Red State V. Blue State Wine

I fell into a "Red State-Blue State" wine discussion the other day with a friend as we opened a few bottles of wine to try. When we opened and tasted a 1996 Sonoma Cabernet I was provoked to state, "Now, this is serious wine!" To which my tasting mate responded: "Serious? Where’s the fruit? Where’s the strength?"

Indeed: Red State V. Blue State.

To so many people today a wine is "serious" only when it delivers strength,   girth, power, massiveness. They are wines that overpower you.

If you want to question whether a simple drink such as wine can be "serious" at all then you probably don’t want to concern yourself with anything more than whether the wine in your glass is wet. However, if you can wrap your mind around the idea that wine can be "serious" then you will eventually face the stimulating task of defining what "serious wine" really is.

1. Serious Wine engages your intellect as much as your palate.

2. Serious Wine can be "big", but it shouldn’t be Big and Massive for sake of being big and massive.

3. Serious Wine has structure derived from acid and tannin because it should because the tongue is able to detect weight as well as flavor.

4. Serious Wine should tell a story of something, be it about land or the curious mind of the maker.

5. Serious Wine is different from simple wine in the same way that Oscar Peterson’s piano is different than Marvin Hamlisch’s piano: There is something below the surface.

Does one need a certain disposition to be attracted to real, serious wine? I think they do.  I know this might evoke some to respond, "Why can’t wine just be something you drink and enjoy without taking it so seriously?" It can be. And it usually is. But I’m reminded that some people take quilt making very seriously. They understand it’s history, the movement of patterns and designs over time. Yet frankly, for me, my only request of a quilt is that it keep me warm.

I think there is special disposition that exists in the those that take wine serious. They seem to have the ability to turn a sensual experience into an intellectual encounter…and vice versa. These types will normally be in the minority.

So to return to the "Red State-Blue State", is there hope that one day the idea of girth, bigness and massiveness will no longer overwhelm our discussion of what makes a wine serious as it does today. I’m absolutely positive it will. I’m absolutely positive that in time the idea of nuance and complexity will overwhelm the minds of those who think about what serious wine is. When this happens it will mark an intellectual renaissance among wine drinkers. And it will mean a great deal more too. It will have implications for the importance of terroir, for the way in which people buy wine and for the way in which people recommend wine.

8 Responses

  1. Tish - June 7, 2006

    Nice take, Tom. I never really thought of it in such black/white terms, but I realize I play the same dichotomy over in my head practicaly every time I pull a bottle from my cellar. And far too often I pull something “simple” for fear I’m not in the mood for “serious.” Next time I’ll pull the serious one and see if it develops inot an “intellectual encounter”…

  2. Don - June 8, 2006

    A good definition of “serious” in the wine context. it doesn’t limit “serious” to a nation, region, grape or style of winemaking, but speaks to the ability of some wines to provoke an intellectual response in those who might listen.
    I’m often reluctant to verbalize this type of experience in a mixed crowd – a group containing at least a few people that can’t imagine “dialogue” with a beverage.

  3. lion - July 7, 2006

    But what about reality is an illusion due to the lack of alcohol.

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