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FRIDAY GETAWAY DAY
03/29/2013
Friday Fishwrap
The Importance of “Tastes Good”

By Charles Olken

I am all for wines that are natural, lively, authentic, balanced and relevant. But when you get right down to it, what I want are wines that taste good. I am all for wines with lower alcohol, higher acidities, lower pHs, lower levels of chemical preservatives, but what I want, what I really want, are wines that taste good. I am all for less oak, greater expressions of varietal heritage, tighter adherence to terroir. Who could want anything less?

But, when you get right down to it, I want wines that taste good. I understand that even saying things like hedonistic pleasure is more important than anything else in wine is going to get me in trouble. OK, I get it. And there, I have said it. You can take your arguments like “I don’t drink any wine over 14% alcohol” and “Wine has gotten too heavy in the last twenty years and, thank heaven, it is being dialed back” and “acidity is more important than anything else” and toss them in the nearest trash bin. Wine is not a conceptual creation. Wine is a drink. And it is meant to taste good.

There is only one way to get to that desired place: “tastes good” in your wine choices. You need to decide by tasting the wine. No set of numbers, no theory about authenticity or relevance or alcohol level can supply the answer. Your palate supplies the answer, because your palate does not drink concepts or labels or alcohol levels. It craves “tastes good”.

Now, believe me, I am not advocating any one idea of what tastes good. That is just the opposite of this rant. “Let a thousand flowers bloom” is my first and foremost guideline in wine. There are no right answers except what tastes good to you. Stop telling me what tastes good theoretically. Stop telling me that you are the arbiter of what is or is not in balance and that your artificial measures are determinant.

You are wrong if you judge wine before you have tasted it. And I can prove it with two wonderful examples. Commentator No. 1, lover of all things acid and the more bristling the better who verbally assaults anyone who thinks that wine with pHs higher than he likes, recently recommended a Shafer Merlot to his readers. Nothing wrong with Shafer Merlot. We here at Connoisseurs’ Guide recommend that wine to our readers in more vintages than not. But, Shafer Merlot clocks in at 14.9% alcohol or so, and is the exact antithesis of the wines that Mr. No. 1 claims are the only wines worth pursuing. What he has done is to prove that his formulaic teachings are all wet, and instead, the way to judge wines is by taste. Hallelujah, I say. But sadly, his pet theories have not changed even though his palate has told him otherwise.

Example two is sort of more of the same thing. A well-known and respected scribe, indeed, No. 1 is also a fine writer and gentleman, who I will call No. 2, and very specifically damns full-bodied wines as stupid and lethargic and impossible, recently recommended a Rock Wall Cabernet Sauvignon with alcohol levels near 15%, with very low acidity and a pH level that would, in his publicly stated view of the world, make a wine flabby, dull and unpleasant before the end of the first glass. Connoisseurs’ Guide has liked that wine, and even if we did not, it was liked by No.2 when he tasted it blind. In short, when tasting blind, it was “tastes good”, not good theory, that ruled the day. Once again, I say “Hallelujah”, but once again, I come away disappointed because No. 2 has not changed his tune. He thinks he is launching a revolution in California wine with his staunch views on what is right and what is wrong.

We can probably agree that a certain lightening up of California wine is a okay thing. Some wines have lost their varietal bearings, their sense of place, the flavors of grapes and have played instead to power, potency and the more intense flavors of dried fruit. But in saying even that, we are saying that “tastes good” does not always apply.

In this, I know better. “Tastes good” always applies. And the arbiter of “tastes good” is not No. 1 or No. 2 or Connoisseurs’ Guide or anyone but you. You are the arbiter of what tastes good to you. And the way you need to determine what tastes good to you is to taste the wine and ignore all the other arguments.


 

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Comments

Tastes Good
by tom barras
Posted on:3/30/2013 2:30:01 PM

Charlie,

No question that the "Yum Factor" is the single most important fact about enjoying wine.  In that regard, I believe it was Terry Theise who felt that "deliciousness" was too often overlooked in describing a wine's impact and that power and concentration were overemphasized.

A friend of mine tells me he "knows what he likes."  He likes what tastes good.  But beyond that he is unable to articulate WHY he likes it.  The notions of acidity, alcohol, tannins, balance and structure are foreign and bewildering to him. 

Without understanding those basics, one can only go so far with "it tastes good."  Comparing and contrasting wines, why they differ and why they are similar is, I believe, a solid pathway to clarifying the what and why of "it tastes good" and achieving informed wine enjoyment.

I like the new format!

Tom

 

 

Tastes Good
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:3/30/2013 3:07:48 PM

Tom--

A couple of weeks ago, I supplied the red wine to dinner party thrown by a friend of mine in support of her arts business. The attendiees were all high rollers and, being northern Californians, they were all wine drinkers--although none that seemed to be in the "geek" category.

The wines were the leftovers of our Cab Sauv recap flight in which we bring back the top wines to retaste them to assure ourselves that we have things right. Names like World's End, Montagna, Lail, Shafer, Von Strasser, Alpha Omega and a few others of that ilk.

Those wines are generally a bit riper than the new paradigm advocates would accept, but the folks there, drinking those wines with lamb chops and filet mignon were over the moon with happiness. It was another exmple of "tastes good" trumping everything else.

The silly, undefinable terms like relevance, purpose, authenticity used by some writers simply get in the way of drinking wines that are pleasurablel.

Maybe you and I can start a new movement. The "No BS" movement.

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