whether the wine was produced by a known and reliable winery or winemaker, means that the perceived risk of a bad purchase is slightly elevated. Some thought has to go into striking the right pitch and packaging to entice nominally conservative kosher wine buyers.
But for my own blind tasting of the provided sample, I would most certainly have knocked it down a peg or two because of my anti-marketing bias.
For starters, the website boasts the slogan: “Chosen, especially for you.” That alone gets me thinking all negative and suspicious. Then consider this bit: “The Chosen. Barrel is an innovation in the U.S Wine Industry. We sampled countless barrels from more than 20 Israeli wineries and when we found The Chosen Barrel, we knew we had to have it all. So we could bring it to you.” This is obviously some definition of the word “innovation” previously unknown to me. These hardly constitute the most galling of intelligence-insulting marketing crimes, but are very far from endearing to some of us.
I seldom seem to be in step with successful marketing ideas. Indeed, a great many fortunes have been made in seemingly utter defiance of what I think. Nor do I make any substantial claims about what constitutes good, much less great marketing. I do know a little something about good wine. Fortunately, my blind tasting allowed for more forthright evaluation of what is, as it happens, a very nice wine.
The Chosen Barrel, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 ($35.99): This rich, powerful, well made medium-to-full bodied Cab offers aromas and flavors of ripe plum, blackcurrant, cassis, and black cherry, along with dark chocolate and spice, and with soft tannins and enough balancing acidity to keep it all cohesive and very enjoyable. Nice lengthy finish too. L’Chaim!