Wine Advisor – When labels babble

Welcome to another of my periodic rants about wine labels that seem to be informative but that in fact appear to have been dreamed up by advertising copy writers whose wine expertise may be in doubt.

Wine Advisor

Let me emphasize that wacky label language does not necessarily imply bad wine in the bottle. Indeed, the subject of today’s dissertation, Chateau des Cleons 2010 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, priced at a remarkable, back-up-the-truck $ 6.99 at Trader Joe’s, is a splendid, crisp and minerally table wine for summertime or any time.

But I couldn’t help chuckling at – and sharing with you – a couple of bits of label advice that left me shaking my head. Let’s take a peek at them, briefly, not to make fun but to make a few points about enjoying wine.

* “Grape variety, Melon. Pale yellow colour, soft palate.” Okay, fair enough, the Melon (“meh-lawN”) du Bourgogne is indeed the grape variety of Muscadet, but I’m not sure this capsule description is helpful. When I hear “soft palate,” I think “roof of my mouth,” but maybe that’s just me. Still, this tart, acidic white strikes me as anything but soft in flavor.

* “Serve between 46F and 48F.” Now, this is the kind of wine advisor that makes me crazy. Most people are wary of fine wine because they think there are too many rules, and the rules are too finicky. Advice like this, implying that you need to bring a thermometer to the table, prompts most people to have a beer instead. “Serve chilled but not ice cold” or “remove from the fridge a half-hour before serving” will get you into the right range, and that’s all you need. Let’s not throw up barriers to entry for wine appreciation, please.

* “Serve … with starters and seafood dishes.” Okay, I know I said last week that “Most wines go with most foods most of the time,” so now I may appear to be contradicting myself. But “starters and seafood dishes.” Really? Does “starters” mean fried calamari or nachos or deviled eggs? Does “seafood dishes” mean pale Dover sole or oily mackerel or tunafish casserole? This makes a difference. As I suggest in the tasting note below, I like Muscadet with spicy Asian dishes, and its classic pairing is with the fresh, briny oysters caught just offshore from the Muscadet wine region at the mouth of the Loire. It’s good with other delicate, sweet shellfish, too; seared scallops, for instance. The point is, there is a fine line between being too specific and not specific enough.

So, we parse a few bits of wine advisor from a small back label that, perhaps, sought to say too much with too little space to do it. Enough said! Be assured, again, that the wine is just fine, and at $ 7, a bargain the likes of which I haven’t seen for a while.

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