Wine Talk

Snooth User: EMark

Interesting Article

Posted by EMark, Jul 8, 2015.

At least I thought it was.

This article was linked over on WB.  I thought I would post the link, here:

Don't Fear Wine

Larry Schaffer is the owner/winemaker at Tercero Wines up in the Los Olivos/Santa Ynez area.  He posts regularly over on Wineberserkers, and I usually enjoy his comments.  In this article, I which, I guess, he was the interviewee, he comments on the overcomplication of wines and how he tries to overcome tasters' trepidation when they come into his tasting room.  He has a great opening line when people come in.  His projection may not be perfect, but it works well for me.  I like my coffee black--I love big tannic wines, and I love asparagus, although I have to admit that I am only lukewarm about brussel sprouts.

It's a fairly short article.  You'll be able to read it in just a few minutes.


Reply by dmcker, Jul 8, 2015.

Interesting article, but not because I believe what he says. Would love to discuss further, but am literally out the door right now to another disaster-recovery site up north via bullet train.

Am guessing what Greg will say. Busy week for me, but hopefully I'll have the time to weigh in a bit later. The 'sweet' vs. 'bitter' dichotomy is rubbish, I say!  ;-)

Reply by GregT, Jul 8, 2015.

Well, I agree with you D - I don't buy into the sweet vs bitter thing. I like my coffee with cream because I don't like the acidity of it w/out the cream, but I can't stand sugar in it. And I like chocolate in all forms as long as it's good chocolate, and that has far less to do with the amount of cocoa mass than with the quality of the bean and the manufacture. And no, it's not milk chocolate vs dark chocolate, which is a foolish dichotomy that only applies to Hershey bars anyway. Moreover, as Larry knows, some tannins are harder to take than others are and they don't necessarily correlate with bitterness so much as astringency, which is not quite the same.

But those are minor quibbles. Larry is completely right about the beer thing. Wine has "Masters of Wine" and "Master Sommeliers" and "certified wine educators" and so on.

You gotta have some kind of training to drink the stuff? Cripes.

All that does is feed into what he's talking about. Beer is more popular and in the US, often more egalitarian, which is a shame.

And there's a whole group of harridans and scolds that seems to view wine as some kind of moral litmus test.

I agree with his argument about sweetness too. People blame the US diet of soda and Kool-Aid for making Americans like sweet wine, but I don't think that's accurate. People like sweet wine world-wide because they like sweets world-wide. In parts of Europe, they've learned to like their wines drier, non-wine drinkers over there like sweet wine as much as Americans. And non-Europeans from places like Jamaica, Haiti, Ecuador, China and elsewhere sure don't seem to mind sweet wines in my experience.

Infants around the world demonstrate a marked preference for sweetness in their earliest days. Salt doesn't seem to interest them one way or another, and they reject bitterness. Depending on the culture and the family, they can learn to like things that they might have otherwise despised. E.g., a kid growing up in an Italian family in the midwest may have been given broccoli rabe and olives as a child and will tolerate substantial bitterness, whereas the kid who grew up next door and never ate those things may reject bitter flavors - I watched that love of bitterness happen with my friend's daughter. They may both like Kool-Aid.

Since bitterness is often associated with alkali and toxic plants, humans are thought to have developed a natural aversion to it. Likewise, sweet is associated with ripe fruits, which are healthy, and sometimes sour too, and hominids developed a love of those things long before the Americas saw their first humans.

So I think he's dead right.

I was told by someone who's been casually drinking wine for like 2 or 3 years that I didn't know what I was talking about when I mentioned that there was no such thing as a "food" wine. He'd read on a blog that high-acid wines are food wines and that was that. I guess he took pH readings before tasting a wine. I was so intimidated by his knowledge that I had to quickly open something good to take the edge off.

Reply by JonDerry, Jul 9, 2015.

I like a couple of Larry's wines, the Outlier, The Climb (hommage to Shafer Relentless, Syrah/Petite Syrah). Also hear that Mourvedre is really nice in 2011. He's clearly 100% in to what he does and many wine related issues like closures. Think it's good of him to take a less serious approach. Also out the door right now.

Reply by EMark, Jul 9, 2015.

Excellent comments, Greg.  Being the egocentric that I am, I picked out the segments that matched my experience and concluded that it must be true.  On the other hand, he cites rescearch from Cornell.  It would be interesting to read what those research findings actually were.

Some years ago I accompanied my wife on one of her working trips.  I remember sitting in on a presentation in which we in the audience were able to take a "Supertaster" test.  We were given a paper strip, instructed to lay it on our tongue and observe any sensation.  To me it tasted like a strip of paper.  To my wife there was an intense bitterness.  So, apparently, she is a Supertaster (and, presumably, I am just a mere mortal).  It is not clear to me whether Supertasters have increased sensitivity to all tastes or just to bitter.  I can say, though, she never drinks coffee, she is not crazy about red wine, unless I happen to open a particularly good, aged one, and we both very much like asparagus and broccoli (and we really like broccoli rabe which certainly does crank up the bitterness factor), but, while I will tolerate brussel sprouts, she loves them.  So, go figure.

The title of the article, though, signifies that its purpose is to demystify wine.  It just dawned on me that posting on a wine-oriented internet board should achieve the exact opposite.  These boards seem to foster the mystification and, even, the deification of wine.  Arguably, less so here on Snooth than on other boards.  However, I'll bet that if anybody here said "It's perfectly fine to pair White Zinfandel with steak," it would be followed with, at least the thought, "Of course, I would never do it."

I loved the "talk dry/drink sweet" comment.  I first heard that in the 1970s, but it has been many years since I last heard it,  Of course, I am not in the business.  The other adage was "gift red/drink white."  I don't know if that is still true.  It seems that I read recently that in the U.S. red wine now outsells white wine.  I find that hard to believe, but I might be naive.
The topic of "food wines" does provide us with an opportunity for more discussion, Greg.  I too have heard the comment that acidic wines are good matches with food.  I might point to Chiantis which do seem to come in at higher acid levels (no, I don't stick in a litmus paper to see if I want to drink it), and that I seem to enjoy with any food--pasta, beef, chicken, fish.  The argument I heard was that the acid in the wine stimulates the salivary glands.  The additional fluid in your mouth does seem to make an impression on your brain that you are hungry, but, also, it aids in mastication and distributes the chewed up food (man, this getting close to TMI) over more taste buds, and, so we can derive greater enjoyment.  Does that make any sense to you?
Reply by GregT, Jul 10, 2015.

Well E-mark, that’s a whole other question. It’s an argument some people make, and in fact, it’s what the guy told me. Of course, he didn’t bother to remember that Pavlov showed that you don’t necessarily need something acidic, you don’t even need anything at all to increase saliva production – the idea of food is enough. You start salivating when you walk into someone’s house and smell the chicken roasting in the oven. Moreover, since the human digestive system is built to digest food, and that digestion starts in the mouth, it’s not clear why you would need something extra to start the saliva flowing.

And then let’s think about what people drink. Water is about pH of 7.0, which is neutral. Soy milk and even cow milk is roughly around that. Green tea is somewhere between 6 and 7. Black tea is a little less, coffee, depending on who made it and what beans were used, can be down around 5 and Budweiser is around 4.8.

There are many more people drinking those things with dinner than drinking wine.

Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke are around 2.7 and real Pepsi and Coke are closer to 2.0. They will pretty much dissolve your food on their own, no need for saliva and no need to trouble your digestive system. Battery acid is around 1.0

Remember pH is a log scale so the diff between 3 and 4 is pretty huge.

The fact is that ALL wine is acidic relative to things like beer, coffee, and tea, all of which seem to be perfectly acceptable with food. The idea of a “food” wine came mostly from wine critics in the 1990s who didn’t like the increasing ripeness of CA. The concept was taken up by a few Europeans who wanted another reason to slam American wines, and as new wine drinkers showed up, they were taught that there was such a thing.

Here are some stats on a few wines. Sparky Marquis focuses on what he calls “fruit weight”, for which he catches a lot of flak. But people seem to like his wines. I couldn’t find the RS levels, but if you look at his pH, it’s not really out of line. However, his wine is the antithesis of what people consider a “food wine” and his alcohol is off the charts.

Acidity alone isn’t the issue. There’s pH, and total acidity, and then there’s sugar and alcohol and fruit flavors, all of which will make a wine seem more or less acidic, regardless of the actual acidity levels.

2010 Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy - Residual sugar: 3.4g/L      pH: 3.53     Alcohol 16.5

2010 Greywacke Sauv Blanc    TA 7.2 g/l,     pH 3.08,     Alcohol 13.6%

2010 Auntsfield Estate, Sauvignon Blanc TA 7.24 g/l,    pH: 3.25,    Alcohol 13.5%

1992 Chappellet Signature (Cab/Merlot) TA: 5.9 g/L     pH: 3.75,      Alcohol: 13.6%

20xx  Estancia unoaked Chardonnay  TA: 6.5g/L    RS: 6.6g/L    pH: 3.41,    Alcohol:13%

But back to Larry - I'm not the only one who thinks he's right. Just read another article on the sweet preferences of people. Matt Kramer isn't my favorite writer by a long shot, but in this rare instance he seems to be right on the money.

Reply by JonDerry, Jul 10, 2015.

Read that Kramer article earlier today, definitely seemed on the money to me as well.

So looks like we have Snopes for "food wine" here. Digging deeper in to the chemistry of things, it is interesting how sugar, alcohol, and acidity can move in all sorts of whacky directions. A good thing it's all not so linear, would be a bit too simple.

Reply by EMark, Jul 10, 2015.

Once again, Greg, you have presented a compelling and interesting argument.  Thank you, very much.  I will have to scratch my head, a bit, on it. Similar to Jon's allusion, there is a human tendency to look for a simple (ususally, wrong) answer to any complicated question.

Thanks for the link to the article.  Not a lot of news, there, but I guess it supports what we all know.  Personally, he lost me with these sentences at the end:

It may not be a pretty sight for traditionalists, European or otherwise, to watch. But history shows that the American way of wine pretty much always comes out on the right side at the end.

Is he saying that "traditionalists, European or otherwise," don't like sweet wines?  Also, who knew there was a "right side" for the "American way of wine" to come out on?  That last sentence definitely supports the thesis in the Larry Schaffer article that wine appreciation is overcomplicated.

Reply by GregT, Jul 11, 2015.

Yep. It's that unintentional irony that irritates me about his writing in general. He can be OK when he sticks to the facts, but even there half the time he makes inane comments. Years ago he visited some small cafe in Italy and marvelled that they just brought out what we'd consider juice glasses and poured their house wine into those. His writing generally seems to indicate that he fancies himself some kind of literary force but it falls flat for me and then you throw in comments like those you cite and they're incomplete thoughts and condescending at the same time.

But overall his article supported the point that Larry made much better. I don't know Larry, I've only communicated with him via e-mail and online, but he seems like a decent guy and he makes sense.

This is a few years old now but the trend has continued.

Back to Categories

Popular Topics

  • posts

Top Contributors This Month

1413489 Snooth User: dvogler
23 posts
259386 Snooth User: zufrieden
19 posts
89564 Snooth User: GregT
13 posts


View All

Snooth Media Network