Op Ed: Have alternative style wines become boring?

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Today’s peak wines are more land-expressive than usual commercial styles. What I don’t understand, however, is how stereotypical everything has become.

By Randy Caparoso

I like alternative style wines. They have kept my interest in wine piqued for over 45 years that I have been in the wine related industries. Otherwise, I would have been bored to tears.

Still, I have to admit that many of today’s alternative wines are no more original or innovative than conventional wines. Over and over again, you hear the same words and phrases:

“Natural”; “Indigenous yeast”; “Skin Contact”; “Entire cluster”; “Whole Bay”; “Neutral wood”; “Amphora”; “Tread“; “Unfiltered”; “Holistic”; “BIO”; “Pet Nat”; “Glug-Glug.”

It reminds me of my years in the restaurant business, when we heard the same things over and over again:

“Blackened”; “Pesto”; “Sun-dried tomato”; “Mousse”; “Creme brulee”; ” Melted chocolate ” ; “Pizza in the wood oven”; “Red wine reduction”; “Tartar” ; “Rocket”; “Deconstructed”; “Fusion”; “Mousse”; “Molecular”; “Farm to table”; “Sustainable.”

…and so on.

During my restaurant career (I’ve opened restaurants from Hawaii to New York), no matter where you went, you always found the same dishes, using the same ingredients, cooked in the same cooking styles. Of course, it was fun to discover the endless possible variations. But while slavish adherence to food trends can be entertaining, it can also be predictable — to the point of being unbearable.

“Nouveau” style wines are exactly the same.

The same kind of special

When you talk to many winemakers today, you really don’t have to wonder how they make their wines. They all make them the same way. Yet each of them is convinced that they are doing something different. They are reinventing the wheel: exactly the same wheel that everyone uses.

Winegrowers, of course, are sensitive people. I understand that. They wear their proverbial soul patches like the French wore berets.

Do not mistake yourself. It’s perfect. Today’s peak wines are more land-expressive than usual commercial styles. Finally, you can taste many wines the way they are meant to taste, i.e. like the grapes and the vineyards they come from – not the style of a wine brand or the ego of a winemaker. . It is progress.

What I don’t understand, however, is how stereotypical everything has become. The latest generation of winemakers, for example, ferment on skins or in whole bunches, whether or not the grapes from particular vineyards or regions warrant this treatment. I don’t understand when they work with a winery for the very first time, and they still follow the exact same protocols.

When I ask “Why?” they answer more or less the same thing: “That’s how I express myself. »

It is of course not a question of expressing a vineyard or a place. It can’t be that if you follow the exact same scenario wine after wine, regardless of the grapes and where they come from. It is not true, non-commercial “art”. It’s more like paint by numbers.

It seems to me that the conventional industry may wish to keep the figures of this faction tattooed or wearing a bun on the small side.
It seems to me that the conventional industry may wish to keep the figures of this faction tattooed or wearing a bun on the small side.

Winegrowers, of course, are sensitive people. I understand that. They wear their proverbial soul patches like the French wore berets. It’s no different, of course, from man-buns or full-arm tattoos and nose rings, with each author utterly convinced that no one else in the world is like them.

The French method

What’s worse is that these wine styles have become clichés. This leaves them open to criticism, the same way Democrats are ridiculed for being wishy-washy and Republicans for being pinheads. Is there a solution?

One option might be a more official statement, or at least a better defined one. In France, for example, there is now a category for wines eligible for classification Natural Method Wine. Among the requirements specific to this labeling:

  • Wines must be produced from hand-picked grapes approved organic vines vinified with indigenous yeasts;
  • In the winery, cross-flow filtration, flash pasteurization, thermovinification and reverse osmosis are prohibited;
  • Up to 30 mg/l sulphites are allowed, although there is a separate designation for wines produced without added sulphites; and
  • The wines are subject to an annual verification by a third party.

Is this possible in the United States? Don’t hold your breath.

It seems to me that the conventional industry may wish to keep the figures of this faction tattooed or wearing a bun on the small side.

Although I hate the similarity, I also hate to see the products of wines and winemakers pilloried for their seriousness. They might need to belong to their own little club. At least they will have legitimate reasons to continue copying themselves.

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Randy Caparoso
Randy Caparoso

Randy Caparoso

Randy Caparoso is a full-time wine journalist/photographer living in Lodi, CA. In a previous incarnation, he was a multi-award-winning restaurateur, starting as a sommelier in Honolulu (1978-1988) and later as founding partner/VP/corporate wine director of the award-winning Roy’s family of restaurants. James Beard Prize (1988-2001), opening 28 locations from Hawaii to New York. While at Roy’s, he was appointed Healththe first Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year (1998) and Restaurant Wine‘s Wine Marketer of the Year (1992 and 1998). Between 2001 and 2006 he operated his own Caparoso Wines label as a wine producer. For more than 20 years, he also wrote a bi-weekly wine column for his hometown newspaper, The Honolulu Advertiser (1981-2002). He’s currently putting bread (and wine) on the table as Bottom Line’s editor and columnist for The SOMM magazine (founded in 2007 as Sommelier Journal), and freelance blogger and social media director for Lodi Winegrape Commission (lodiwine.com). You can contact him at [email protected]

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