Wine Therapy

“Pick a theme,” we told Jean-Baptiste Humbert, owner of Wine Therapy in Manhattan’s Soho district. With his penchant for interesting tastes, and unusual grapes, we weren’t sure what to expect. The six wines he chose seemed to lack any connection, other than being red. No two shared the same region or varietal. As we tasted, however, we saw it was precisely their individuality that connected them.

Some we loved, one we hated. The last bottle was a winner with all of us except one who sighed with frustration, “I feel like I’m looking for something that’s just not there.” Our Publisher replied, “Ha, sounds like a relationship.”

And like relationships, we all have different palates. My proclivity for sweet but complex wines may not match your taste for those more spicy, robust and bold. That’s why we encourage people to read our wine notes, along with our ratings. Jean-Baptiste chose wines that spoke to him, but rarely will a group agree on what “better” means or “good” tastes like.

Participants: Jonathan Russo (the Publisher), Adam Morganstern (the Editor), Evan Spingarn (the Wine Expert), Meryl Rosofsky (the Food Writer), Betsy Burton (the Publicist), and Nicole Sizemore (the Novice).

Rating system: W-wow, E-enjoy, OK-ok and KT-keep trying.

Domaine St. Nicolas “Gammes en May” 2004, Loire ($13.99)

This Gamay from the Loire Valley was described as clean, refreshing, and fruity, conjuring images of picnics and hot days. The Expert described it as ebullient and light (“light” refers to texture and is often positive, whereas “thin” refers to flavor and is usually negative). I liked its pure and juicy flavor, however, the Publisher, Food Writer, and Publicist thought it lacking in character and depth.

Publisher: OK • Editor: E • Expert: E • Food Writer: OK • Publicist: OK • Novice: E

Arbanta Rioja 2004, Spain ($12.99)

“I’ve been drinking Rioja for thirty-six years, and this does not taste like a Rioja,” said our Publisher, inadvertently clueing us in to his age. He described the lack of cherries, spice, and “usual Spanish stuff.” The Expert agreed and remarked, “I could knock it back with a roast chicken, but I wouldn’t remember it.” The Food Writer, on the other hand, thought it would pair beautifully with food. And I (who am not sure about what a Rioja should taste like) liked the slightly smoky and yet sweet taste.

Publisher: OK • Editor: OK • Expert: OK • Food Writer: E • Publicist: OK • Novice: E

Anjou Pur Breton 2003, Loire ($19.99)

“This is what everyone seeks and fears in organic wine,” said the Expert, referring to the visceral flavor of the earth and terroir. Its bouquet of hay and straw, medium body and complex was enjoyed by all, though its flavor seemed to change with each sip. “One minute I love it, the next I’m not sure,” noted the Editor. Similarly, the Food Writer found that it grew “off” her rather than on her. “It’s more like a sprinter than a long distance runner.” The Publicist, however, could picture herself drinking a few bottles in front of a fire with friends.

Publisher: E • Editor: E • Expert: E • Food Writer: E • Publicist: E • Novice: E

Hervé Souhaut Syrah 2004, Rhône ($23.99)

Dirty socks and rotten eggs. That summed up this one. We actually thought it was a corked bottle, until Jean-Baptiste assured us it was supposed to taste that way; perhaps an acquired palate. “This is like when you order a vodka tonic and they bring you a vodka soda instead,” said our Editor. In other words, send it back.

Publisher: KT • Editor: KT • Expert: KT • Food Writer: KT • Publicist: KT • Novice: KT

Robert Sinskey Vineyards Pinot Noir, California ($34.99)

“This is a Pinot Noir?!” Once again, we met the unexpected. This big, full, lush wine had more Cabernet characteristics than a Pinot Noir. The Expert found its 14 percent alcohol content and “super-ripe” fruit typical of Californian winemaking, a characteristic he does not always admire. While the deep rich tones were enjoyed, it left a bitter and alcoholic aftertaste.

Publisher: E • Editor: OK • Expert: OK • Food Writer: OK+ • Publicist: OK+ • Novice: OK

Vieillefont 2002, Côtes-de-Duras ($17.99)

This balanced and classy wine seemed to get better with each sip – or glass in some cases (the Editor went for a second pour; a sure sign of a good wine). “It’s got body and legs. Four clashing flavors that somehow work,” stated the Publisher. The Food Writer lustily declared, “It speaks to my soul.” The Publicist, however, wasn’t as impressed, feeling she was “looking for something that’s just not there.”

Publisher: E+ • Editor: E+ • Expert: E+ • Food Writer: E+ • Publicist: OK • Novice: E+

Wine Therapy is located in New York City at 171 Elizabeth Street, 212-695-2999.


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