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Classically Speaking

Updated: Jan 12

Over the last several months, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting (virtually) several Vine Society members as well as their friends and associates during several thoroughly enjoyable online gatherings. I’ve been inspired by the passion, knowledge and curiosity that all of the participants have shown as we explored the art and science of blind tasting. I’m sure most members agree that learning to discern the structural components and flavor profiles of that mystery wine in the glass is a little intimidating and requires practice. But once the basics of the blind tasting technique are practiced a few times, one’s understanding of the character of various wines starts to come into clearer focus.


One question I’ve been asked by beginning blind tasters in both professional and social setting over the years is: Which wines should I start with? The answer is to start with examples of “classic” wines. What is a classic wine? My colleague and friend Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon, a legend in our field and one of the great wine educators, puts it this way - "Classic wines are those which display undeniable quality while reflecting a style and/or terroir which bears the test of time. It can be French White Burgundy or Mendoza Malbec, meaning New World excellence can fall into the classic category.” The list of classic wine producers is exhaustive (and no doubt subjective), but by understanding what makes a wine a classic example, one has established a baseline or template by which other wines can be assessed. I’ve listed a few wines below that I recommend as classic examples of their individual wine regions. No vintages are listed, but the consistent excellence of these producers ensures a high-quality wine regardless of the vintage.


Remember, this is my opinion, but I'm confident my colleagues in the wine industry might agree with most of them.


· Domaine Huet Vouvray Sec “Le Haut Lieu” – Legendary Loire Valley Chenin Blanc

· Bodegas Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Reserva – Traditonal Rioja

· Montevertine IGT Toscana – Textbook Tuscan Sangiovese

· Chablis Domaine Vocoret et Fils – Steely, invigorating Chablis

· Domaine Sigalas, Santorini, Greece – Not familiar with a grape called Assyrtiko? Try it!

· Stony Hill Vineyard Chardonnay, Napa Valley – Beautifully balanced

· Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains – Benchmark Cabernet

· Bodegas Catena Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina – The standard bearer


If you are interested in sourcing any of the wines listed above, please contact mariano @ mariano@vinesociety.com or (704) 892-8044.



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