Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Matter of Taste

I'm posting this comment from Michelle on a very interesting question - taste. Do you have a taste for old world or new world? Has it changed over the years? Or even from day to day - I've discovered in recent months as my scores for the same wine vary depending on my mood. Do tastes vary from person to person, and is it just preferences, or do we each actually taste something different? Let's get the ball rolling on these questions with Michelle's comments:

--- Michelle's Comment --

It seems lately I have been reading more about the debate of "taste" and how its established. Some believe its something you develop. Others think its what you are exposed to. Or is it genetics. Regardless, each side has its merits I think.

The first wine I can remember trying was a Mouton Cadet white Bordeaux. In hindsight that was probably a bold one to begin with. I can remember thinking it was a bit tart, almost sour tasting. Which now, using my expanded wine vocabulary, would today say was citrusy. But I didn't stop there.

In the development side of things, I cannot say I have been exposed to a lot of different wines. In the early days starting with whites, experimenting with light reds and moving up in the scale to bold Shiraz etc. was typically what everyone did. Is that palate development? Another influence on taste could be that my wine mentors were somewhat limited in their exposure to different wines too. They usually drank mid priced wines, mostly Australian. French or American wines were not the rage then. They were so metro. Another point, my family does not drink wine so influences from what I grew up with is out of the equation. I was however, raised in the country surrounded by gardens, farms, earth. Maybe I associate that smell with home and comfort. Its definitely where my palette has gone. Oaky, earthy wines with ripe berries. Interesting thoughts.

A hotly debated subject today seems to be about the American palette and how they typically like fruit forward wines. Or an "international" style. Some of the smaller producers feel that the larger ones are selling out to produce wine for the masses. This debate even goes so far as saying the French and Italians are moving in that direction too! This would mean losing their terroir. Sacre bleu! Losing terroir! In a nutshell that means wine producers are fudging their wines to make them more palatable to the largest market in the world, the United States. So if you pick up a bottle of Bordeaux and it tastes like bubble gum, you know what happened!! On the question of terroir, how about this, perhaps that the process of wine making has become SO refined, that all of the "flaws' in certain wines have been eradicated? The characteristics that made a Bordeaux are flushed out. Gone because the process is so developed. Therefore its more appealing to the American market. Its not losing terroir at all. I love my oaky, dirt and violets of Chianti Classico. So hopefully that won't change anytime soon. Pretty sure since the CC region is under strict DOC regulation, I will be saved from the bubble gum nation. I shudder to think that Chianti Classico could taste like Boones Snowberry someday.

In my humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with appealing to the largest market in the world. It's a business, like any other. You move to what the market dictates. I know the purists think that the wines are suffering. But who's to say who is wrong and who is right? Buy and drink what you like. Don't be afraid to experiment. It is a matter of taste, and that is something that is as individual as a finger print.


  1. What a great post. Let the invisible hand of the market guide us.

  2. This post raises a bunch of interesting questions, but I'll raise one in particular. There is a particular taste that I find occasionally in cabs and almost never in any other grape, to which I am very sensitive. I can only describe it as a kind of harsh astringency. Kelly can't taste it at all - there are some wines that she loves that I find undrinkable - so I think it must be genetic. Does anyone else know the taste I am talking about? Has anyone else had a similar experience with other grapes?

  3. I know what you are saying, Norm. It was like that with me and the Stump Jump. The wine felt very hot to me on both the nose and palette. Don didn't taste it at all. Plus I noticed the posts on that one mentions it. So I tend to think it was my sensitivity. Good job. Interesting topic for sure.