I’ve been AWOL for a while as life has gotten in the way of my blogging, but I am slowly getting back in the swing of things and hope to do a lot more this spring and summer.
This offering will be a bit more editorial than information driven as opposed to my usual posts. While I’ve been off the air I have still been drink a fair number of new and different wines and in that process it has occured to me that the wine today is not what it was even five years ago. We see wine makers trying to compete in a much more dynamic beverage market We’ve seen brewpubs, botique distilleries, cider house and yes wineries popping up everywhere. I think it fair to say that this phenomonon is part of the “New Economy” that has arisen over the past ten or so years. Everybody is hawking something new; the other day when out with some friends I was offered a local distiller’s “Premium Bacon (as in cured pork) Vodka”. I passed as, one I am not a big Vodka fan, and two I really prefer my bacon with eggs and hashbrowns. The point though the trend is to differentiate, no matter what you are offering. Wine today is not all that different; as winemakers tune up their wines to sell to different buyers and less picky tastes. Before you tune me out for this last comment, it is not meant as a jab but rather as an observation about expectations astime to market is now the driver.
I’ve been drinking wine for nearly 50 years (legally this next April) and I’ve experienced some really amazing wine and I’ve tasted some really awful ones as well. When I was younger I was more interested in the impact of a wine than I was the bouquet or the palate. As I entered the world of business entertaining where i could write off the cost of a bottle of wine as a business expense and try to impress a client with my wine knowledge (older must be better). Later in my career I started buying better wines and suddenly I noticed that some of the old and expensive wines were really interesting. Yes on occasion I over paid for a bottle and the value was not there even with the business deduction. On occasion I found some not so expensive wines that were really remarkable and almost as interesting. Along the way I learned a lot about wine and I actually got pretty good at predicting what would be a good buy and what would not. Let’s face it in most restaraunts there are no inexpensive wines when looking at price as your value point. so I learned to measure value not on cost but rather on the additive that the wine brought to the meal, the conversation and the company. It has been an, indeed, interesting journey and one that I would not trade for anything.
What I observe about today’s wine — wine makers are working to produce a product that consumers will enjoy early in its life rather than producing really great big bold interesting wine that will stand the test of time and lay in a cellar for years waiting for their time in the sun. Who can blame them, finding a well aged wine in a wine shop is getting tougher and very expensive, the holding costs kill their bottom line. Wine makers want to move their inventory quickly as well as holding spece for them is at a premium and the marginal increase in value of aged wine doesn’t keep up with their operating costs.
Red wine has changed the most to meet the changing demographic. Traditionally Men prefered the big bold reds and women gravitated toward the whites that tended toward fruitier and had more sipable characteristics. Today I see many more women drinking reds and the wine makers have driven this by changed their vinting to porduce reds with more fruit in the nose and on the tip of the tongue. These are younger wines that have not developed the subtle flavors of the older bolder wines which are definately not as fruit forward. In point of fact, these new Reds will not age the same way as the Reds of the past and will deminish in character over time. I have wine in my cellar that is Forty some years old and a lot that’s aged past ten, but I have to take a lot more care in today’s wine world selecting wines to age as many simply were not bred to age.
Is this trend a bad thing? I think not. I actually enjoy many of the new age reds with their fruit forward sense sweetness (not actually sweet it’s a slight of scense that makes it seem so). These are sippers and wines that I will drink with spicy foods, but not ones that I like with a big slab of red meat as, for me, those still require the leathery, herbal mustiness of a well aged wine.
So what does all this mean to the wine drinkers of the world? Well we have more choices, it’s no-longer just reds or whites, it’s as much about the occasion in which we intend to drink the wine. If I am serving wine at a cocktail party without food or just munchies, I’ll be pouring a nice Chenin Blanc, a Euro style Chardonnay or and an Aussie Sauvignon Blanc for my whites and not worrying about paying for age On the Red side I’ll be pouring a late vintage Zinfandel, a Merlot with a bit more (two years) age, a Pinot Noir with two or three years of age, and Cabernet Sauvignon that carries a good blend of (25% non Cab grapes) Merlot and Zin) with no more than three years of age. If I am serving it with a meal (again depending on the meal – seafood, pork, chicken or beef it will vary greatly) I am still going with my older wines with a little more niuance, a white Bordeaux, a Fume Blanc, a big Oaky Chardonnay for my whites and with reds it will be a classic Cabernet Sauvignon (less blended varietals), a minor Bordeaux (can’t afford the big ones), a nice Grenache, an older Spanish Rioja or an Oregon Pinot Noir all with at least five years of bottle aging.
Am I right in my choices? For me yes, for you maybe or maybe not. With so many new and interesting wines out there today we can all have just what we want. the Key to that is trying a lot of different wines, keeping good notes on what you like and don’t and picking carefully at the wine shop. Remember two things: (1) older and more expensive may or may not be a right choice for your taste or the occassion, and (2) unless you are unfortunate to get a bad bottle (it can happen) you will get to enjoy a nice wine and learn more about wine and wine and food pairing. Bon Appitite.