Trends and styles are always interesting to watch in any industry. We seem to get bored with everything sooner or later and need change, even if it is changing back to something that feel out of favor not so long ago. Obviously the fashion industry is the prime example of this, but you can see it everywhere.
The wine industry has been producing bigger and bigger wines as bigger has been perceived as better….now (thankfully) it seems like that trend might be falling out of favor. The LA Times ran a very interesting story about this by exploring the thoughts of one prominent and well respected wine maker.
Adam Tolmach of Ojai is the most recent to take issue with current industry trends of bigger and bigger wines, he call it a crisis of conscience. “We got the scores we wanted, but we went away from what I personally like,” Tolmach says. “We lost our rudder when we went for ever bolder, riper flavors.” Specifically, he says, the alcohol levels of his wines, at 15% and higher, are too high.
Tolmach’s goal is to find the balance between California ripeness and European elegance — which to me sounds like the real “sweet” spot…
Many in the industry seem to point the finger at consumer demand — but much of that demand is being driven by Robert Parker. Parker has such huge influence over the consumer — and he is one of the drivers as bigger wines seem to also get the big scores, at least from Parker. Parker has indicated he would like to see alcohol levels come down a bit in California wines, but his scores seem to continue to favor high alcohol wines.
I admit that I was quite taken with the opulent, lush, jammy, inky, extracted style — but l quickly tired of ripe, forward, and sweet wines that in many ways show more muscle than art….and while I do think Parker really is brilliant and have long subscribed to the Wine Advocate, I have found myself questioning if any industry is well served when one voice has so much power — no matter how well versed and well intended that voice might be.
You can read the LA Times article at:
I found this article via the NYT wine blog, The Pour — it’s on my blogroll, and probably worth being on your radar as well. Eric Asimov is always interesting and always has a keen perspective on all things wine.
Eric cites this wineries as some of the producers of more restrained and structured wines — Ridge, Calera, Mount Eden, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Peay, Failla, Littorai, Radio Coteau, Philip Togni, Renaissance, Au Bon Climat and Rafanelli. There are many, many more.
I think I will still continue to enjoy some of the big wines — they do have their place — but I also appreciate the move away from bigger always being better.