The Bloody Descent of Oliver Stone Meets the Aging Wine Lover

OliverstoneI only have inconsequential anecdotal evidence for the idea that as dedicated wine lovers age, they tend to gravitate to wines that are less obvious, more nuanced, more delicate and less enthusiastic in their size. If my anecdotal evidence for this idea is accurate, and if I am correct about the aging wine lover, perhaps its is a case of experience overcoming the power of sensory manipulation.

Why my mind tends to drift to the issue of wine upon experiencing decidedly non-wine subject matter, I do not know. But this issue of how older wine lovers more often eschew obvious wines occurred to me after I wasted two hours in a dark theater observing the descent into irrelevancy that is the storytelling proclivities of Director Oliver Stone.

"Savages", his latest film, is a soulless, simple, gratuitously violent piece of shit that has at its center the following premise: violence, death, blood and anti-intellectualism can enthrall the human mind and capture our attention in the absence of storytelling.

When I first entered the wine industry and began to experiment with wine very seriously, I willingly sought out those wines that were easy to deconstruct. The big, sweet, dark reds of California and Australia I drank and studied were sexy and violently simple examples of headknockers that grabbed your attention quickly and held on. They were not unlike the salacious slasher films we teens used to gathered in theaters to consume together. They were not unlike simple, straightforward pornography that doesn't even attempt to give tha allusion of a story or deliver the classic PornMusic we all love so much.

Today I avoid the slasher films and the manipulative throwaways the film industry likes to call "psychological thrillers", in which a mad man (or mad child) hides in the dark and terroirizes their families until the victims go mad, get killed in a spectacularly bloody and gruesome fashion and the mad man is finally defeated. The point of these films is to demonstrate the numerous new ways filmmakers can expose the details of mutilation of the human form.

The point of heavy-handed, big, sweet, tannic wines isn't so immoral. They just aren't products of a mind that is concerned with storytelling and engaging the intellect.

It doesn't seem so shocking that as young people and young wine drinkers we would gravitate toward the simpler, easiest, and most shocking examples of storytelling and wine. I assume we do gravitate toward these things in our inexperienced youth because they thrill at first glace and we have not developed any internal filters for ferreting out superficiality.

But as we age, we must develop filters on our palate and in our brain, both born of experience and the motivating shadow of mortality that always looms. It seems most of us lose patience for the simple, one-dimensional and the shocking, and more often seek out opportunities to inhale something more complex and more nuanced to satisfy our need for intellectual and sensory stimulation.

Oliver Stone's recent homage to bloody pornography simply reminded me how we change as we age and gain life experience. But I have to give him credit for motivating me to think about my own personal wine journey and consider the source of my (and I think most experienced wine drinkers') palate evolution.


16 Responses

  1. mari kane - July 17, 2012

    So, how do you explain an aging palate’s new-found appreciation for sweet wines? It’s where you really feel you are becoming your mom.

  2. Jennifer - July 17, 2012

    Not to start a flame war, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I seriously disagree with your assessment that young wine drinkers gravitate toward the obvious and the shocking, while older wine drinkers go for intellect and subtlety in their wine choices.
    First, are you talking about young wine drinkers who proclaim to be “into wine”? Or young people in general who will from time to time buy a glass of wine at a bar or a bottle of wine to go with dinner? I’m a wine buyer at a wine retail store where we sell everything, from $10 bottles of Argentinean Malbec to DRC, so it is my job to sell wine and keep track of the market.
    The younger people I sell wine to want things that are nuanced, less obvious, more interesting and from different areas of the world. It’s the older wine drinkers who are married to their certain California Cab, Pinot and Chardonnay producers, and if it doesn’t whack them over the head with tannin, fruit, and if it’s under $75 they assume it’s swill.
    So, as a young wine drinker in the wine industry, I respectfully disagree.

  3. Noblewines - July 17, 2012

    I always appreciated the balance and nuance of Ridge wines in Santa Cruz Mountains, then something happened. The wines started getting bigger and brawnier and less nuanced. I wondered why and heard from some employees that Paul Draper as he got much older needed more oak and power in the wines for him. So I guess there is a certain age that ones palate need more umph… a la RP Jr???
    Not sure if this was real of just fabricated but made sense at the time.

  4. Tom Wark - July 17, 2012

    I mean to suggest “younger palates”. Or, at least, inexperienced palates. I suppose a 55 year old could have a “young” palate, while a 25 year old could be more experienced.
    Further more, you are welcome to start flame wars here any time you like. However, you’ll have to do better than simply stating your opinion if you expect a war to flame up.

  5. Charlie Olken - July 17, 2012

    Oh my goodness. An anti-California rant in the midst of an otherwise thoughtful discussion.
    Lets’ put it this way. Thin, quiet wines sold at lower prices are not incredibly nuanced. They just have less character. Nothing wrong with that, especially the price point.
    The fact is that anyone in the wine biz who is actually paying attention can name hundreds if not thousands of wines that are (a)not heavy and do not whack people over the head (b) are sold at prices under $25 and (c) can compete head to head with cheap wines from anywhere.
    More than that, the sleazy addition of $75 to the discussion assumes wrongly and asserts erroneously that wines with intent, depth and ageworthiness are too expensive for what they deliver and what the consumer is willing to pay.
    Let’s go back to the original premise. “People’s palates get more sophisticated as they get older.”
    There is a fair bit of truth in that statement, but those changes in preference are derived not necessarily from age but from experience.
    All of us learn from our experiences, and it does not matter whether we are talking about appreciating art, dance, baseball or wine. The more we know, the more nuance we recognize and appreciate.
    Jennifer may respectfully disagree, but so do I. Learning is necessary to understand nuance, not youth or old age.

  6. m - July 17, 2012

    Two short sex scenes with no nudity make a movie a porno? You’re a little sensitive, wino.

  7. Tom Wark - July 17, 2012

    I have no problem with nudity or sex scenes in films. In fact, I’m often amazed that on television one can watch enormously degrading scenes of humans being killed one by one…but one nipple and its fines.
    My problem with Stone is his irrational and disgusting point of focusing on the torture of human beings, massive amounts of blood and spilling death across the screen.

  8. Jennifer - July 17, 2012

    Thanks — I read your blog often but don’t comment too much.
    I guess I get a little defensive, and maybe it was misplaced. I hear a lot of criticism of “young” palates, and I think that only reinforces the idea that wine is only for the old, rich and set in their ways. It’s not.

  9. Jennifer - July 17, 2012

    Charlie: I’m just speaking from experience in my market. I can’t tell you how many “wine lovers” I sell to with massive cellars who return Oregon pinot and Burgundy as corked. They’re far from corked. I find the more set in their ways someone is, no matter their experience the harder it is to get them to understand and appreciate anything that doesn’t have a famous label with a flashy price point.
    Not being as able to spend that kind of money on wine all the time means you have to look elsewhere. Someone can try a $20 Nebbiolo, enjoy it, and be aware of the producer enough to buy the Barolo when they’re able. I find it’s harder to find quality entry level domestic wines. That isn’t being snobby — it costs a lot of money to produce wine here. It doesn’t surprise me. But I may be wrong.

  10. m - July 17, 2012

    Understood, and I apologize for calling you wino,I tried to delete that afterwards but could not. Regarding Savages, some scenes were hard to watch but that was the nature of the movie, as it portrays the ruthless Mexican cartels. In fact, they couldn’t even portray some things that have made the headlines because they were too gruesome for a movie.

  11. Charlie Olken - July 17, 2012

    Thanks for the reply. Your point is spot on as to trying something less expensive and possibly graduating to something higher up the food chain. That is a progression that most of us have made over time. I suppose a few folks with silver spoons for palates started with fancy wine, but most of us started with entry level bottles and eventually traded up.
    I made the transition from Gallo Hearty Burgundy to Beaujolais in college–and then I moved to California for grad school and discovered that wine was everywhere. It was not hard to move up, but it takes time.
    I don’t doubt that you have customers who are stuck in patterns that make them comfortable but that is the nature of most buying patterns.
    Still, the point about experience is not refuted by those folks who have stopped learning. Recognizing nuance in wine is learned trait. You don’t get it by buying $20 Nebbiolo. Yet get it by learning and liking and trying more and moving up. But, if one stays at $20 Nebbiolo, then Barolo does not come into the picture. Same for priceworthy Pinots, Chardonnays and Cabs–those wines you seem to hate.
    The fact that some folks do not like Oregon Pinots does not make them wrong or dumb. There are folks who like Oregon Pinots who do not like such wonderful Russian River Pinots like those from Williams Selyem and Alysian.

  12. Charlie Olken - July 17, 2012

    I think you are wrong here. The alc in Monte Bello Cab has not gone up. The alc in Geyserville has not gone up. Most Zins from Ridge have been near 14% forever.
    Indeed, Ridge Petite Sirahs have become increasingly polite over the years. And Paul has said repeatedly that his wines were not going to follow the increasing alc trend.

  13. Tom Wark - July 17, 2012

    Indeed. It was the nature of the movie. And that nature was sadistic and produced no redeeming value.

  14. Thomas Pellechia - July 18, 2012

    The words “nuance” and “subtlety” are good ones to define what you describe.
    Complexity is not a good word as a description of the phenomenon, because even bombastic wines can be complex, albeit their complexity is often more powerfully in-your-face than thought-provoking.
    I don’t subscribe to what you describe as having to do with age. In my always humble and never forceful opinion (yeah, yeah, I know), the phenomenon that you describe seems to have to do with a mix of physiology and intellectual maturity.

  15. Matthewdowd - July 20, 2012

    Oliver Stone is CIA.

  16. george kaplan - July 20, 2012

    Golly, where to start?
    Stone is and always has been a talented panderer with a deeply misanthropic streak and a feel for sadomasochistic violence. This starts as early as Scarface and Salvador, pretty much ruins the otherwise pretty good Platoon, and is most characteristic in Natural Born Killers. The difference between Stone and Tarantino, besides talent vs genius, is that while both are interested in the violence within us, Tarantino explores it and puts it in context. Even Peckinpah,though full of demons, had violence as a subject, not as an advertisement.
    OK, now for the wine connection. Complexity is akin to talent, and can coexist with mere size and fruit and oak. finesse, or what Lichine among others called breed.It is more akin to sensibility, art, at the highest levels genius. If you’re Mozart or Will Hunting you just know: the rest of us poor schlubs have to learn it, which does require time, patience and an open mind, as well as varying degrees of ability.
    Ridge’s zins are definitely softer and more grapey-goopy than heretofore.IMHO.

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