Sweet wineSweet wine

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.


oh me too.

that is, either i’m a liar OR i like dry wines. every once in a while i find someone (“American” or not) who i think (based on eating together a few times) has the same palate as me – bitter, sour, metallic, fishy, lemony, and no American wines.

OTOH, when I put curry on the table you would start to cry!

I don’t think I ate a Snickers in Europe, but I did get a KitKat from a vending machine at Heathrow and noticed that it was much more delicious than our KitKats-the chocolate coating was a lot thicker and more intensely flavored (or should I say “flavoured”?).

I, too, have always loved sour and salty things, even as a child, and we didn’t even have sugared drinks or cereals in the house, but when I bought my first wine I went for sweet ones-Boone’s Farm Apple, and a vile decoction called Spanada, possibly made by Gallo back in the late 60s. Other baby boomers might remember that one. Of course that’s probably just the developing taste of a teenager. I never really got a chance to develop much of a wine palate before I needed rehab…

Sorry for my initial (off-blog) reaction that Asimov was being Queen Snob in claiming to be so over pinot noir—ten years ago! Actually that’s not what he says… he liked it ten years back, but he’s not specific about when he thinks it became sweeter. The p.n. bandwagon didn’t really start rolling until about five years back, so it wouldn’t have been before that.

Anyway, I’m as down with his argument as you said I would be. American wine culture blows. And I don’t doubt that he was a pinot noir fan in 96. Then it got big, sold out… you know my sister was into Alanis Morissette way before anyone else. It was totally a black fly in our chardonnay when every single song on the album became a hit, a year after we’d memorized them.

So, like, I can relate.

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