There’s a soft breeze of change afoot in the world of wine. It’s not yet a surefire thing but the voices are getting louder and more numerous calling for an end to the crazy game of spiralling alcohol levels, overuse of oak and syrupy, thick head bonking reds. Big is not necessarily better any longer.
Deep, high alcohol reds have been hugely popular for a good 20 years thanks to the writing and taste of a certain Robert Parker. No wine writer has had the effect on the market as he has had. A great rating from Parker guarantees a wines success. And there is no doubt that Robert Parker is a talented taster. The problem I have with the whole show is that an entire industry tries to make wines to please Mr. P and because Mr. P likes a certain style of red wine (dark, aromatic, intensely fruity, powerful ) everything starts to taste the same. Consumers trust his taste more than their own.
But lets face it. Even though huge, muscular wines at 15 % alc. may taste great on the first sip try consuming half a bottle. More than likely you’ll be satiated well before. Secondly, many of these monster wines don’t cellar well beyond a few years. They’re tough to match with all but the most full bodied and zesty foods and lets face it, they hurt more the next day. This last observation, I admit, may have something to do with my age but I expect there are a lot of boomers out there who would agree with me. Remember, any wine needs the right food to really show it’s stuff. And one has to consider the mood one wants to create. But enough of that, let’s get back to the light movement.
Another detail of New World wines that really gets me going is the propensity of bottling premium, monster wines in bottles that weigh a ton. I think it comes down to the new world sense that bigger is better. But consider the higher carbon footprint shipping loads of these heavy bottles around the world. So much for thinking green. I’m more concerned with the magic inside the bottle.
Speaking of that, I attended a great tasting a week back that really pointed out the huge difference between new vs: old world wines. We tasted three classic Bordeaux reds and four of the best meritage blends from BC. All were well made, complex reds but even though I found the BC wines pleasurable, I preferred the Bordeauxs, especially the St. Emillion. They were better balanced with no heat on the finish and oozed an understated elegance and sense of place that is rare in the new world. The meritage reds impressed initially with lots of sweet fruit, powerful structure and intense ripe fruit but they all seemed a bit out of joint and overwhelmed the palate with too much wood and a hot finish. Kind of like a beautiful girl who over does her make up until the beauty is gone.
It was a good tasting to be sure and it brought home my belief that great wine can’t be made by throwing science and loads of money together. A profound understanding of terroir, hundreds of years of experience and a true culture of wine and food are essential ingredients. Lets try the tasting again in a few hundred years!
What do you feel about this?