VintageTexas Sunday Cyclopedia of Wine: Quandary – It is possible to not like a wine and accept that it is still a well-made wine?
A small but significant percentage of wines exhibit “off-characters”. These can usually be identified and dispensed with summarily, often down the drain in the kitchen sink. However, even more often, wines pose us challenges, not because they are flawed, but because we may not like them.
What do I mean? Well, wines can be simply outside our past wine tasting experience; i.e. different from what we normally imbibe. Wines can also be made in a style that one doesn’t really prefer or even like. Now starts the quandary. What if I like the wine, but you don’t, even worse, what if I say the wine that you don’t like it not a flawed wine?
One of the greatest challenges for a budding wine enthusiast is to identify good wines from bad and to approach this process in a critical and unbiased manner, not based on ones likes and dislikes. This approach may seem strange to some and even unacceptable to others. Why? Because most of us have spent nearly a lifetime cultivating our individual palates to accept only things we like. Because of this, it is easy for me or you to say that a wine we don’t like must be bad and consequently “flawed”.
However, it is plausible, and quite possible, that I don’t like a wine, but it still may be a good presentation of the particular grape varietal and/or winemaking style. This can be a difficult thing to admit, but it is an essential step in the evolution of a wine aficionado to the ranks of professional when he/she can accept this situation. Once it is accepted, then and only then can one proceed to critically and objectively evaluate wines on their own merits.
During the recent, Tempranillo Day tasting, I found such a situation. There was a wine in the tasting that was not made in the classic Tempranillo style of Rioja with crisp acidity and a sturdy backbone derived from extensive oak aging. However, the wine presented red and dark fruit characteristics (which is the norm for Tempranillo). It had a medium extraction of color, fruit forward character and low acidity yielding an easy drinking style (much different from the stout, classic Tempraillo style). This wine was obviously meant to be consumed young and in a fun and lighthearted manner. While this wine was not made in my favorite Tempranillo style, it was made with an acceptable winemaking style and wasn’t flawed.
Then, in the Tweetchat I made a comparison of this wine to the Joven (young) wines that I had imbibed in Spain several years ago that I enjoyed immensely while standing in the Tapas bars in Madrid and Granada. These were simple wines made for quaffing and accompanying good conversation rather than being the topic of the conversation.
Well, this viewpoint on the wine seemed to upset several involved in the #TempranilloDay TweetChat that were engaged in bashing the wine, the winemaker and then me and my character, too. What was my sin? Basically, for having the outlandish comment that maybe they just did not like the wine, and that the wine wasn’t really a flawed wine.
I once listened to a noted wine expert talk at a session at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival. He first talked on for minutes about how much he disliked a particular wine that we were presented. Then, he proceeded to talk even longer about its vitues; why it was so well accepted and positioned in the general marketplace as an everyday household wine and focused on its ripe fruit, low acidity, easy drinking style and lack of flaws. This was a presentation that I will never forget. It gave me a lesson in wine tasting and evaluation that I try to keep in my mind when I evaluate and judge wines.
Lesson: Dislike of a wine doesn’t equate to the wine being flawed.