Should We Pursue Wine Purity?

spagetti tacoDallas Wine Chick takes exception to the trend toward bourbon-aged wine barrels. “Let Wine Stay Pure” is the headline.

Last night, the Twitter wine community got into a discussion about purity of wine. Should bourbon-aged barrels, tequila barrels and even cannabis-infused wine should have a place at your dinner table?  The twitter vote was a resounding no. Despite telling the public relations firms these were not samples I wanted to try, they still showed up. So, this morning I opened one just in case I had a change of heart. I didn’t. Still all the reasons why — over oaked, too much wood influence, and then a combination of flavors that don’t taste good to me in their harshness. To me, the wine seems manipulated, in a very bad way.

I agree with her taste judgment but not the sentiment. I have yet to taste a wine aged in bourbon barrels or a cannabis-infused wine that was enjoyable. Interesting, yes, but not something I would want to drink regularly.

But the idea of insisting on purity as a general principle is a non-starter. Culture—and wine is a cultural artifact—doesn’t work like that.

Fusion cuisine is an important niche in the food world. Jazz/rock hybrids, the marriage of classical music and electronic music, and the merging of the visual arts with media arts have all enriched cultural life. Culture is about making connections, not throwing up artificial boundaries. So I don’t think purity is in itself an aesthetic value.

This is not to say that any mixture will work. There are more failures than successes when mixing flavors, genres, or media. But the successes make the failures worth the effort. At some point someone will come up with a flavor enhancement to wine that will expand what wine can be. We should welcome the attempt even when they fail.

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