Saturday, January 18, 2014

Exactly what you want

Some wines are just exactly what you want. You want and expect an Australian shiraz to be slightly peppery, slightly smoky, and full of gloppy, ooze-ful blueberries and plums. So you pick, and thoroughly enjoy, 2009 Shoofly shiraz. "Helping to deal with life's little distractions" is their marketing tagline, and it gets my vote as the cutest slogan I've come across in a long time. Retail, about $15.

Then suppose you want a California cabernet. So you pick, and thoroughly enjoy, 2007 Faust. Retail, about $45.

It too is exactly what you want from a very good California cab. One would be hard pressed to describe it as screamingly different from the shiraz -- delicious as both are, are they both also perhaps good candidates for our master Michael Broadbent's pejorative title "global red"? -- except to say that it has a certain tautness and firmness that the shiraz doesn't bother with. Shoofly is your loud, fun great-aunt Mabel, who wears purple clothes and takes you downtown shopping, where she encourages you to have a huge piece of chocolate cake in lieu of lunch; Faust is her prim, thin, well-preserved daughter, who married wealth and looks it. She quotes Goethe on her back label. She rolls her eyes and tells you to eat a good dinner -- including a green pepper salad -- first.   

There. I've set down a scene, a kind of story. You see, recently I read another great wine master's ideas, no less a personage than Hugh Johnson, who said that tasting notes full of our familiar fruit-basket metaphors are no use to anyone. He's not the first to say so, of course. But he went on to suggest that a wine should call to mind, and be described in terms of, an experience. Like shopping with great-aunt Mabel?

Perhaps. And I was struck by the opinion of one more wine drinker, this one a friend on Tom Wark's Facebook page. (Incidentally, I'm not his friend. I asked, but among all his 1400+ friends, he has not yet decided to include me. Still I see his activities posted to my own page occasionally. Facebook is funny that way.) A few days ago Mr. Wark, busy at a professional tasting, asked, "Should wine competitions judge varietal wines on their regional typicity?" In other words he is asking whether or not, at a competition of, say, Australian shirazes, the wines should be judged on how well they conform to being Exactly What You Want from an Australian shiraz. Would a delicate, un-fruity, un-peppery shiraz correctly get low marks at such a contest?

The wine drinking Warkian friend, one Donna Childers-Thirkell, responded crisply and devastatingly in the comment stream. "You wouldn't be able to find judges. I don't know why there are wine competitions anymore. Most of the judges would never be able to blind taste and you have to know typicity to blind taste."

Wow. I guess that's a No on the Warkian question. However, I think she meant to emphasize "most judges would never be able to blind taste" because (not "and") most don't know typicity, or Exactly What They Want. 

Well, I do. On a hot summer day, after sipping these fine but heavy-duty reds, here is exactly what you want.

2009 Polka Dot riesling, Pfalz, Germany. Cheap? Check (retail, about $8). Sweet? Check. Refreshing and delightful? Check, and check. A hidden Gallo product? Oh yes. Exactly.

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