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Are We Losing that Wonder about Wine?

Don’t let the been-there, done-that attitude ruin the experience
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: May 1, 2013 12:00pm ET

The curmudgeon gene runs deep in my family, so I'm always trying to look at things through fresh eyes. I was reminded of this last week during that Wine Spectator Grand Tour tasting in San Francisco.

I ran into a group of friends at the tasting and stopped to chat. These folks love wine but have gone to few large tastings. One asked if I was having a good time. Of course, I said, with more than 200 wineries pouring, how could I not be? And yet they were clearly having an even better time, and it wasn't because they were guzzling. They were just excited to be there.

I know that feeling, that sense of adventure and discovery at the thought of trying new wines and some of the best in the world. That's a feeling I never want to lose. Yet, even the thought of losing that, for me, was disturbing, and as I mulled it over later, I realized that we're all in danger of losing that wonder about wine.

A blasé indifference sets in with some people, a been-there, done-that attitude. Often it takes the form of constantly chasing the latest wine or undiscovered region, while dismissing the rest as hokum. (Bordeaux is so last year.) You see it all the time on the Internet and social media, a sort of cynical, superior attitude about and how everyone is doing wine all wrong. Don't drink this, or that's so common and conventional. (Bourgeois, anyone?)

What happened to the Roger Eberts of wine? The late film critic was honest, brutally at times, but he loved all types of movies: action, art films, horror and sci-fi, foreign, classics and lowbrow comedies. He never lost his passion and never seemed to have an agenda or an ax to grind.

As I considered the wines being poured at the Grand Tour, I realized that the event is a microcosm of the wine world, and we could all learn something from Ebert.

Just consider a few of the wines. There were full-flavored New World reds like Two Hands Shiraz Lily's Garden 2010 and Merus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009, Old World classics such as Lynch-Bages 2009. There were crisp Italian whites like Terlano Sauvignon Alto Adige Quarz 2011. There were old-school Barolos like Marchesi Di Barolo Cannubi 2008 and new-school Argentinean Malbecs like Achával-Ferrer Finca Mirador Mendoza 2006.

With all that wine, I decided, I didn't have time to wonder whether I'd lost my wonder for wine. If you feel the same way, tickets are still available for the Grand Tour in Chicago this Friday, May 3. For more information, visit WineSpectator.com/GrandTour.

Vince Liotta
Elmhurst, Il —  May 1, 2013 5:01pm ET
This piece is timely as I have been doing an embarassment of tasting the last 10 days or so. I find there are very few wines which don't have some nice ripe fruit, some juicy balancing acid and perhaps a dash of supporting tannins or oak. Tasty indeed. But is the New World blending into the Old? Are wines becoming too homogenous?

For me, this question presents itself most strikingly in comparing the 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux vintages. 2009 's were the most amazingly ripe, decadent, yet exotic young Bordeaux I have ever tasted. Many drank like a sort of other-wordly Merlot. Yet still, they were firmly grounded not only in Bordeaux, but in their more specific respective appellations.

2010, by contrast were more like the wines described above, beautifully ripe fruit, fresh acidity, and in this case, rock solid sometimes profound tannic structure. But sometimes one felt something was missing.

Graves has always been a favorite of mine for value red Bordeaux, showing classic cassis character with a pleasant tobacco earthiness adding complexity, admittedly perhaps a touch muddled sometimes. Without mentioning specific names, I found the 2010 Graves to be precise and solid examples of Bordeaux, with the ripe fruit and fresh acidity described above, but lacking the tell-tale tobacco-earthiness I have always enjoyed. In 2010, only the St. Julien and Pauillac (and some Margaux) wines transcended being simply solid Bordeaux by displaying the complexity and character of their specific appellations. Has wine-making become too good, too precise?

(See ya Friday!)

Janet L Hutcheson
Palo Alto, Ca. USA —  May 6, 2013 12:37pm ET
I agree with Vince Liotta that the New World Wines are becoming less distinguishable from the Old World ones, which, it seems to my thinking, gives the consumer less choice. Not everyone has the same taste buds!

The exceptions to this, I think, are Argentina and Chile. Argentina, I assume, must have a very different, unusual terroir, as I notice an alkalinity in those wines that I detect nowhere else.

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