The California wine industry that welcomed a wine-novice Wine Tasting Guy with open arms is under attack. Alice Feiring, a warm woman whom I met & spoke with at length shortly after transitioning into the wine industry, is under attack. Wine drinkers everywhere are seemingly under attack.
Feiring, the author of the blog In Vino Veritas, is unabashed in her wine preferences. She prefers (demands) wines made in the old world style. Wines that show as much earth & minerality as they do up front fruit (if not more so). She wants her wines to be low in alcohol so as not to overpower the food that she believes they should be accompanying. And she seems to be partial to natural wines, as opposed to wines that have been subjected to modern technologies and adjusted to meet a certain criteria. A criteria that enables wines to score highly amongst the well known critic’s ratings. I respect Alice, her preferences, and her taking advantage of her right to free speech to discuss what it is she likes. And while I try to remain as positive as possible, I even respect Feiring for verbalizing what she does not like. But in her LA Times OpEd piece “California Wine? Down the Drain“, Feiring makes a generalization that is both unfair and somewhat narrow minded. Sure controversy sells. Yes, I bet that if she was sweet and nice and encouraged everyone to make wine however they prefer the piece never would have been published. BUT!
Generalizations stink. While there is often some validity to the generalization there are always those that do not qualify and are undeservedly put down.
I have written on several occasions about pretension in wine. And while Feiring is in many ways encouraging people not to follow the critics in choosing BIG, fruit forward, & “over manipulated” wine (in favor of more subtle, structurally sound, lower alcohol wines), she is doing exactly what she seems to abhor. She is telling readers to stay away from what she does not like and instead choose a wine more along the style she prefers.
I like Alice & do not want to turn this into a piece chastising her, her wine preferences or the tone of her article. It happens to be that as my palate evolves I am finding myself often favoring the style of wine Alice prefers. BUT…the idea that I want to drive home is that we are ALL entitled to our preferences. And it happens to be that the preferences of many Americans as well as people who are new to wine the world over are for wines that are more fruit forward. AND THAT IS FINE. It is a tendency that stems from the association people make between “fruity” & “sweet” and the NATURAL TENDENCY to prefer things that are sweet to things that are bitter. I mean, how many people loved beer the first time they tried it? Beer is a bitter beverage & one that requires “developing a taste” for. Other fancy/expensive/sophisticated foods that are foreign to people will not be fully appreciated at first taste. These things take time before we can learn to appreciate them. So why tell people they are doing “IT” wrong when they are simply learning/trying?…
I really wish the wine industry would embrace the idea of drinking wine more regularly, like a glass with dinner every night, no matter what kind of wine people are drinking. Encourage the drinking of fruit forward wine if that is the preferred style of wine. It is only natural that as people grow more familiar with a food/beverage their palates will become more sophisticated and evolve. And if not, SO WHAT. You drink what you like & they can drink what they like. This may not make for compelling or controversial writing but if more wine “experts” focused on getting this kind of message across I believe that there would be more wine drinkers out there and more wine styles out there – enough for everyone to find a wine THEY LIKE.
Happy WHATEVER STYLE OF WINE YOU LIKE wine tasting!