The recent death of Fred “Two Buck Chuck” Franzia, gave me pause to think about what the average, non-wine-geek enjoys in an occasional glass.
I wrote a column about Franzia back in 2009. The lead: “Fred Franzia drives fellow winemakers crazy mad. At the same time, he makes wine drinkers who value value wines crazy happy.”
When a newspaper editor challenged me to write a wine column back in October 2008, the assignment was to inform people about wine and to write about wines the average person could find and afford. Fifteen years and more than 780 columns later, I still hearken to that original assignment.
Staying grounded to the general public’s taste is a challenge. On the one hand, wine writers often drink wine every day, often from more than one bottle. For the most part, the wine comes free, sent by wineries with notes imploring us to review their wine. That puts us well away from the general public’s wine experience.
We often are attracted to obscure varieties. There is just so much $15-25 cabs made in the international style you can drink and review without feeling you are trapped in a Groundhog Day loop. That is a far different experience from the person who drinks a cab once a week or so with their grilled steak.
We also typically are drawn to drier, more “sophisticated” wines. I blame our palates, which is what lured us into being wine writers in the first place. Many popular wine brands taste sweet, bland, and confected to my palate. I fight the urge to label drinkers of those wines as rubes and my palate as superior.
“The wine you like is good wine for you” has been a lodestar for this column for 15 years. I review cheap and sweet on occasion, and when I do I strive to appreciate it on its own terms.
I do attempt to entice wine drinkers to expand their palates. I do endeavor to point out that cheaper wine is not necessarily bad wine. Nor is expensive wine necessarily good wine. There are plenty of over-priced pours that target “label drinkers” who hustle to impress others with their buying power rather than wine picking ability.
Sweet and cheap or polished and deep, whatever you enjoy, enjoy.
Last round: The other day I bought a thesaurus, but when I got home and opened it, all the pages were blank… I have no words to describe how angry I am.