Wine writers are fuming these days as new ideas flourish and a senior generation feels attacked. Robert Parker Jr. represents older views more than any other wine writer and is outraged that Cabernet and Chardonnay are being ignored by younger winemakers and consumers, who are interested in a huge array of other varieties.
Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle, is a new and passionate voice for a budding generation of winemakers and is interested in all of those “godforsaken grapes,” as Parker calls them. Especially in Europe, winemakers are identifying long forgotten indigenous vines with the help of DNA testing. In California, younger winemakers are looking at grapes that no one has considered for 50 years, like Valdiguié. “Cranky and hidebound no longer work,” Bonné admonishes Parker.
James Laube, who writes for Wine Spectator and covers Napa, is another elder statesman of wine and recently devoted a column to bashing sommeliers, who are by definition young since certification programs began in the U.S. just 20 years ago. Quoting Helen Turley, one of the architects of “big” California wines favored by Robert Parker, Laube referred to sommeliers as “Dim Somms” because many are rejecting ripe and manipulated new world wines that taste the same no matter the grape variety or the place where the vine grows. Laube called such sommeliers “France-obsessed upstarts” because they are partial to lower alcohol European wines. Ignoring wines whose stated alcohol is above 14 percent, Laube considers “narrow-minded” and “arbitrary.”
Then we have Tom Wark, who writes the blog “Fermentation” and is mad at Isabelle Legeron whose new book “Natural Wine” calls attention to all of the additives in wine and agricultural chemicals in conventionally farmed vineyards. One of Legeron’s assertions that particularly angers Wark is: “Most wine today, including expensive so-called ‘exclusive’ examples, is a product of the agrichemical food industry.” Wark feels that Legeron is slighting “thousands of independent wineries across the globe” who are trying to minimize interventions in winemaking and the vineyard.
So yes, the latest trends in the wine world eschew Cabernet and Chardonnay in favor of an infinite array of other varieties and favor lower alcohol wines with more distinctive flavors, sustainable farming, and wines made with fewer additives. Calm down guys, it’s all good.