Wines of the Month

2001 Domaine Drouhin, Le Montrachet & 2004 Sequoia Grove, Cabernet Sauvignon (February 2008)



For this month, we have decided to take these two reviews/wines side by side, as suggested by Josh at After seeing these two reviews Josh wrote an incredibly thorough article entitled, “Chateau Petrogasm: Wine Reviews from the Edge.” From this article, I shall now quote:


“Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone wants to be understood. And everyone wants to be acknowledged – to stand out from their peers.

The paradox is that to get the third thing, you need to put the first two in jeopardy.

Chateau Petrogasm, a blog that reviews wine using only a single picture, is doing the third thing very well. Among wine review sites it’s unique.

Below are its two most recent reviews. Taken together they’re edgy. They have the potential to offend someone other than just the wine producer, which is an interesting switch.

. . .

I’m pretty sure regular folks have become numb to written wine reviews. You can only hear “aromas of strawberries and sour cherries” so many times before it loses its meaning. Not only are Chateau Petrogasm’s good reviews different enough to cause you to pause, they’re written in the universal language of images. And what I like best about this pair of reviews is that they’re self-referential. Knowing about the first makes the second even better.

I think wine producers and wine marketers should pay pretty close attention to pictorial reviews and what they’re doing at Ch. Petrogasm.

To explain why, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Some Historical Context: The Evil Cigarette Marketers

There’s a marketing cycle for products, and cigarettes are probably the perfect case study to understand it. When cigarettes were new, the marketing focused on features and enjoyment – how the coffin nails tasted. The pitch focused on direct benefits.

Then, when the people grew tired of hearing about features, they switched to “mechanisms,” or points of differentiation.

Cigarette marketers even tapped into the growing trend of women smoking and did their part to tip the scales, helping make it socially acceptable for women to smoke with the famous line “Blow Some My Way.”

These ads were more focused on image, something for people to identify with, rather than persuasive copy.

Or my favorite:

Yes, the headline reads “Blow In Her Face and She’ll Follow You Anywhere.” Madness.

Finally, they moved to ads without any words at all. Using motivation research, they discovered that by using visual identifications they could say things that would be impossible to effectively convey using copy. They gave us the Marlboro Man.

They made millions. But even this got tired after a while, and the cycle started all over again with direct claims about flavor and satisfaction.

There’s a twist though. After years of seeing the Marlboro Man marketed at them from magazines and billboards, citizen-marketers started to use the Marlboro Man image as a weapon against smoking.

These bits of anti-marketing are the strongest of all. We got as smart as the advertisers.

So, What’s All This Have to Do With Wine?

In a lot of ways the product marketing cycle described above has been done for us (the wine producers) by professional wine reviewers. We’ve got Parker and Wine Spectator pitching wines on taste and the 100 point “mechanism.” We’ve got Allen Meadows focusing on tradition and the terroir angle.

Since we can’t legally talk about the health benefits of red wine (though media reporting helps), we’re left with flavor, terroir and lifestyle. Pictures of vineyards and blurbs from wine reviewers. But people have seen all this before. I need a new way to get their attention, and so do you.

That’s why images like those at Ch. Petrogasm could potentially be so powerful. Strong imagery is easily understandable, and highly marketable. If you get a positive AND creative review from them, it’s like having Leo Burnett working for you, for free. Minus the sleeze.

* * * * *


2005 Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot, St. Emilion, Bordeaux (January 2008)

(Photo Credit: Benjamin Saltzman)

Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot is quite possibly one of my favorite producers in Bordeaux. Our review of the 1999 vintage should evidence how beautiful this wine can be and the 2005 is no different. It is well known that 2005 was one of the best vintages Bordeaux has ever seen. Even after tasting through approximately 150 Grand Cru wines, drinking a second glass of 2005 Beau-Sejour Becot through my purple-stained mouth affirmed my love for the wines of this estate. I thought my tastebuds were shot, but Juliette Becot’s wine still jumped out at me, without unrighteous force, but rather with a pleasant yet strict uniqueness.

Ben, Andrew, and Juliette Becot (Photo Credit: Erik Latshaw)

Ben and Andrew with Juliette Becot (January 18, 2008)

(Drawing Credit: Benjamin Saltzman) 1999 Beau-Sejour Becot

Our review of the 1999 Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot


2006 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé (July 2007)

Producing extremely small yields, using entirely organic practices, and boasting a work force of eight, Domaine Tempier is easily the greatest producer of wine in the Bandol region and, for that matter, most of southern France. The Domaine is located at Le Plan du Castellet and its vineyards stretch over three different communities — Le Castellet, Le Beausset and La Cadière. The plots of land are far apart and thus require extra work, but the soil of these different areas yields distinctive cuvées — Spéciale, Migoua, Tourtine and Cabassaou — and are blended together for their blanc and rosé. Within the region of Bandol, the primary grape is Mourvèdre, which must account for up at least 50% of these blends.

The Bandol region lies between Marseilles and Toulon on the hillside of a natural amphitheater and runs down to the shore of the Mediterranean sea. Historians believe the first vineyard existed 500 years B.C., when the Phoceans landed there. Domaine Tempier lies in the heart of the vineyard boundaries. It existed during the reign of King Louis XV, and the “bastide” was built on the family’s property in 1834. The Domain has remained a family owned estate since 1834. In 1880, after the phylloxera epidemic had ruined the French wine trade, Léonie Tempier began the renewal by having her vineyard completely replanted on root-stocks, and a cellar built with wooden and cement vats. However, the 1929 crash caused the wine business to plunge. As a result, the vines were partly replaced by peach and apple trees. In 1936, Lucie Tempier, whose father was a leather importer in Marseilles, married Lucien Peyraud whose father dealt in silk and ribbons and grandfather was a gunsmith in Saint-Etienne close to Lyon. Lucien Peyraud wanted to be a wine-grower. He studied farming in Aix and had several work experiences in the region before he and Lucie settled at Domaine Tempier in 1940, this was the beginning of a grand epic for Bandol wine.

On October 27, 1943, Lucien Peyraud bottled his first wine, a rosé. In 1945, he became President of the Association to Promote the Bandol Label of Origin and subsequently became known as the father of Bandol wine.

But, as Alder of, has noted, “it’s almost futile to try and do justice to Domaine Tempier as a vintner from any perspective — historical, cultural, oenological. Certainly it’s hard to do a better job than Kermit Lynch, the importer who is responsible for bringing their wines to the US and who wrote about them in his wonderful book Adventures on the Wine Route.” Lynch writes:

Domaine Tempier is a place in Provence, a home with its winery and vineyards, its olive trees and cypresses. It is home to a large joyful Provencal family. It is a wine. And while it must be inadvertent, one of those fortuitous miracles that embellish existence (there is no recipe for it dispensed at wine school), there is a certain vital spirit that one imbibes with each gorgeous swallow of Domaine Tempier’s wine.

The Domaine is known best for its traditional and detail-oriented winemaking techniques. The Mourvèdre is grown by hand in incredibly small yields and on terraced stone hillsides that are “so steep and narrow that the family’s tractors need rollbars to avoid certain death should they topple down the hill.” They use no herbicides and no irrigation. They also insist on weeding and fertilizing by hand, using the remains of the must from the previous year’s vintage. Finally, the grapes are all destemmed since Mourvèdre stems remain green even when ripe and can contribute undesirable flavors to the wine. Moreover, the Domaine refuses to use foreign yeasts in the fermentation of the wine. And, “in a remarkable showing of patience and vinicultural tradition, the wines are allowed to finish their fermentation naturally no matter how long it takes.” (The 1971 vintage took four years!) All of the patience and attentiveness is what makes this wine so damn good!

Most of the information I have provided comes directly from Domaine Tempier’s website. For more information on the Domaine, click here.

For the record, we enjoyed this gorgeous wine with the gorgeous women in our lives while watching a free Shakespeare in the Park performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream put on by the Independent Shakespeare Company.


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