Eric Asimov’s wine piece today verifies what I have been afraid of and what Nathan has been claiming for years—that California wines are intentionally sweetened for the American market, whose “palate is shaped by the sugary soft drinks, ketchup and breakfast cereals of the childhood pantry.” Asimov says that Pinot Noir has gotten too sweet to enjoy with dinner in the last ten years.
The first time I noticed this American sweetness phenomenon was when I ate a Snickers bar in England. Instead of tasting the sugar first, I tasted peanuts and caramel. It was less a candy bar than a substantial snack, as the commercials have always promised. I now make it a point to ask travelers to England to return with Snickers bars.
I have never been into sweet things the way other kids are. I liked tart candy as a child: Jolly Ranchers, Starburst, Warheads, Fruit Roll-Ups, etc. I still do. I now like my wine bone-dry, my greens bitter, and my dinner salty. I like ice cream that tastes like its flavor, and I occasionally put salt on it. I check the ingredients for sugar on something savory like pasta sauce, which I rarely buy anyway but when I do it had better be a salt bomb.
And everyone I know seems to feel the same way. But then Asimov quotes another wine critic who says that Americans talk dry but drink sweet, so maybe we’re all liars.