Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why I typically don’t drink certain stuff

I’m prejudiced.  I admit it.  Against certain kinds of wines.  I have stereotypical notions of them, and as a result, I just don’t buy and drink many of them.  I don’t give them a chance to break the stereotype.  I have a limited wine budget, and there are so many other kinds of wine I like better.

So in an exercise of reverse wine-blogging, I’m going to list the kinds of wines I typically don’t even consider buying and why.  I’m not saying I’m right.  It’s just my preferences and my opinions.  But I thought it would be useful information for my 15 loyal readers.

California Cabernets

They tend to be expensive.  And got tired of them.  They all seem to be shooting for the same style.  Big mouthcoating cassis/graphite and new oak flavors.  No acidity, virtually no sense of where it came from.  Plus, I don’t cook a hell of a lot that oaky, ripe, large-scaled Cabernet-based wines would complement.  

California Merlots

I don’t buy these for a lot of the same reasons I don’t buy Cal Cabs.  Plus, during the 1990s Merlot explosion, Merlot was planted all over the damn place, willy-nilly, to meet uncritical demand.  So there’s just a lot of crappy Merlot, grown in places unsuited to it, floating around.

Classified Growth Bordeaux

They’re expensive.  Many are over-oaked and picked too ripe, in an effort to please affluent wine drinkers who think in terms of the magnitude of fruit and easily discernable new oak.  And like Cal Cabs, this style of Bordeaux doesn’t go with much that I cook (and as to those that might complement things like steaks and chops, I like other stuff better).  That said, I do like a less expensive, non-oaky, non-overripe Cru Bourgeois every now and again.

Italian Whites

Now here I’m being very unfair.  Since the 1980s Pinot Grigio craze (when every soiree or party featured PGs that were so diluted they tasted like barely acidified slightly bitter alcohol water, leading everyone and their dog to produce wines of this ilk), the general quality level of Italian whites has increased.  But I don’t drink a ton of white, and when I do, I want something I know I’ll like better, like a German or Alsace Riesling, a Loire white, or an unoaked minerally Macon or Chablis. 

Aussie Shirazes

I generally find them tiring and uninteresting, with jammy, thick fruit and oak hiding whatever earth-driven virtues they may have—particularly the more expensive ones.  Still, I’ll occasionally buy a cheaper one from a good producer, figuring that they wouldn’t waste new oak on them or try for maximum extract on a cheaper offering.


What, you say?  How can an Italian, Italo-vinophile, amateur Italian cook not buy Brunello?  Well, the rent is too damn high, for one thing.  Beyond expense, I find that the clone of Sangiovese used for most Brunellos (which is different from the clone used for Chianti Classico) results in a very low-toned, dark fruit character, usually augmented by liberal use of oak, which together results in wines that don’t go particularly well with food.  At least the food I cook.

Rioja and other Tempranillo-based Spanish reds

I find Tempranillo to be a bland grape.  It typically doesn’t do a lot for me.  Plus, the better Riojas tend to be too oaky for my taste.  The old school uses too much American oak; the new school uses too much French oak.  I don’t like too much of any oak.  Except when I smoke a brisket.

“Super Tuscans” and Bolgheris

I don’t drink these almost on principle.  Grow Sangiovese and other indigenous varietals in Tuscany.  Leave Cabernet and Merlot to the Bordeaux and California guys. 


I usually find them to be too acidy, too rough, too simple, and too short-finished.  There are much better options in the $10-20 range for wines to complement rustic foods.

Grand Cru Burgundies (red and white)

Can’t afford them.  That’s the only reason.  I actually love them.  But the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us has put them out of my reach.  I blame George Bush.

Hermitage and Cote Rotie

Same deal.  Love ’em.  Can’t afford ’em.  Thanks, Tea Party, er, I mean Wine Spectator.  Actually, this is probably the result of my career not following the stratospheric arc I had hoped for.  Thanks, George Bush.  (I can’t help myself, apparently.)

Anything a renown “oenological consultant” made or consulted on

I like wines that reflect the idiosyncrasies of the soil and the individual grower/winemaker.  I have no use for cookie cutter recipes.  I try to avoid wines which celebrity consultants like Phillipe Cambie, Michel Rolland, Riccardo Cotarella had a hand in.  I’m sure some of their wines are quite good.  But I’d rather support individuals making individualistic wines.


I know, I know, I’ve grossly overgeneralized here.  But as I said, these are my prejudices.  I can’t afford on a limited budget to seek exceptions to prove my rules wrong.  But please let me know if you know of exceptions!

That’s it for now.  I may augment or change this list in the future.  I hope that revealing my prejudices might provide additional context for my wine choices and my tasting notes.


Anonymous said...


John said...

You need to have some of Dehlinger's pinots or syrahs. Great wines from the Russian River Valley made by one guy and his family. Excellence all the way.

Tom Casagrande said...

Had a great PN from Dehlinger during the 90s but haven't had any of their Syrahs yet. I will look for them.

Angelo said...

It's a shame you pan Italian whites because of crappy Pinot grigio. That's like condemning all California reds because of the old red jug wine. There are soany excellent and unusual indigenous whites now being sold here, many very, very good. Maybe you can't get them in Texas. By the way, there is some good Pinot grigio out there too, though I usually avoid it too. Italophile indeed!

Angelo said...

Here are a few whites from Italy to try:

Roero arneis from piemonte
Greco de tufo from Calabria
Falanghina from campania
Verdicchio from le Marche ( which for some reason you seem to shun even though it's in your blood!
German-style whites from trentino- alto adige
Fiano also from campania

Tom Casagrande said...

Ang -- There are NO good Verdicchios available down here. All Spec's has is an over the hill 2006 Bucci. I do keep my eye out for Ribolla Giallas from Northeast Italy, and I will try some of the whites from Campania, which I know are greatly improved.