Wine divide: uniqueness of place vs. consistency of product. There is room for both, but they are almost mutually exclusive.
Wines that emphasize vintage and terroir soar to transcendental heights in the right years in the right place.
Consistent wines are safe harbors amid buffeting tempests, bedrocks that deliver tonight, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. They may not soar, but they do not crash and burn.
Terroir-driven individual plot wines exist at Mother Nature’s mercy. When good, very good. Unlike girl with the curl, it does not necessarily mean when bad they are horrid, but consistency is not nature’s metier. So they may not be bad, but they may not be as good as last year.
Consistent wines draw from multiple growers and plots. Makers conjure their wine to a specific market segment by blending to a specific profile and winery style. Call them McWines.
By definition, terroir-driven, limited production wines are not available everywhere. You will never find them at a convenience store, seldom at a supermarket, possibly at better wine stores, often online or through the winery’s club program.
By definition, mass-market wines are available almost everywhere. Maybe at a convenience store, more likely at the grocery, very likely at the wine store, slam dunk online.
Consistent examples: Kendall-Jackson, a poster-winery of consistency and availability. At slightly higher end, Francis Coppola Claret, Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Constellation Brands The Prisoner red and white. At higher ends: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis, Veuve Clicquot Champagne.
Texas and other regional wine producing areas are particularly vulnerable to vagaries of vintage. Hail on the Texas High Plains can wreak havoc on most of the state’s wine makers, who depend upon the vineyards around Lubbock for much of their Texas fruit. Weather wiles in the Willamette Valley, vexations in Virginia, New York Finger Lakes freezes can dash hopes of vintners for a vintage. Such is wine.
• Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay 2015: Tasty easy drinker, vast production and distribution. $4-6
• A to Z Wineworks Oregon Pinot Noir 2014: Proclaims “Aristocratic Wines at Democratic Prices.” True to varietal. $17-20
• Meiomi Chardonnay 2014: Dependable mass-market CA chard; yummy butterscotch finish. $17-21
Last round: Wine pong. Way, way classier than beer pong.