There's been lots of debate on the wine web lately about bloggers and specifically samples. Apart from the usual suggestions that bloggers are simply hacks in their parents' basements, I read specific accusations recently that several (many? most?) wine blogs are simply fronts for these hacks to collect samples of free wine.
Hmm. Maybe I'm late to the party. I've been blogging for five years and seen a variety of samples come my way. However, perhaps I should have been working harder to solicit more free samples. Who doesn't like free wine? I kid of course. Many wine samples are either from large, mass market producers...or lower end bottlings from better producers. The kind of stuff made in large enough quanitites to warrant sending out in the first place. Perhaps even to have a marketing firm handle all the details. That's not the focus of my interest or this blog's interest. So samples aren't necessarily a good fit for what this blog's all about, though I do enjoy trying things.
That feeling is reinforced by the latest round of samples from Australian producer Jacob's Creek. Americans know Jacob's Creek as a low end supermarket brand. Australians know it as a label of mega producer Orlando, which actually producers some higher end, limited production stuff (relatively so, anyway). Even at the low end, you can do a lot worse than Jacob Creek's NV sparkling wine from chardonnay and pinot noir. Of course, that wine isn't being sampled. Instead, here are flights of riesling and shiraz.
First, the 2008, 2006, and 2005 Jacob's Creek Riesling that you might find for well under $10. The 2008 was decent, though tasting more of pinot gris than riesling with generic melon notes. The 2006 was the best, more petrolly and true to riesling, sweet with nice acidic cut. The 2005 seemed a bit old in a way the 2006 probably won't be a year from now. Old apples, glue, this wasn't very good at all.
Then the shiraz. First the 2006 Jacob's Creek Shiraz, the same basic label as the rieslings above. This wasn't bad but more nondescript. Then the 2006 Reserve Shiraz, which gets good scores from the wine press. This was so thick and raisiny that I simply couldn't drink it. The texture is gooey and slick, and while I can see people loving how "big" and "bold" this is, I got kind of depressed drinking it. Finally, the 2005 Centenary Hill Shiraz, a fairly high end bottling at $30 to $40 per. Now this is a wine that's true to Australia, full of rich black cherry fruit and lots of dill and vanilla American oak that reminded me of old school Aussie shiraz and even many old Spanish reds. Some people hate that profile, but this is authentic for sure. The texture was the most remarkable element here, especially considering the other flaccid reds. There was tannin, fine worsted tannin that gave the wine some edge. Sure, it was a little much to drink, but this wine grew on me. Good job here.
Yet I'm left thinking that most samples leave me kind of empty. I enjoy trying different things, even things I don't end up liking. I'm just not in this to get samples and pity those who are (unless you can get really good stuff, I suppose, and not grovel too much). I'm also probably not going to please the sample senders because I'm not going to give false praise. So go ahead and keep sending things. I'll try them and write about them, I hope in a fair manner. I'm open to critique about my criticism. If that sounds good, fire away. But don't anyone think this blogger is only doing this for samples. I know I'm not the only one.