I didn’t start this blog as an outlet for my rants but I have to complain a little bit. I’m over winemakers who have any agenda other than taste; those who want to make ‘natural wines’ or who set out to make wines which embrace some sort of philosophy. I know that we are all Children of the Earth, that we have only one planet and that we should treat the soil and groundwater (and each other) with respect. …but the next time I meet with a winemaker who claims to be driven by the will to be a ‘Steward of the Land’ and to ‘Express the soil’ I may just have to excuse myself. Call me ‘old fashioned’ but isn’t taste the point?
I just this moment left a meeting with a California winemaker. You know: one of these new, young guys that want to make wines that stand for something. There were five wines. Before each, an introduction along the lines of “I want to make wines that are lower in alcohol” or “This doesn’t taste like your typical California Chardonnay” or “These are geeky wines for the sommeliers“. Yeah, geeky to be sure; atypical, yes; but let me tell you: it went from bad to worse with every wine. The wines were terrible. He forgot what a his job really was: Flavor. Taste was just not part of the agenda.
I’ve been amused for a long time by the California winemakers who proclaim that they want to make “…not your typical California Chardonnay” The end result is ALWAYS an unpleasant, green, cloudy, yeasty, sharp disaster. You know why? Because these young producers have read so many articles decrying the overripeness and heavy-handed use of oak by California winemakers that they have completely missed what is ‘typical’ about California Chardonnay. Fifteen or more years ago, producers heard consumers cry ‘Uncle’ and backed off a lot of the oak in making Chardonnay. It’s been a great change because now we can actually experience what is ‘typical’ of California Chardonnay: rich, sunny flavors with a backbone of crisp acidity, stylish weight and a long dry pleasant finish. In short: white wines of unabashed tastiness which area pleasure to drink. Young winemakers: if you want to make wine that is ‘…not your typical California Chardonnay” I can save you a world of hurt and embarassment: there’s this grape called ‘Sauvignon Blanc’…
Ever walk into a bar or restaurant and ask your server, “what do you have in a green, lean, low acid red with sharp, hard tannins and high levels of volatile acidity?” Of course not. Why would you? The whole ‘wines with low alcohol’ movement is really pretty laughable. I have a friend in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley who makes Zinfandels that end up with over 16% alcohol in some vintages, yet they are as balanced and enjoyable as anything. …and I’ve tasted young cash cow Pinot Gris that are 13% and as hot as Georgi Vodka. It’s all about balance. Chateauneuf du Pape, France’s first Appellation Controlee, stipulates a minimum alcohol level of 13.5%. That law was codified in 1936 and it seems to be working. Makes me hope that this ‘wines with low alcohol’ fad will go away and leave us alone very soon.
To any winemakers reading this, if you want my attention, don’t come to me with an agenda. This is really all you have to say: “This is a beautiful vineyard. We did our best to harvest when the fruit was just ripe, then we worked to make a clean, delicious, complex, stylish wine that is a pleasure to drink and that will continue to develop over time in the bottle.”
Was that so hard?