Category: Wine Criticism

No One Wants Dark Rosé

What was the original offense that led every damned consumer to believe — unswervingly — that all darker-hued rosés are sweet?

It’s like some unwritten law. Among the pallets of rosé that do sell, it’s always the same thing … it’s gotta be pale.

I’ve quizzed customers on details about darker rosé’s Fall from Grace. What exactly was this first ‘sweet, dark’ rosé they found?  ‘I don’t know … I just find that darker rosés are too sweet’ is as far as our conversation gets, before the customer sprints to the register with a pale Provençal rosé.

Was it Sutter Home or Beringer White Zinfandel? Did some grandma pass every one of my customers aged 18-40 a glass of old, warm Beringer White Zin from a bottle sitting on her kitchen counter since before Obama?

The creature puts the Beringer White Zin on its palate.

White Zinfandel alone cannot explain this.

Are we in the same loose linguistic territory as Riesling — you say you object to sweet, but you actually mean fruity? And, if so, decoding your impoverished language further (it’s not your fault;  I know) what exactly was the unpleasant fruity rosé aroma?

I can make a conjecture. To a certain extent, I can relate to objections to rosé. And maybe even the sweetness bullshit.

WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANT, ANYWAY? (Click to Read more)

On Wine and Gender: Chambolle = Feminine. But Why?

Marlene Dietrich has a question for you.

CAN there be something masculine or feminine in a wine?

It’s a conceit that has haunted professional wine tasting notes for decades. But once you ponder the notion, it’s quite odd.

And recently, some in the trade are casting a worrisome glance back at the tired dichotomies used to hastily differentiate wines.

Consider this quote from a recent Wine Enthusiast article about female winemakers:

“When at its best, wine tends to express feminine qualities, like sexy textures, soft tannins, voluptuous fruit and delicate floral aromas.”

Dujac winemaker Jeremy Seysses adopts a similar paradigm in describing how to tell a Clos de la Roche from a Clos Saint Denis:

“‘Aromatically, they are both unmistakably Morey-Saint-Denis.’ Jeremy began. ‘That is, there are suggestions of nutmeg and cinnamon to go with the cherry-raspberry-strawberry. But texturally, they are quite different. Clos de la Roche (…) has more structure, more tannin, and is generally more masculine. There is a minerally graphite aspect I don’t find in Clos Saint-Denis.’

‘In the Clos Saint-Denis (…) the silky tannins are first and foremost. There is intensity without weight. Texturally there are similarities with Chambolle, but in character our Clos Saint-Denis is quite different. There are aromatic fireworks to be found and a peacock’s tail as the wine opens out in the mouth that I find most appealing.’”

Let’s dissect this statement.

Quite obviously, tannins are the critical difference for Seysses. So many gender stereotypes hinge on physical musculature and mass; delicacy must equal femininity, and muscular structure (read: body, higher alcohol content) must equal masculinity.

Seysses regards ‘intensity without weight’ as feminine.  ‘Silky’ texture suddenly comes into play with feminine wine; supple, caressing mouthfeels — devoid of coarse tannin — engender femininity.

These two stereotypes underpin the bulk of our attributions of gender to wine. But take an even closer look, and something much stranger lies lurking: a precise set of gendered aromas.

Which aromas are regarded as masculine? Graphite. Tobacco. Leather. Earth. “Dark fruits”.

Which are feminine? (Click to Read more)

Escape to Spring Mountain, Where Roots Run Deep In Napa Valley

Sunny Stony Hill Vineyards. Photo: Alexander Rubin.
Sunny Stony Hill Vineyards. Photo: Alexander Rubin.

Confessions: first, I’m usually drinking European wines, where dry farming is the law. And I’ve been pretty brutal to Napa Valley’s wine. The unholy alliance of high alcohol, high points, glamour marketing, and bombastic fruit profiles — the preferred drink of heavy-handed cologne wearers, whose senses are all but dead to the world — is the exact opposite of everything I’m looking for in a wine.

I’ve noted this strange correlation firsthand while working in wine retail. Often, drinkers and peddlers of bombastic, fruity wines are a suit-clad social elite, slathered in an ungodly amount of cologne, obsessed with how many points a wine scores. These are the sellers and consumers of what we’ll call Big Fruit: Amarone, pricey Super Tuscans, post-2000 vintage Bordeaux, and of course, pricey Napa Valley reds.

But not all Napa Valley reds are built alike.

Imagine my surprise upon discovering two producers, Smith-Madrone and Stony Hill,  who have been dry farming a corner of Napa Valley called Spring Mountain — an AVA that until 1993 (Click to Read more)