YUMMO!!! Grading Rachael Ray’s 5 Ways to Become a Wine Expert Overnight.

Everday with Rachael Ray

I get sent press releases all the time, most of which I don’t even bother opening. This was one of the rare few that I didn’t happen to click “Send to Spam” on.
The email was titled FIVE WAYS TO BECOME A WINE EXPERT OVERNIGHT!”  and being featured in Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine.

The only reason I opened the email was that I was ABSOLUTELY FUMING that someone has been keeping these “five ways” a secret from me for all these years!!! Countless hours of reading wine magazine and textbooks! Thousands of $’s thrown away on Court of Master Sommeliers and Society of Wine Educators exams! All a complete waste of time and money, when in fact all I needed was to read this article!!!
Imagine my surprise when it turned out the information wasn’t all it was cracked up to be!!!

The reason I am taking aim at this article specifically is that wine bloggers come under a lot scrutiny from the traditional media about their content. They (we) are viewed as inferior to traditional journalists. I’m guessing maybe there is some animosity due to the fact that in 5-10 years we will have very few print newspapers still in circulation.

Also don’t get me wrong, I really don’t like personal attacks on people, and from what I know about Rachael Ray I actually quite like her (even though I’m not too sure what medication you need to be on to be that happy all day). Not that she of course had anything to do with this article, however maybe she should keep a closer eye on her content before she gives it her seal of approval! I wouldn’t allow someone writing an article on this site who didn’t know their subject!

The below points are an exact copy and paste from the original press release, and I’m going to handle the article in the style of one of my teachers back in elementary school i.e. with lots of red writing under each paragraph and an associated grade.


5 Ways To Become An Overnight Wine Expert!

After a quick first glance through I notice that the “five ways” have mysteriously become six, so we’re already off to a bad start…


Alcohol level
The percentage will tip you off to how heavy the wine will feel in your mouth–12% or 13% is ideal for a full bodied feel.

Nearly, but not quite. I’ve had plenty of 13% wines that haven’t held their alcohol as well as some at 15%+. Saying that alcohol should be used as a guide to the body of a wine is very misleading.



Spotting this on the label or “old vines” means that the grapevines are decades old with fewer grapes produced resulting in a stronger flavored wine.

For anyone who has been reading (and paying attention to) this website, you’ll know that  there is no real definition on terms such as old / ancient vines etc. It’s true that older vines generally produce less fruit that is more concentrated, but if a bottle of wine says “old vines” they don’t legally have to be any specific age. They could be 5 years old, they could be 105 years old.



Flavor Clues
The back of the label is full of hints to the wine’s taste and a peek into the type of wine. Descriptors like vanilla, smoke and nutmeg indicate a woodier taste. Words like zesty, racy, tangy suggest a fresher, brighter style.

And the tasting notes on the back of a bottle are written by who….? The same people who are making/marketing the wine!!! Do you therefore think that the terms might be ever so slightly biased!?!? Who’s also to say that the back label has tasting notes? Most European wines simply state importer and government warning etc.




Fancy Artwork. Beautiful pictures of vineyards or estates come across as a serious bottle of wine-but the wines might not live up to the imagery.

WHAT!?!?! Just kidding, I’ll give them this one! But I think anyone with half a brain could have figured that out. I AM a sucker for a good wine label though!



Phantom Grapes
If you don’t see recognizable terms such as “merlot” or “chardonnay” that doesn’t mean the wine isn’t one.  Wines from Europe are often labeled by origin rather than type.

Ok, now we’re making some progress! Wines from Europe are INDEED often not labeled with the grape, but then again often they are. So once again we really didn’t learn anything…



Shape Matters! Bottle shapes hold specific wine styles.  Tall and narrow bottles contain mostly crisp wines such as a sparkling white. Slope shouldered bottles are typical to subtler wines such as pinot noir, chardonnay, or syrah and high shouldered bottles hold heavier reds and lighter whites such as a sauvignon blanc

A total contradiction. I often get asked about bottle shape,  and I’ll state right now the same thing that I tell everyone else: BOTTLE SHAPE DOES NOT MATTER! It doesn’t give an indicator of ANYTHING! True, some regions of the world specialize in particular styles / colors of bottles depending on each region, particularly Germany. And another thing, since when was Syrah “subtle”!?!?!



Rant over, regular scheduled programming will now resume…

1 Comment

  • February 19, 2011


    Aside from the alcohol bit, the rest are just a re-dealing of marketing gimmicks, hype, etc., that have been around for as long as wine has been sold in bottles – several hundred years.
    It is sad when someone outside any specialized [the wine] industry tries to simplify the understanding of the product [wine] simply to validate their claim of expert status. The Rachel Rays/Martha Stewarts of the 24/7 media world need new topics to keep audience share from dropping or clicking another channel.
    As Bob Parker would have wanted to say “Caveat Empties”.

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