Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Is Australian Shiraz trying to be Pomerol?
Dara Moskowitz of CityPages seems to think so. “Oaky, sweet Australian Shiraz is, in a very distant way, trying to be Pomerol. So is syrupy California Merlot. Coincidentally, to my palate, these are also the two wines on earth that have the most in common with Coca-Cola.” The reference is to Yellowtail, and so you have to wonder how much Aussie Shiraz this individual has actually tasted.

Much of the article is a review of the film Mondovino which the author has seen with several others. They include French wine importer Chris Osgood, who works for wine distributor Cat & Fiddle; and Jeanne Moillard, who lives in Burgundy and promotes the wines of her family company, Moillard.

As Moskowitz notes “Each of these people wanted to talk about something that is more about our lives than it is about the movie: They wanted to talk about how aligned American and Australian palates have gotten to the idea of wine as a sweet, vanilla-toasty beverage, and how difficult it makes their passion of selling more distinct wines.“

In reference to these sweet, vanilla-toasty beverages Osgood says “Every time I have one of these big American or Australian wines with a meal, I feel like I'm eating bites of a Snickers bar between bites of the meal. When I was 21 or 22, I definitely liked wines like that; I always thought, 'This is bigger than the last thing I tasted, therefore it's more memorable.' When you develop your palate you learn that bigger isn't necessarily better.”

The answer is, of course, the wines that Osgood and Moillard can supply. "Château Eugénie - This dark wine doesn't have the obvious fruit or friendliness of a wannabe Pomerol. Instead it has a strongly mineral nose, a scent of plums or prunes, and the funkiness of truffles, all hung upon a bracingly angular and stiff structure that cuts through the world like an axe blade." Or the Californian Smith Wooton Cabernet Franc. "It was bursting with the fragrance of violets and roses, real blackberries and raspberries, and a bit of the brambly scent of dried raspberry leaves and vines. It was very acidic and nicely knit, in the manner of a true food wine."

What is it about these wines that Moskowitz finds so intriguing? Well it seems that they “suggest something about the French palate and its love of structure, something a worldwide taste for Coca-Cola wines is threatening to destroy.”

Hmm, the interesting thing about structure is that it includes acid, alcohol, fruit, and tannins, and all those building blocks need to be in balance. Wines that have mouthwatering acidity are not necessarily well structured or in balance. But if your palate has been educated to believe that they are, then you might just think that a fruit forward Aussie Shiraz does taste like Coca-Cola. Personally I know the difference.

About the only really interesting comment Moskowitz makes is to suggest that we drink broadly and develop our own taste. Amen to that!

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