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We all have opinions, so do wine critics

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
July 2, 2003
Wine critics all have an opinion. They just don't all have the same one. One critic's 90 rating is another critic's 85. In the world of wine tasting that's a separation the size of the Grand Canyon.
We see it whenever we have a tasting. Normally we taste seven wines. At the end of several of these evenings we asked for a show of hands. Which of these wines was the wine of the evening? Invariably five or six of the seven would get votes.
To paraphrase Goldilocks, this one is too strong, this one is too sweet, this one is just right. That's what the tasters were telling us.
Each issue of Newsweek magazine runs a critique of five wines. One week it may be pinot noir. Another cabernet sauvignon. The June 30 issue it was chardonnays. This time they had it just right.
If cabernets are the king of red wines, and they are, chardonnays must be the queen of white wines. In his Pocket Dictionary of Wines author Bern C. Ramey wrote, "The (chardonnay) wine can be delicate, rich, charming, deep, dry, gorgeous."
That's really touching all bases.
I'm familiar with four of the five chards reviewed by Newsweek. Three of the five are available in Mississippi. Your favorite wine merchant can order them if you ask. We recommend you do.
The top wine is Beringer's Chardonnay Napa Valley Private Reserve. Several vintages back, major wine publications were calling Beringer chardonnay the finest wine from any grape produced in California that vintage year.
The 2000, currently on the market, is in that same class. The magazine's critic, unnamed unfortunately, rated it 92 on the 100 point scale and said this.
Cuvee basically means the way in which the winemaker blends his wines to produce the ultimate taste that makes it distinctive. This Beringer is indeed distinctive.
I thought it was one of the finest chardonnays virtually within memory. It is all those things described and more rich, balanced, marvelous consistent flavors and, best of all, available in our state. The magazine lists it at $35, but the wholesale price from the state indicates it should be closer to $30 retail in Mississippi. But fair warning. The last time Beringer produced a wine of this quality it sold out very quickly. This one will do the same.
One step down was Simi's Russian River Valley Goldfields Vineyard Reserve. This one earned a 91. Unfortunately the Simi is one of the two not carried by the state warehouse. We've tasted it in New Orleans and it was well worth its price, also about $30. If you're down there, look for it.
The next one reviewed is, however, to be found in our state. It is the Landmark Overlook 2001 chardonnay. Landmark has two labels on the market. The other is the Landmark Damaris Reserve which is about $10 more expensive but, nevertheless, is a lesser wine. Newsweek describes the Overlook in this manner.
My opinion is the Landmark Overlook is among the highest quality white wines for about $23 you are likely to find on today's market. It was rated 90 and I concur. It is worth every point of its grade.
Chateau Souverain is next down on the list, but there is no point in whetting your wine appetite since it is not available in Mississippi. Nevertheless, next time in New Orleans check it out. The rating is 89, the price $14, the vintage 2001. I have not tasted this particular Souverain vintage.
Finally at the low end is Bogle Chardonnay, also a 2001. Says Newsweek, "You can find good chards at all price points. This fine example emphasizes fruit, not oak, with peach and nectarine flavors."
They gave it an 86 and listed the price at $9. It will probably be around $10 in our state but regardless, it is a bargain. The Bogle is no Beringer nor Landmark but at that price it is a lovely everyday drinking wine.
There are others, of course, too many to mention. The state warehouse lists 77 chardonnays, a tribute to the popularity of this grape. Taste any of the above and you'll know why.

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