Today, I’m inspired by a particular comment on Jo Diaz’s post on the differences between east and west coast palates. I don’t have an issue with her post itself, but I have a large issue with the, uh, ignorant reaction posted by one J.R. Wirth.
First of all I commend Mr. Wirth for having the integrity to comment with his name and not a pseudonym. Contrary to what Mr. Wirth proclaims, these days, if easterners are “always grabbing the same old musty bottle of wine they’ve always bought,” they’re grabbing California wine, not French. Sorry to disappoint you.
I’ve spent well over 20 years in the wine distribution business in metropolitan New York area, both as a sales rep and later doing purchasing. Retailers and restaurateurs, and their customers, primarily buy California, despite Mr. Wirth’s comment to the contrary. California wines are followed by South American and Australian wines in popularity. If I had a dime for every time I passionately presented Friulian white wines to a customer without making a sale, I’d be filthy rich.
I suspect the paramount reason is for California and southern hemisphere wines are, first and foremost, they taste good to most consumers. People like those big ripe flavors. These wines are also generally varietally labeled. It’s so much easier for consumers to familiarize themselves with varietal names than places. “California Cabernet. This looks good. Minervois? How do you pronounce that? Where is it?”
In addition, Mr. Wirth implies that all that is good and forward-thinking comes from California. Some of California’s cutting-edge wines are made with some of those musty old European varietals… hmmmm. And while there are plenty of great California wines, California also produces its share of banal corporate plonk, just as Europe does.
My one quibble with California is that the success of varietal naming has dumbed down the wine world. If you’re going to enjoy wine, be willing to educate yourself and expand your horizons. There’s a big world out there: don’t cut yourself off from it.