Worth reading this week: Is oak cheapening our wine?

The second weekly installment in which I point out articles in the blogosphere that caught my eye this week.

Up at New York Cork Report, Evan Dawson wonders why some drinkers say cheap wines and expensive wines taste alike, and suggests that oak may be the culprit. If oak becomes the dominant flavor, does it matter how good the fruit is?

Dawson was responding to Jon Bonné’s takedown of the recent Slate article extolling cheap wine. (See my take on that claptrap in yesterday’s post!)

Over at Virginia Wine Time, Paul and Warren visit Boxwood Winery in Middleburg, Virginia, to taste the 2011s now going through malolactic fermentation in barrel, and urge us not to dismiss the vintage so quickly. It’s a message I’ve heard from other winemakers as well – that the season was so strong before the September deluge that the fruit was in good shape, and those who took good care of their vineyards had a chance to make some nice wines. Still, that doesn’t make it a good vintage. It will give us a chance to tell in another year or two who really has their act together, and as such may give us a clearer picture of the true state of wine growing in this region.

And Dr. Vino reports that many California winemakers are putting their reds through “flash détente” – which does not mean Henry Kissinger in a trench coat. Rather, flash détente is a process in which the grapes are rapidly heated and then cooled, to increase extraction and reduce vegetal aromas. When Nature won’t cooperate, fight her with technology.

Wine Enthusiast’s California editor, Steve Heimoff, joins the fray over high alcohol levels in wine – and declares victory on behalf of high alcohol in pinot noir. I’m not sure I accept his logic, as he quotes one writer as saying there were “notable exceptions” of high alcohol wines that succeed and concludes that high-alcohol is the way to go. Even I would admit that this style can work – but I’d also argue that it is a trend that’s easy to imitate, but difficult to succeed with. But Heimoff’s post is an interesting read, as his blog always is, and a worth considering in the debate over alcohol levels in wine.

Happy reading, and Cheers!


About Dave McIntyre

Wine columnist for The Washington Post, co-founder of DrinkLocalWine.com, and blogger at Dave McIntyre's WineLine (dmwineline.com).
This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Weblogs, Wine, writers and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Worth reading this week: Is oak cheapening our wine?

  1. “Still that doesn’t make it a good vintage” is exactly right on the 2011. However, 2003 was probably worse, and that was a year that made me feel able to separate the wheat from the chaff in Virginia wineries/winemakers. If that winery/winemaker could make a good 2003, imagine what he/she could do in a great year.

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