Here’s a test. What kind of wines do these descriptions, from the June 15, 2007, issue of The Wine Spectator, refer to? winespectatorlogo.gif

1. “Superripe and exotic, with layers of rich tropical fruit and hints of apple, melon and pineapple.”
2. “Unctuous and nectarlike, with layers of ripe apricot, peach, vanilla and butterscotch flavors.”
3. “Rich and concentrated, with a mix of buttery pear, fig and melon flavors.”
4. “Intense, spicy … with lush flavors of butterscotch, ripe peach, honey and golden raisin.”
5. “Ultrarich … with lots of depth and concentration to the fig, toasty oak, hazelnut and melon flavors.”
6. “Spicy and rich, with loads of ripe apricot, candied orange and pineapple flavors.”
7. “Rich, creamy … with vanilla, pear and fig flavors.”
8. “Very elegant … with lots of ripe peach, pear, baked apple and spice flavors.”
9. “A rich … core of pear, apple and spicy fruit, … roasted marshmallow taste on the finish.”
10. “Very spicy … with dried fig, baked pineapple and ripe apple flavors … flanked by floral and creamy notes.”

Ready? The answer is that 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 describe highly-rated chardonnays from California; 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 refer to top-rated dessert wines from Austria. That’s right, dry table wines meant to be consumed with food like salmon or tuna and luxurious sweet wines meant to be savored at the end of a meal with dessert (or by themselves) are reviewed in much the same terms.

Perplexed? Puzzled? Nonplussed?

Don’t be. The tasters at WS have always preferred their California chardonnays to be so over-oaked, so super-rich and creamy, so tropical and toasty, so filled with pies and cakes and roasted fruit that to sensible folk they’re undrinkable travesties of what chardonnay should be. But WS gives the high scores; winemakers pay attention; people who like wines that pay homage to the grapes they’re made from lose.

Whew, I’m getting bored with California chardonnay. I’ll stay off this topic for a bit.