In this Winemaker’s Corner, I am going to do something that I have never done before – I will pretend to be a playwright. I have a story to tell which I would like to present it in the form of a play. To make this perfectly clear, so that I am not accused of plagiarizing, the dialogues presented by the two main characters of this “play” were in part taken from quotes attributed to them in an article in New York Times Magazine entitled “The Wrath of Grapes” by Bruce Schoenfeld published on May 28, 2015. This was accompanied by a generous amount of embellishments, products of my imagination.
The two principle characters of my play are both self-appointed olfactory prodigies. Rajat Parr, a former sommelier turned winemaker and Robert Parker a most influential wine critic who for three decades was able to influence the tastes of the mainstream American wine drinkers. They are having an argument about their different styles of wine.
Rajat – “Robert, you brainwashed an entire generation of wine drinkers to like wines that taste like fruit bombs. This is like terrorism on a global scale. I decided to found a new movement to fight your style of wine and I will call this movement “In Pursuit of Balance”. To belong to this movement, winemakers in California will have to harvest the grapes early not allowing them to ripen properly, exactly the way it happens in the old world wine regions.”
Robert – “Rajat, don’t forget who I am. I have been anointed by The Atlantic Monthly as “the most influential wine critic in the world.”
Rajat – “You claim that your style of wine is drunk for pleasure. What a simplistic approach to such a sophisticated product as wine. I say one should drink wine for intellectual stimulation and for its depth and intrigue and not because the wine is delicious and it gives you pleasure to drink it.”
Robert –“You are like a jihadist gang trying to erase what I have accomplished in over 35 years. You are the anti-flavor elite making green under-ripe wines, low in alcohol insipid stuff promoted by this anti-pleasure police………..”
Rajat – “Robert, the world will judge you for creating this abomination that you call wine which is like a soda pop loaded with alcohol, residual sugar and oak. On top of all this, to promote this style of wine, you established the 100 point wine rating system. This seemingly precise but deceiving scoring system became the industry standard because of its simplicity. And then you awarded high numbers to wines that followed your style making them an instant success in the marketplace.”
The question is where do I stand between these two feuding gentlemen? My guiding principles have been to make wines that have a sense of place, maximize the potential of the grapes, are true to their varietal identity, have good balance, a restrained level of alcohol and oak and are pleasing to drink. Rajat and I only agree on one aspect of winemaking, which is restraining the level of alcohol. Robert and I also agree on another aspect that wine should be made in a way that would give pleasure. The problem is what gives Robert pleasure gives me displeasure. In conclusion my style of wine is a world apart from their styles.