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Weird Wines On My Lawn

By Charles Olken

I am getting a little tired of the accusation that I sound like the old man yelling at the kids to get off of the lawn. Sure, I get a little preachy now and then, but what are opinions for if not to be offered? And what good is an opinion that is not opinionated? Still, there are times when I just have to roll my eyes in wonderment at the strangeness that can inhabit my wine world.

Consider the following titles on wine articles this week:

        --Sexism and the Sylvaner
        --Chardonnay, The Marmite of Wine
        --Jalapeno-Infused Red Wine

So, I hereby protest, and am asking the makers of those articles to get off my lawn.

The Sylvaner article tried to talk about sexism in the wine industry but did a damn poor job of it, given that article started out with a lovely discussion of the writer’s 92-year old mother who still drives in New York traffic but has cataracts and underwent unsuccessful surgery. Full credit to the mother who sounds like a pistol of a person. But there I was looking for the sexism, because as a father of a tough yet delightful and very successful adult daughter, I am opposed to sexism at any and all stops. But what I did find? Once we were through falling in love with the old dear, we ran into the same clap-trap about natural wines with high acidity. Now, I don’t care if folks like those wines. I don’t care if they worship them just because they exist. But, please, don’t lure me in with a lurid, alluring title and lead me into your singular tastes. Sexism?

Marmite? To tell you the truth, I am a fan of the “mites”—Marmite and Vegemite. I like salt. Give me savory at any time. When I am in Australia, I take my toast with Vegemite. The other guests in the hotel give me a wide berth. Oh, well. They don’t know what they are missing. But Chardonnay as Marmite? I am still looking for the point of the article that goes on to say that Chardonnay comes in all styles from unoaked to liberally oaked. OK, this is me yelling at the kids to get off the lawn, because I am old enough to know that those styles of Chardonnay, and most others save for orange wine aged in amphora, have existed widely for eons. They are not new just because someone in South Africa has discovered them.

And then there is the new attempt to infuse wine with flavors as if it were vodka or beer. I am not opposed to any attempt to make a beverage that people will like. I like Coca Cola even though the health set wants me not to drink it anymore. I like wines with residual sugar, especially when their names are Riesling. I like fat Chardonnays and I like crisp Chardonnays, and even though Mrs. Olken and I disagree on this, I like brisk, bitingly acidy sparkling wines. So when someone tells me that he is going to infuse Merlot with jalapenos, I am all for it. Not sure what it will go with, but that is not the point. Let a thousand flowers bloom. If the world likes jalapeno-infused Merlot, it will sell. If not, well, get off my lawn.

I do enjoy perusing wine journalism because there is so much good, thoughtful, instructive writing out there. But then there is the stuff that makes me sound like I am yelling at the kids. Come to think of it, I am yelling at the kids. Chardonnay as Marmite? Jalapeno-infused Merlot? Yes, kids, get off my lawn.

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