In Search Of A Wine That’s Perfect For You
Wednesday - April 22, 2009
So what came first, the 100-point wine or Robert Parker? This is the wine equivalent to the “chicken and the egg” riddle. I think the answer is the wine came before any of us alive today.
But this riddle does beg the question, “Is there a perfect wine, or is it just perfect to you?”
Robert Parker is not the only critic or commentator who uses the 100-point scale in rating wine, but he remains the most influential in the wine industry. There are more 100-point wines now than ever before, with more of them made recently. Currently the Wine Advocate website lists 184 wines that have been rated 100 points, only 32 of which were produced prior to 1978, when Robert Parker began the Wine Advocate. It is obvious that wineries are making wines to suit Parker’s palate. By getting greater ratings, the producers sell more of their wine more quickly and for more money. So everyone’s happy, right?
I’m not so sure.
Both consumers and professionals have belabored the fact of Parkerization, the effect of wine producers willfully making their wines to appeal to Parker’s palate. In their effort to do so, many Old World producers have been cited for making wines that lack a signature or typicity associated with their appellation. Some call this the “internationalization” of wine.
In blind tastings, it is becoming increasingly difficult for professionals (myself included) to tell the difference between Old and New World wines. There is also the mention of wines generally having higher alcohols as a result of producers trying to get higher ripeness levels and more flavor into their wines to please critics.
Other professionals cite the fact that wines are becoming bolder, richer and fatter.
At the same time, many wines are losing their finesse and elegance.
Wines that are louder and more overt get more attention versus wines that can be appreciated for their delicacy and nuance. Thus they get higher scores in general.
This results in less diversity. Diversity for diversity itself is not necessarily utopia. But wine is an explicit representation in the differences of climate, exposure, soil, grape type or, as the French say, terroir and vintage. I for one love to see the marked differences between a Napa Valley Cabernet and a Bordeaux, something quite often being obscured these days.
So what is a perfect wine?
For my part, I don’t think I believe in a “perfect” wine. There are wines that are the perfect pair for a certain dish. There is a perfect wine for the mood of my palate. There are wines that are so great that they have left an unforgettable imprint on my palate and mind. The greatest wines for my palate are the ones that are not only delicious but are wines with a clear message, a signature of where they come from. They can only come from that single parcel on earth, from those particular grapes, made by those particular hands and palate. I will forever remember those experiences.
Were they perfect? They were perfect in that single experience. Perhaps if I taste the wine again it will be different and not so perfect. Looking at a wine from a winemaker’s perspective, would I say that they could not have done better? Only the wine-maker can say.
Perfection is a moving target and a non-concrete idea that means different things to different people. To me, it certainly does not equate 100 points. It is worth much more than that.
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