October 26, 2006
Wise Words from a Wine Guy

Michael Twelftree is an Australian vintner whose Two Hands Wines, mostly shirazes, routinely score 90 or more points in reviews by notable critics like Robert M. Parker Jr., Stephen Tanzer and Harvey Steiman. Twelftree takes advantage of them quietly in his promotional materials and on his Web site, but in person he doesn't crow about them and actually seems embarassed about the scoring approach to wine appreciation.

I learned this yesterday evening while meeting with Twelftree during his first visit to Sacramento. He recalled attending a wine tasting in the Napa Valley where he was struck by winemakers who in pouring their wines first would boast of the number of points it had received from this or that critic. If you've ever attended a tasting presided over by winemakers, you're familiar with the drill, and can be impressed or amused.

Twelftree was insulted. "That's the first and only thing you can sell your wine on?" he recalls thinking. "It's insulting. I'll make up my own mind."

When wine enthusiasts approach him at his winery or at a tasting, he wants to talk about the wines more intimately, explaining their background and the like, but mostly he just wants people to taste them and decide on their own whether they like them. Wine is a journey of discovery, both the thrill of discovering a wine you get and the joy of discovering something about your own palate, Twelftree believes. "I want people to discover wine for themselves. That's the best fun, to discover a wine for yourself. You never will be a great taster if you live and die by reviews. They drive sales, but they're just snapshots of a wine on one day. Get on that journey of self discovery," he urges.

In a future column in The Sacramento Bee I'll have more to say of Twelftree and his wines, but I found his remarks about wine criticism so refreshing and provocative I wanted to share them right away.

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