Premiumization and internationalization have made wine more expensive and less enjoyable, as last week’s four bottles of wine and nothing to drink fiasco demonstrates
Have premiumization and internationalization become so common that finding a bottle of wine to drink for dinner is too difficult to bother with? That seems to be the case after last week’s four bottles of wine and nothing to drink fiasco.
I wanted a bottle to have with my version of the muffaletta, the New Orleans olive relish sandwich. I had four wine samples – three reds, none less than $15, and one white, $15, and they were from Italy, southern France, and Washington state. What did I drink with dinner? A $5 bottle of Vino Fuerte from Aldi.
How did this happen? How did I open four bottles of wine from different parts of the world, made with different grapes, and find none of them worth drinking? Call it focus group winemaking, in which each of the wines was made to taste a certain way in an attempt to please the so-called American palate while also meeting the “requirements” for a 90-point wine:
• Lots and lots of sweet fruit, no tannins worth noticing, and barely any acid for the red wines. The white was a bland, gloppy, fruity mess.
• The producers took every bit of terroir out of the Italian wine, a sangiovese from Tuscany.
• The $35 wine, a syrah from Washington state, had none of the power and earthiness it was supposed to have.
• The less said the better about the two French wines from the Languedoc, which were the biggest disappointment. If this is the sort of cynical winemaking the French have in store for us, there’s no reason to buy French wine we’re not familiar with.
So how do we find wine to drink for dinner? Shop at a retailer who recommends wine that you’ll enjoy and not what they think you should drink. Don’t be swayed by scores, cutesy names, or foolish back label adjectives. And, most importantly, trust your palate. If you don’t like something, no matter what the scores or critical acclaim, it’s probably a crappy wine.
Finally, if you’re wondering why I’m not naming these wines, it’s because they don’t even deserve the publicity that goes with this review. The idea that any publicity is good publicity is never more true than in the Internet Age, when Google gives us what we search for without any distinction about quality. And the only quality in these wines is in the producers’ imagination.