Does It Matter How A Wine is Made or Just Whether You Like It Or Not?

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As many of you know, I love to partake in other blogs and wine bulletin boards, for these discussions are always ‘fruitful fodder’ for my own blog here. And believe, not a day goes by where another topic comes up that I feel is perfect to ‘verbiage’ about it!

There is constant chatter about being ‘non-interventionist’ when it comes to making wine, ie. taking as few steps as possible in going from grape to bottle. I think all of us can agree that, in theory, this is a desired path, and not only with grapes to wine, but with farm to table, etc.

The reality is that winemakers are interventionists, each and every one of us. By mearly making the decision WHEN to pick a grape, we have intervened. By choosing specific rootstocks to put into the grand, we are intervening. By choosing to age our wines in stainless steel or oak or cement, we are intervening. And on and on and on.

But there are many other steps taken by some, but not all, winemakers to go from grape to bottle, and this is where it gets a bit ‘sticky’. One discussion veered off toward the topic of MegaPurple, a product that was created to give red wine more color and to add a touch of sweetness.

The product itself is created from wine grapes, so it is a legal additive and is approved for use in wine. That said, it is associated with mass production, ‘industrial’ wines that lack color and depth and therefore NEED this product in order to make them palatable and, more importantly, visibly ‘appealing’.

Therefore, should a winemaker admit to using this, they would be ‘banned’ from many a discussion about ‘better’ wines because, you know, it just shouldn’t ‘happen’. These ‘smaller production, higher value’ wines obviously don’t NEED this product because, you know, they are ‘better made’ and more ‘artisinal’.

Guess what – this product, along with others that wine connoisseurs would find ‘unmentionable’, are used by smaller producers from time to time. And what about ‘oak chips’, created so that wines could age in stainless steel but still have that ‘oak flavor and aroma’ that consumers just dig? Again, this product is associated with lower priced industrial wines, but I know of a few producers who have used this, and continue to say in their marketing that their wines are ‘aged in French oak’. They just conveniently forget to add the word ‘chips’ J

Which brings me back to the original question – do you care how a wine is made if you like it? Or in other words, do the winemaker’s means justify the winemaker’s end? Do you truly care if MegaPurple is added if you like the finished product? And just as importantly, how would you feel if that winemaker didn’t disclose this?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this today . . .

Cheers!

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Would You Like an Ice Cube with That Glass of Red Wine?

red wine with ice cube

I’m just curious what your first reaction is when you hear that first line? Is it ‘outrage’, as in ‘I can’t believe anyone would even THINK of asking that question!’? Is it ‘disgust’ as in ‘I can’ think of anyone ACCEPTING an ice cube with their red wine!’? Is it ‘sympathy’ as in ‘I feel SORRY for that person who would put an ice cube in their red wine.’ Or is it something else?

I was talking with a good friend of mine the other day, and he said that he always thought that putting ice in a red wine was ‘blasphemous’ – until he was in Florida and every glass of red wine he had was served too warm! Guess what he did – yep, added a little ice to it to cool it down . . .

I continue to be amazed out how dated some of the’conventional wisdoms’ are in the wine business – the generally accepted ‘dos’ and don’ts’ that seem to guide so many people. Now, I know many of you are thinking – but that’s not me, I’m really open minded about all things wine.

Really? Let me hear it for white zin!!! Yep, I know many of you are laughing right now – it’s just a knee jerk reaction that is prevalent in the wine biz – both at the producer level AND definitely with consumers. Well, did you know that white zin continues to be one of the most popular wines out there? And no, it’s not just because ‘many wine consumers are uninformed’ . . . a lot of people, wait for it, actually LIKE white zin. You may not, and that’s cool – but it is not cool to look down upon or not accept those who do like it.

There are so many of these conventional wisdoms that I feel need to be ‘re-evaluated’ these days and either discarded or updated. What about the ‘only have white wine with fish’ idea? Can this ‘rule’ be broken?!?!? Heck yeah – I am many of my friends do it all of the time! What about ‘only reds with red meat’? Well, how about a nice glass of white burgundy or perhaps a roussanne – yep, these can and do certainly go with red meats.

What are some of your favorite ‘rules’ in the wine business that you feel need to be ‘broken’ or re-evaluated? Here’s another one to start the discussion – screw caps are only meant for ‘cheaper’ wines or only those wines meant for ‘consumption now’!

Cheers!

Are Young Wines ‘Assessed’ Fairly? Depends Upon The Producer, Perhaps?

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I enjoy reading a number of different blogs and one that caught my eye was Steve Heimoff’s commentary on the World of Pinot Noir tasting which took place last weekend at the beautiful Bacara Resort in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara.

He went to a Burgundy vertical tasting of a specific producer’s wines, and he commented that all of them were great, but that only the oldest one was ‘drinkable’ now. Upon further questioning, he felt the younger wines were simply showing too much acid or tannin and simply weren’t balanced – but he did not see this as a fault, but instead, a sign that these wines will continue to age.

This brings up the big question – what if he were tasting a wine from a ‘lesser known’ or ‘unknown’ producer that had these same traits (ie was ‘backwards’ and needed more time to truly strut its stuff). Would he be as ‘kind’ and ‘understanding’ and give it the same benefit of the doubt?

And I’m not trying to single Mr. Heimoff out, as I do appreciate his take on many things wine-related. I believe that most reviewers, without the benefit of a ‘track record’, may indeed not be as kind to a ‘backwards’ wine these days as they may have been, say, two decades ago.

Producers are releasing their wines earlier and earlier to try to recoup their monetary outlays and to try to make room for future vintages. In order to do this, though, many wines are being made in a much more ‘forward’ manner,  wines that are more approachable and drinkable at younger and younger ages.

So what to make of producers who are making wines with plenty of ‘rough edges’, wines that are meant to lay down for a while. Do you still search these out, even if reviewers would ‘pan’ them for not being ‘drinkable’ now?

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this.

Cheers!

Is It What’s Inside that Really Counts?

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One of the challenges making and trying to sell wine in this industry is that what’s inside the bottle seems to be the least important thing in the process at times. This may sound strange, but let me explain . . .

Visual and verbal clues help ‘guide’ us in everyday life. Your senses are honed to quickly get information to your brain – that doesn’t ‘look’ right or that ‘smells’ great. It’s human nature, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

When it comes to subjective stuff, though, it certainly can wreak havoc on trying to ‘evaluate’ something on face value. Let’s take wine, for instance. I make a dryish Gewurztraminer. You would not believe the types of responses I get when I mention this – and before a drop is even poured. Many many people simply say – no, I don’t want to try that because I don’t like sweet wines’ or  ‘I really want to try this because I like sweet wines.’  A ‘picture’ is set with their senses as to what to expect when the wine is poured . . .

Those that don’t like sweet wines will begrudgingly try the wine – after I ‘force’ them to, of course – but their mind is already anticipating a specific experience with the product based on the variety itself and they will perceive it ‘with bias’. The same is true with those who like really sweet wine.

How do I ‘get around’ some of these biases? I work as hard as I can to actually have someone taste the wine itself and judge it for what it is. I also do not call this wine a gewürztraminer, but instead call it The Outlier J

Or take rose.  Yep, it’s certainly ‘hip’ to like rose these days, and you’re seeing more and more of them produced in drier, crisper, more ‘food friendly’ style. That said, just showing someone the bottle will illicit an immediate reaction because of the color alone. Many will not even want to try the wine. Why? ‘I don’t drink white zinfandels’ is often the reasoning I here.  There’s nothing wrong with white zins at all, if that’s what you like, but the visual color clue is immediately telling them what to ‘expect’ about the wine.

And there have been tons of studies about how the label itself affects how one ‘feels’ about the product and whether or not you are drawn to wanting to pick it up off of the shelve if in a retail location.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever found yourself excited or not excited about a wine because of the color of the wine itself, descriptors used, the label, etc.? I’m curious to hear and to get a discussion going on the subject.

Cheers!

Word of the Day: Relevance in Wine

relevance.

How does a wine or winery stay ‘relevant’ in the wine world today?

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In order to answer this question, I think it’s important to narrow this down a bit and talk ‘specific relevance’. In the case of a small label like mine, there is ‘relevance’ in my local community with regards to my tasting room and getting visitors in; there is ‘relevance’ from a regional standpoint, being ‘noticed’ and included when the area is discussed and when reviewers or bloggers come to the area to taste; there is relevance at the retail level in the area – are on and off premise accounts familiar with the brand and have they tried it recently? And then there could be relevance at the national level – is the brand being discussed in national publications, is it distributed in other areas, etc.

We live in an increasingly more competitive wine world, where ‘new’ and ‘highly rated’ appear to be what drive ‘relevance’ often times. And once you’re ‘in’, you continue to be ‘in the loop’ – and those ‘out of the loop’ will find it more and more challenging.

Do you think this is true? What else do you think ‘defines’ relevance as it pertains to the wine world?

Curious to hear your thoughts . . . please comment below. Cheers!