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Monday Manifestos
“Fresh”—New Paradigm or Separate Category?

By Stephen Eliot

We hear it every day. There is a new and growing movement among enlightened consumers for lighter and “fresher” wines. There is a distinct and definable “new taste” taking hold that is changing the very foundations of what wine really means. Frankly, while there seems little question that there are more than a few voices to the chorus, I am as yet unconvinced that the “movement” is all that significant or that it is embraced by the imposing legions that some would have us believe.

There is no question but that the topics of low alcohol, low ripeness, no oak, high acid, etc. are regular fodder for a handful of professional writers and the internecine feuds that ceaselessly rage online, but is there really a battle between “old taste” and “new taste”, or is the conflict something created for and by wine writers and the hip and “hyperfresh” crowd whose worlds begin and end in New York and San Francisco?

That is just what was suggested in no uncertain terms by Siduri winemaker Adam Lee last week during a heated online discussion over the relevance of the Wine Spectator. He writes,

“Being a baseball fan, you know all about the East Coast bias of the media. I think the same type of thing exists when it comes to the wine media...believing that what happens in NYC or SF is representative of what is happening in the rest of the country.”

“I think that saying that there is an old set and a new set of values when it comes to wine is very much an isolated belief...held by certain wine writers on the east and west coast metropolitan areas and not representative of what the rest of the country experiences.”

Now, I often think that critics and columnists, and yes I am one, are given and at times take too much credit for creating current trends rather than indentifying and reporting them. Moreover, I think it is very hard to discern what trends are real and which are not. A good many, it seems to me, are created as grist for the journalistic mill in order to keep readers returning when there may not really be much new to say. I mean, really, if there is not something new and significant to write about, then you had better invent it or risk being left behind by those who do.

Somewhere in all of the posturing and didactic nonsense of trying to tell would-be wine lovers what styles are right and which are wrong and how to love wine, I cannot help but thinking that the simple and sometimes profound pleasures of wine are lost.

Years ago I was advised to get out of the way as much as possible and let the wine speak, that good wine writing was about wine, not about the writer. It is still good advice today.


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No Subject
by Brian Loring
Posted on:11/5/2012 2:15:12 PM

I think you hit the nail on the head with this comment:

I mean, really, if there is not something new and significant to write about, then you had better invent it or risk being left behind by those who do.

I do think the scope of this "movement" is much less than many writers would like us to think.  And Adam Lee sums that up well. 

I have no issue with winemakers seeking to create wines that they prefer - as well as trying to cater to a perceived market of drinkers.  More power to them.   I think a lot of people are excited for the idea of these wines, but I wonder if the actual wines will live up to that.  Afterall, it's been tried many, many times before - by some of the legends in the industry. 

There's a real, concrete reason many of us gave up the idea of creating lower alcohol, more elegant wines in Cali.  And it has to do with terroir - specifically that of growing fruit at more southernly latitudes.   I have no doubt that there are isoloated spots in Cali that can approach the low alcohol ideal in certain years, but in general, I don't think that's what Cali wines are meant to be.  

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