Wines: When Average Means Awful

Scratch a wine expert, find a frustrated poet. Wines are seldom good or bad; they are "serious" or "sprightly," "frivolous" or "untrustworthy." When New York Wine Importer Frank Schoonmaker talks about "sunny, lovable little fellows, never a bit sullen or ill-tempered or withdrawn," he is not boasting about his children or a litter of puppies; he is describing the wines of the Rhine and Moselle river valleys.

This predilection for hyperbole can only confuse the casual wine drinker. As a beginning of wisdom, he must understand that oenologists are scarcely detached observers — nearly all are...

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