Psychologically, we humans are programmed to pigeonhole. We want to simplify things to impose some sort of order on the world. Nuance requires some thought.
With wine, this goes beyond my usual rant against associating a region with a single grape variety, or a particular style of wine, to the exclusion of others. You know what I'm talking about: Argentina makes some wonderful wines that are not Malbec; Tuscany is more than Brunello or super Tuscans; some German wines are dry. Despite conventional wisdom, there are indeed good wines being made in Greece, Croatia, Switzerland and, yes, New Mexico.
We also pigeonhole people. "So and so" only likes big, rich reds. "That guy" only likes lean, high-acid wines. This is a flawed and dangerous way to look at things, because it limits the chances of finding more wines that make us happy.
I like to think of wine the way Duke Ellington approached music. There are only two kinds, he is famous for saying—"good music, and the other kind." He meant that genre didn't matter as much as what the music had to say and how well it was crafted. For me it's the same with wine.
Lately I have been hearing more talk than usual about which critics prefer which styles of wine, some of it quite vitriolic and most of it inaccurate. I really don't know how my palate is perceived. I imagine there are those who put me under the "big is better" umbrella because some of my highest-scoring wines carry some significant levels of alcohol and deliver plenty of flavor. But I also give considerable love to wines with relatively low alcohol levels and which rely on subtlety for their charm.
Now, I realize we all have preferences. I do too. Wine should taste of fruit. If there's no fruit, something is missing. But earth and mineral nuances add depth and complexity to the flavor profile, and acidity makes a wine feel juicy and vibrant. On the other hand, if all I can sense is an asparagus garden after a rain, or worse yet, a barnyard, or if the acid level makes my teeth ache, sorry, that one's out. Wine should, after all, give pleasure.
How do you answer the most common question we all get: "What's your favorite wine?" I'm still formulating a stock answer, but it's something along the lines of "whatever I'm in the mood for." I love a rich, dense Barossa Shiraz, but I also crave the delicacy and finesse of a beautiful Musigny. Try pigeonholing that.
One more quote from Duke Ellington: "If it sounds good and feels good, then it is good!" Amen to that.
Daniel Leedy — Porltand Oregon USA — February 10, 2011 5:29pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — February 10, 2011 5:31pm ET
Edward Norman — Beavercreek, Ohio — February 10, 2011 7:55pm ET
Andrew J Grotto — Washington, DC — February 10, 2011 8:19pm ET
John I Hanbury — Hattiesburg, MS — February 11, 2011 7:46am ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — February 11, 2011 8:14am ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento, CA — February 11, 2011 9:18pm ET
Bill Schassberger — Cambria, CA — February 12, 2011 10:45pm ET
Don Rauba — Schaumburg, IL — February 13, 2011 1:16am ET
Jonathan Lawrence — somewhere in the world — February 14, 2011 10:50am ET
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