Wine Should Taste Good

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I overheard my brother the other day talking to a customer at the winery and he was telling them that he thought our wine was very drinkable. A complement. His comment made me think about what does make a good wine. I think he nailed it—drinkability. I read a lot of wine magazines in order to keep up on what’s happening in the wine world but also to see what kind of score the experts are giving to other Washington wine producers. I’ll have to admit, I have never heard a critic refer to a wine as drinkable. Why is this? I can only venture a guess. It could be that it is just too simple of an explanation. People who make a living tasting wine feel obligated to look beyond whether a wine is just plain good. No one would pay them to say that the wine brings amazing pleasure and drinks well. Instead they need to look beyond the surface and analyze its flavors and characteristics, thus displaying their vast knowledge of wine. I’m fine with that because wine is so complex and interesting, and I want to learn more about wine myself, but ultimately I want to know if it’s any good to drink. Let’s talk about the drinkability factor because there is a reason why wine is drinkable. I think we can say that a drinkable wine is one that is in balance. It shouldn’t be too sweet, too acidic, too tannic, too fruity, or too dry, or too flabby (lack of acid). It’s not that easy to achieve this balance because mother nature doesn’t always give us perfect grapes. Good winemakers can do a lot to fix balance issues by blending with other wine that has the element you’re missing. Some wineries try to achieve that balance too soon by using a plethora of additives that mimic natural processes that require time and skill. 90% of all wine sold in the United States is consumed within 24 hours, so manufacturers have no incentive to make wine that is better than just acceptable, but in my books that doesn’t make it drinkable. They will find the easiest and cheapest way to make a wine taste better earlier, such as adding sugar or oak powder to simulate barrel aging. I agree that this manipulation can cover wine faults and make it taste better sooner, but I would argue that this doesn’t equate to drinkability. So what are the signs of a drinkable wine? My bottom line test is do I want another glass? The answer is no if the wine doesn’t capture my attention somewhere in the drinking process. Some may call a wine drinkable if goes down smooth and doesn’t challenge your taste buds too much, like mashed potatoes, but I have to have some thing on them even if it’s butter. There has to be flavor. Another test would be when you get up the next day after enjoying wine, do you leave the remaining wine sitting on the bar or did you take the time to put the cork back in it? It’s hard to find a wine that is both drinkable and good. Winemakers who chase awards or who are more focused on pleasing the most developed palettes tend to not factor in whether it will be approachable within a reasonable amount to time or if it will ever be drunk (many iconic producers know that their expensive wine may never be drunk). And if they do get opened too early may be a terrible disappointment. I think the lesson here is that the cheapest wine may taste good at first, but fails to produce enjoyment after the first glass, and the most expensive wine may not be good for decades. Where it gets sticky is in the middle where there are thousands of wines, some delicious, some not. Look for wines that are balanced but flavorful, wines that make you want to have another glass, and wines that continue to please your palette and don’t fade quickly after each sip.

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