Same-tasting wines 5-17-2023

We are privileged to live in a wine time that surpasses all of history for quality, consistency, and availability. Wines that would have evoked drooling admiration a half century ago now are available in quantity for $20 or less at your neighborhood supermarket.

If you are looking for something to criticize about that, wine critics unearthed a criticism: Too much wine tastes the same. Good, but the same. Potentially boring, especially if you are a prolific wine drinker (as wine critics tend to be).

It has been a trend for a while. Red blends and lower-price pinot noir are tailored to a pre-determined, focus-group tested taste profile that can be scaled to up to a million bottles a year. The product fills the niche that was filled by “table wine” produced in California’s Central Valley or France’s Languedoc-Roussillon in the past. Those regions, dismissed as producing a sea of plonk by wine critics in the past, now achieve quality. Who knew or anticipated?

Grape growers upped their game. Wine makers gamed production techniques. Mother Nature delivered global warming so grapes could get riper and once-cooler regions that struggled could join the wine parade. Today, the Central Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon—and more—contribute tanker-truck loads of juice to make wines we would have applauded back in the day.

Critics must find something to criticize, so we make snarky comments about how this is a smooth, very drinkable wine, but tastes the same as a dozen others. That can be a valid kvetch from someone paid to taste multiple wines a day and then write something snappy about each one, but it is not the world where most wine drinkers dwell.

You may enjoy wine at a special meal, or many times a week, or on occasion with your mah-jongg or book club. When you do, you want something affordable, available, predictable, palate pleasing. A whole lot of winemakers are scrambling to please you.

As you become more sophisticated about wine, you may find smaller production, single vineyard, more expensive, harder to obtain wines can offer exceptional depth and complexity. Delight in your good fortune.

On the other hand, if you love that million-bottle simulacrum of pinot noir or red blend, enjoy away without guilt or hesitation. Wine is joy and pleasure, not a contest. Whatever you enjoy is good wine for you.

Last round: Simply going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car mechanic. Just saying. Wine time.