The Turning Tide of CA’s X-Treme Wines?
For those of us that believe Californian wines have tended toward the overly extracted, alcoholic and bombastic over the past decade or so, there is always the hope that the tide will turn; that the pendulum will swing in the other direction toward more restraint and balance. We are looking for signs.
I found a promising sign.
Such a sign is likely to come from someone who tastes lots of wine and who also has noticed the tendency (rush?) toward bigness. My sign is Stephen Tanzer, publisher of the International Wine Cellar newsletter.
In his latest newsletter, Tanzer writes the following in lead up to reviews of a few new releases:
"As long time readers of this publication are aware, I’m a major fan of the best wines from California, yet I’m constantly amazed at the way some publications grossly overrate wines that are simply large. Those who taste too much or too fast may be scoring wines on their immediate "impressiveness" without sticking around long enough to discover how boring or overbearing many of them can become as they open in the glass. Wines that catch one’s attention on first sip can quickly become repetitive and hard to swallow—and these bottles are as likely to cost seventy-five bucks as twenty-five…."
"Happily, current evidence suggests that many producers in California are finally backing away from X-treme wines. Some of these winemakers have decided they don’t enjoy these heavy drinks after all; others are dissatisfied with the way some of their past vintages, from overripe or overworked fruit, are developing in bottle. Even sky-high ratings can’t make these wines easier to drink…"
Now, I don’t know how many bottles of CA wine Tanzer tastes over the course of a year, but I sure do know it’s more than me and more than most. It’s a good sign that he sees evidence of the backing by winemakers from X-treme wines.
This kind of affirmation from a top critic is the kind of thing that helps turn the tide further. Steven Heimoff of the Wine Enthusiast has also been attempting to draw attention to more balanced wines.
Perhaps the tide is turning.