Monday, September 24, 2007

An Open Letter

This is a rejoinder to Dan berger's recent article, wonderfully entitled The Cola Generation , found at

Let me say that much of this, as you point out, has been happening for many years. Many (even one of your readers) says that the market should speak - and indeed it has, and continues to do so.

It cannot be seriously contended that the American palate is not oriented to the sweeter side of the spectrum. It patently is. But wine is only a small part of the culinary world - why should wine escape this wider trend?

And the flavors are the point here; alcohol is I believe a secondary (if malign) feature of this kind of winemaking. Your critic's point, namely that you are elitist in asking for individuality, a sense of place, and balance (even finesse), is surely wrong. I certainly think that asking relatively expensive wines to be redolent of place is well within the bounds of reason. As a consumer of these wines, I would insist on it, especially at the higher price points. These traits, with ageability and complexity, are part of what I'm paying for. Perhaps at lower price levels one could simply accept power, or concentrated fruit flavors. everyone likes a nice BBQ wine, and some would say that that's why God made Zin. But we live in California, where prices for such simple creatures often approach silliness.

I also disagree with the notion that you (and by extension Dunn and Corti, and presumably anyone who agrees with you on this point) are elitist. This doesn't pass a test of basic logic. Indeed, you are the opposite, in that instead of following the focus groups toward oblivion, you are actually trying alert a wide audience - in effect, share with many others - the great assets traditionally found in the world's greatest wines. If you were trully an elitist, you'd simply keep quiet, promote the crowd-pleasers, and drink the really profound stuff with your friends - for significantly less money, as they would remain obscure. Some regions, which do not easily produce wines in this international style, remain relatively so. The Loire, Beaujolais, the Jura, the list could go on. Instead, you spotlight these fine producers and regions - and good for you for doing so.

Indeed, should we wish to do so, we could (indeed, some already are) democratize the wine world, by providing balanced wines with great flavors that tell of place, and weather, and many other characteristics of the site and circumstance of the vineyard, for relatively little money. Instead, we let focus groups lead us to adult Kool Ade. But I submit that poeple are already becoming tired of this "international" style. Always led by the high end, and always by the cutting edge markets, other wine styles are finding their way into the vernacular. No such thing (yet!) as a Gruner with oodles of sweet fruit and glycerol.

When it comes (and they always come), the backlash will be fierce.

1 comment: said...

Thank you for posting this commentary. It was good to see. You would think that a drink which enriches companionship and moves us to merriment would not stir this much fervent opinion.

I am glad that you recognize the role of high alcohol as byproduct of the pursuit jammy flavors and I agree with your contentions that those of us who speak for more composed and food-friendly wines are seeking variety in the wine world and value for a hard-earned dollar.

I am putting together a project called “project23” the purpose of which will be to get winemakers to explore a style of wine made a different way. For this year, I might get 1-3 2007 wines made to project23 parameters. In addition, there are 2 or 3 producers who will submit library wines as conversation starters. I invite any and all discussion: