Are You Anti-Flavor?

Has the backlash against overripe jammy reds crossed over to white wines? Perhaps we are enjoying more elegant and lighter styles of whites as well
Jun 14, 2010

I drank a bottle of 2006 Ostertag Pinot Gris Grand Cru Muenchberg A360P the other day, and as well as it went with a pumpkin soup, it was a little too much for a simple frisee salad with boiled egg and chicken that followed. It was just too rich and dense, even oily. I loved it on its own because it was so intense and flavorful, with loads of mango, dried almond and minerals on the palate. But it overpowered the salad.

I hadn't thought about it for a while, but the past trend for full-throttle, fruit-forward reds—with some going so far as becoming jammy—crossed over to whites a long time ago. Alsace comes to mind as an area that has been impacted, but it's pretty much widespread. I remember tasting the wines from the region in the late 1980s and early 1990s for the magazine, and some of the producers began picking much later and leaving residual sugar in their wines at that time.

Zind-Humbrecht was one of the leaders of this movement. Until that time, the family made primarily dry whites, but when Olivier Humbrecht left his job in London and took over the reins of the estate in the early 1990s, he preferred the richer and sweeter style. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think it's harder to find the right food combinations with Alsace wines like that. And I prefer the dry, steely style of whites, along the lines of Trimbach or Hugel.

One California winemaker a few years back called the jammy, opulent style of wines "fruit cocktails." I know of a Napa winery that did a study on some of the top-rated wines in the valley, and they found a direct correlation with the amount of residual sugar and the scores wine received. In other words, the sweeter the wines, the higher the scores.

Obviously, many wine lovers like this style of wine—otherwise, wineries would not be making them. I am sure I have given my fair share of high ratings to wines that are supposed to be dry, but they have some residual sugar.

But I have a feeling that tastes are changing and people are looking for more elegant, even drier wines. Some even call it in a sardonic way the "anti-flavor movement." I am not sure why some people are changing their tastes. But perhaps we are all enjoying more refined, more elegant and lighter styles of food and wine in general?

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