Wines That Come With An Agenda

How do you deal with wines whose promoters claim they want to eschew the reviewing routine yet send you samples to review? Take a look at this email I recently received from a New York City public relations agency:

"Let's skip the fancy jargon and get down to drinking great wine with New York foods — interested in tasting Wente Vineyard's 'Entwine' line? In partnership with The Food Network, Wente Vineyards created Entwine to demystify the 'complex tannin structures' and 'flavor bouquets' of the wine world, for an approachable and delicious bottle best shared with friends and food."

Never mind that it's impossible for a wine to itself "demystify" anything, it's also impossible to describe a wine without talking about its elements — aromas, flavors, tannins and so on. And it's amusing that a wine without any describable attributes can pair well with anything.

Then there is chef Fabio Viviani's new eponymous brand of wine. Here's what his agency says: "Fabio launched the eponymous wine collection with the release of a flagship 2012 chardonnay and 2012 cabernet sauvignon and the hope of bringing Italian wine culture to the United States — the philosophy that wine is uncomplicated, unintimidating, and best enjoyed with loved ones and a good meal." One can only hope that Fabio's food is equally unintimidating and uncomplicated if the wine is to match it. And if you don't happen to be drinking a wine with loved ones or good food, does that mean the wine is no good?

Obviously, not all expensive wines or all complex wines — often described with hyperbole, as we writers are certainly wont to use on occasion — are to everyone's tastes. But to appeal to the anti-intellectual biases of those people who typically describe any wine they like as "great" and any wine they don't like as "crap," is, well, in itself quite stupid.

Sometimes, I would love to have a wine pitched as "Inexpensively priced, but well-made with good fruit and balancing acidity that will match but not overshadow foods." Anyway, here are my honest opinions of these wines, not wanting to blast them because of their promotion nor falsely praise them out of intimidation.

Fabio Viviani California Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($14). Of course, this is a generalization, but I find many chefs prefer to have wines made for them that are fruity and mildly sweet. Don't know why that is, but it holds true here. The red fruitiness and the hint of gaminess are appealing, but there is not much complexity, and a grapey sweetness lingers on the palate.

Fabio Viviani California Chardonnay 2012 ($14). Mellow and green apple flavors blended nicely with decent finishing acidity.

Wente "Entwine" California Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($11). Not very impressive — tart, thin, and somewhat edgy with some spiciness and a lot of tanginess. Grilled meat would help its flavor, rather than vice versa.

Wente "Entwine" Chardonnay 2013 ($11). A little flabby, but nice mellow apple and buttery corn flavors.

Wente "Entwine" California Merlot 2012 ($11). Quite respectable, with nice flavors of fruity raspberry and savory brambles with good finishing acidity.

Wente "Entwine" California Pinot Grigio 2013 ($11). Light, creamy, and slightly sweet — more like pleasant sugary water.