A Sommelier’s Hallucination

hallucinationIn a New York Times article entitled “Ignore the Snobs, Drink the Cheap, Delicious Wine” sommelier Bianca Bosker jumps the shark. The absurdity of the dumb-wine-down crowd is on glorious display, in full dress regalia.

Like the Swedish Fish Oreos or Dinamita Doritos engineered by flavor experts at snack food companies, many mass-market wines are designed by sensory scientists with the help of data-driven focus groups and dozens of additives that can, say, enhance a wine’s purple hue or add a mocha taste. The goal is to turn wine into an everyday beverage with the broad appeal of beer or soda.

Connoisseurs consider processed wines the enological equivalent of processed foods, if not worse. The natural winemaker Anselme Selosse maintains that chemical futzing “lobotomizes the wine.”

But they are wrong. These maligned bottles have a place. The time has come to learn to love unnatural wines.

Is Ms. Bosker too stupid to realize that when all wines on the supermarket shelf taste the same no one has a reason to buy a particular wine unless it’s cheaper than the competition, a “race to the bottom” that will decimate the wine industry by forcing everyone to sell standardized plonk for $2 a bottle?

She enthuses about the fact that industrial wine is no longer made to satisfy the taste of winemakers but of “newbie” wine drinkers whose tastes are “opposite experts’ quality perceptions”. She admits these wines taste awful:

When I sipped the wines that Ms. Mikawa gave her panel to try, I was reminded of root beer with a splash of Hershey’s syrup and vodka. The wines were rich, syrupy and heavy.

But she praises the “savvy” decisions to design wines that panels of “newbies” approve of.

In an industry faced with global competition and the rise of craft beer, spirits, and exotic cocktails how will wine attract dedicated consumers if it’s aiming to have the appeal of soda? Are all those craft brewers out there striving learn to make beer that tastes like Budweiser?

By the end of the article total delusion sets in:

At the very least, these mass-market bottles are an invitation to people who might otherwise never pick up a glass. Ms. Mikawa sees her wines as training wheels for future oenophiles.

“Training wheels for oenophiles”? Of course. And I’m sure Shakespeare scholars cut their teeth on “Fifty Shades of Gray” . You learn about quality by sampling quality. There is no short cut.

For the wine industry, who needs enemies when you have friends such as Ms. Bosker.

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