This just in from Nose:
The long-smoldering issue of overly-alcoholic wines is about to ignite – and so should you, especially if you’re a wine-making enabler of amped cabernets, or a wine critic whose reputation is based upon hyped and fruity, fist-in-the-face reds.
The resistance comes from the producers, instead, of more classically structured contenders who prize balance, some tannin, and some reins on fruit. Nowadays those wines can’t be properly appreciated by palettes habitually staggered by 15 percent and up alcohol. If wine lives by the ratings, then those with subtlety and finesse deserve to have their charms appraised before the high-octane bruisers climb through the ropes and start beating on the tongues of the critics. In short, they should be tasted first, as a matter of principle, and sound judgment.
But deserving isn’t enough, in large part because the reputation of so many California wines – including many of those Napa cabernets so recently auctioned for small fortunes – rests as much on alcohol as on fruit. Altering the way these wines are evaluated would strike at their bona fides, and price points, so change is savagely resisted by wine-makers and so many dependent, scribbling appraisers.
But not, it seems, Robert Parker’s replacement as California’s supreme taster, who has a more classic palette – dare one say better? - than his boss, and is elevating the rankings of some long-neglected cabs. He’s said to also be systematically down-grading some tres cher vinous stars, as well. Complimenti, Antonio.
All of which amounts to a tempest in a demijohn without some kind of public relations crisis to make everyone pay attention to the generally out-of-balance rating system. Which crisis, Nose can confidently report, is already on rails.