A Wine Reviewer's Dream Trip
I don’t think many wine lovers would disagree with the opinion that traveling around the world tasting and reviewing wines (and getting paid!) is a dream job. So, we’ve taken it a step further and asked a few of our wine reviewers a about their “dream” wine tasting trip. Here is what they had to say:
Q: If given the opportunity to travel around the world to taste any wine of your choosing—not limited to your Wine Advocate regions—with any person of your choosing, where would you go?
Monica Larner: China, because I know next to nothing on the wine regions there. I remember seeing a photo of a vineyard somewhere in China where farmers bend and bury their grapevines underground to protect them throughout the freezing winter season. That’s such an extreme example of man’s desire to make wine even in the most difficult places where grapevines never previously grew, like the Chinese tundra. I’d love to find and see that vineyard.
Joe Czerwinski: Madeira. I'm fascinated by this wine's story.
Mark Squires: I would like to do something that seems next to impossible—taste all the old Massandra wines in Crimea. (I refuse to call it Russia.) There are, of course, some regions I haven't visited that I very much want to see. But every time I think about it, it seems like work. Maybe one day. But not today.
Luis Gutierrez: I already travel to my regions regularly, so I’d select something else, possibly Valais in Switzerland, which is the beginning of the Rhône Valley and has lots of indigenous grape varieties like Cornalin, Humagne Rouge and Amigne. They also have amazing cheese and cured meat that I love. I recommend the village of Sion, which has two hills with one castle each, that looks like the set for a film like Eragon!
Q: What wines would you want to taste?
ML: Wines I definitely have not heard of yet. I’m always attracted to taste wines made from indigenous grapes, where ever they exist from Turkey to the New World.
JC: I'd want to taste examples of different styles of different ages, from newly fermented wines to 18th-century examples. Hey, this is fantasy, right?
MC: The oldest I've had is a 1953 Black Muscat. Loved it. I'm guessing there are some treasures in there. I have a feeling I will have to be a lot more famous to taste any.
LG: I’d live to catch up with the latest vintages of producers like Denis Mercier, Marie-Therese Chappaz, Domaine Cornulus, Jean-René Germanier, Maurice Zufferey or Simon Maye. And I’d get new and upcoming names from my colleague and friend Stephan Reinhardt. As I mentioned, grapes produced with unique varieties often only found in Valais, but also reds from Syrah and Pinot Noir.
Q: And, who would you want to taste with?
ML: My enologist brother Michael who always spars with me when we taste wines together. I see the wine through the eyes of a wine critic (so I always see the positive) and he sees wines through the eyes of a winemaker (so he always sees the defects, first).
JC: My friend Marco DeFreitas, who's passionate about the wines, traces his family roots back to the island and has visited repeatedly.
MS: I am not much into hero worship. There are no wine personalities per se with whom I'd want to taste. That's just more blah-blah about wine. I get enough of that. I very much would prefer to taste with someone of general interest—like a Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin. Our founding wine fathers, to be sure, but there would be other topics of discussion. There's a lot of historical candidates.
LG: I’d love to travel there with my wine friends from Madrid, Ignacio, Estanis, Víctor and meet others I have there, Fredi and Jacques, who have the local knowledge and contacts.
Q: How would you describe the “ideal” or "dream” wine-tasting trip?
ML: Remote vineyards in remote countries would be my ideal.
JC: We live the dream, don't we? But seriously, I think the ideal trip would be for pleasure. No deadlines, no rushing from visit to visit, no 100-wine line-ups and nobody’s livelihoods dependent on our impressions. Probably more like the kind of trips our readers take...
MS: If I'm going to the Ukraine, business class air would indeed be nice, plus a posh hotel when you get there. This isn't somewhere or some time when roughing it would work well, but the most important thing would be the time to do it in a leisurely fashion. I'm not interested in showing up to taste 30 wines in a two-hour appointment and turning around to go home.
LG: Flight and hotel are secondary to me, I’m more interested in wine and food. Having said that, we rented a beautiful country house in Burgundy for a large group of us recently and that was perfect. I love to be able to go to great restaurants with great wine lists; if we have a house, I like to buy simple food, charcuterie, cheese and bread and drink great wines with my friends.
Q: What aspect of traveling, tasting and reviewing wine for your day job do you cherish or enjoy the most?
ML: I love being on the road, driving in my Mini Cooper with the windows open and the soft afternoon light. I am always thrilled to be in wine country with its rolling hills and the elongated patterns made by the grape trellis. Luckily, I get to do this all the time for work, but because I usually have back-to-back appointments and am inevitably late to my next destination, my dream wine trip would give me more time to stop, linger, take more photos and admire the scenery.
JC: My favorite part of what we do is that every day is a different learning experience. Whether tasting new wines with people I've never met before, or wines I've tasted previously with old acquaintances, if you have an open mind, there's something to take away every time.
MS: There are certainly times when I've had professional tastings I would've paid for if I'd been a tourist. Boutari, for instance, gave me a long vertical of their Xinomavros going back to 1968. The problem with all professional obligations, of course, is that it is too rushed, too hectic, too many things to do.
LG: Most of the time I travel on my own, as your friends are often busy and cannot take the time off to travel with you. I love walking through the vineyards, enjoying nature, the views, the countryside and talking to people who make wines I admire. That’s what I enjoy the most of my work travels. And of course, writing about that to let others know!
Stephan Reinhardt: I need a good sleep, a morning run or a swim at 7:00 to 7:30 and a very light breakfast at 8:00 or 9:00. Then I enter a bright, cool and quiet VIP tasting room with a view into the vineyards, wifi and the best glassware (Gabriel Glas Gold; Zalto White, Universal or Bordeaux; Riedel Sommelier). Wines at perfect tasting temperatures. My Spotify or Deezer playlists and a lot of mineral water. I prefer to start between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m., have a break at 1:00 p.m. and start again at 3:00 until 6:00 p.m.. Then I need a pool and a light dinner. In the case I am with producers, I visit one in the morning and another in the afternoon. We start in the vineyards, have a look through the cellar and end up tasting before we have a light lunch or dinner together and an exchange about the wines and the current situation in the vineyards and the region.
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