Interesting. Well, you’ll be the judge of that. But noteworthy for sure. In this quest to separate the sheep from the goats, the good wine from the bad, I’ve failed to consider, until today, the very subjective nature of these decisions. We come to the table, or to the glass, with a set of personal preferences and conditioning that is quite variable from person to person. Oh, there are some non-negotiable, universal truths. A palate of plastic is not good, nor is a bouquet of Dumpster. But from there it gets more personal.
Consider beer. When I was still dating my now wife, when we were still young and stupid, she hypothesized that people couldn’t actually tell one beer from another, that people just ordered a brand out of habit, or because they sponsored Rusty Wallace. (I actually have no idea who sponsored Rusty Wallace) As soon as the words had left her lips, I made an emergency stop at a local tavern to nip this erroneous thinking in the bud. I ordered a Moosehead and a Miller Light. It took only two sips to convince her of her error. But ironically, as I got older, and even more stupid, and cheap, I began ordering Coors Light out of just habit and routine. Every so often, after dozens of Coors Lights (over months, not one sitting!) somehow a real beer would find its way in front of me- a St. Pauli Girl, an esoteric micro, or a Moose, and they would taste wrong-too thick, too grainy, too syrupy. The weak, thin “lights” had become my normal.
The other morning, as we were rushing out the door to our respective destinations, we both noted we were out of wine, somebody should bring some home. She thought it meant her, I thought it meant me, so we each arrived home that evening with different bottles, both Cheapskates. I brought a Zinfandel we’ve already discussed, because I like it a lot, and it was really cheap. She brought a 1.5 of Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.99).
Barefoot traces its roots to the early 70’s when Californian Davis Bynum began making wine. He abandoned his Barefoot label early on to make higher end wines under the Davis Bynum label, which today makes a $25 plus Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In the mid eighties new entrepreneurs relaunched Barefoot aimed squarely at the cheapskate end of the market, and aligned the brand with “social consciousness”. Today that identity remains intact, but the company is owned by E&J Gallo, one of the giants of the biz.
After discovering we’d both brought home wine, the debate was which to open. The solution was: both. I poured a glass of the Barefoot Cab, and a glass of the Zin, and we did a comparison. Scientific, huh. What we discovered, though, was the whole issue of subjectivity. I found the Barefoot Cabernet thin, bland, and dead next to the Zinfandel. I thought the Zin smelled more fruity and attractive, felt heavier in my mouth, and was a touch more acidic and sensual. The Barefoot was OK, just soft and flat, relatively. The Wife thought the exact opposite. She sipped the Zin first, which we’ve both had before and she enjoyed. Then the Cab, and she made a audible “Mmmmm. This one, no question”, was her review. Don’t you think it’s weak, I pressed. “No. It’s clean and smooth, exactly what I like.”
So, a revelation, or maybe a reminder: one man’s weak is another’s smooth, one man’s fruitiness is another woman’s grape juiciness. And, obviously, neither is right or wrong. So, I’m newly hesitant about assigning quality, or lack thereof, to the traits and character of a wine. What I adore you may abhor. To each her own.