Bad wine

I never quite get his logic.

As I wrote in March, the best way to improve the quality of what you drink is to think of wine as food. Simply applying the same aesthetic, medical, ethical and moral judgments to wine that many people do to food, as I suggested, results in drinking better wine.

Not true. People eat crap like Pringles, Oreos, Big Macs and Velveeta, and they drink things like Coke, Kool-Aid, and Mountain Dew. They consider those things food.

Then he talks about “manipulation” without defining it.

First of all, additives and manipulation didn’t improve the general level of wine. Science did. For centuries, nobody understood how winemaking worked.

Sulfur? Didn’t improve wine at all? Refrigeration? Chaptalization (of course OK because they do it in Burgundy). What about things done manually, i.e. manipulation, like sorting grapes, gentle crushing, later picking, etc.? Science drove all the “manipulation”.

I think he’s missing a great example of the move from plonk into better stuff - beer. The growth these days is not Bud Lite, it’s the craft beers. And the growth in wine sales according to the article I read yesterday is in the higher-value wines. Whether those are good or bad is another issue. There’s stuff like Prisoner, but that’s not the end of the story.

Can someone please objectively define ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as it pertains to wine? I get it that reviewers have their ‘lean’ but to imply that wines that are ‘manipulated’ cannot be great is absolutely ludicrous - does he not realize what happens at ALL quality levels in the wine biz - from Bordeaux to Napa to Paso to ‘insert your favorite region here’?!?!?

Cheers . . .

Good = “I like it.”
Bad = “I dislike it.”

what don’t you get about his logic? If anything, one of the things that I got from the piece was that a big part of wine appreciation is NOT logical – it’s emotional, artistic, driven by personalities and people, not calculated by machines or engineered in a laboratory. Given how much time, energy and money is spent on wine by most people on this forum, I would think that most of us would agree, at least implicitly, since it’s pretty illogical otherwise to care so much about what is in the end fermented grape juice.

The fact that people eat crappy junk food/drinks and consider those foods doesn’t make his argument any less valid. If anything, I think that’s the whole point – people view food differently, but those people who care about food care about how it’s made, and who makes it, and about quality, however you define it. Others who don’t care about food or wine have similar attitudes, being OK with impersonal industrialized mass-produced profit-driven widgets.

As for defining “manipulation,” has anyone really defined what that means with respect to wine? It seems like a lot of the people on this board have issues with the over-preciousness of “natural,” “biodynamic,” “organic” wine.

I’m not trying to pick a fight but it does seem like you’re being nitpicky against Eric Asimov when in actuality I think he’s actually trying to uphold some worthy ideals for wine. Would be happy to see more of your thoughts on why you think his arguments are flawed.

Two standing ovations from me:

One for Asimov…

The second for Fred’s post!

Exactly. Excellent student! [welldone.gif]

does he not realize what happens at ALL quality levels in the wine biz

No. Hence his problem.

Fred - my point was that Asimov said people should pay the same attention to wine that they do to food but in fact, who consistently pays all that much attention to food? People go out to eat and post pictures of what they’re having on Facebook. But the rest of the time? Kraft, General Mills, etc., are multi-billion dollar companies and they didn’t get that way by selling fresh locally-grown produce. People around the world eat manufactured, manipulated stuff as soon as it becomes available.

Has there been a food revolution in the US? Yes, and it’s occurred during my lifetime, for which I am grateful. But it’s actually a minority of the population that pays attention to food in the way that Asimov suggests, in the same way that people here pay attention to wine. But the real money in wine isn’t made by hand-crafted bottles, it’s made by the people who sell their wine in supermarkets. And supermarkets are a great example. All the stuff that’s good for you is far away from the door, and milk, which is the most-purchased item, is in the back, so you have to walk past all the packaged mixes and cans to get to it. The fine wine, if there is any, is placed away from the rest, sometimes in a separate room where it won’t take up valuable eye-level floor space.

Aesthetic, medical, ethical and moral judgments? He says “many” people apply those to food. Yes, perhaps in absolute numbers. But in numbers relative to the entire population it’s a small minority.

But mostly my problem with Asimov is that he bangs the same drumbeat over and over.

That person Mobley is right - the wine world is NOT simply a mix of powders and chemicals on one hand and honest, natural wine that simply made itself on the other hand. If you can hand-sort, why can’t you use laser sorting? One is good, one is bad? If you can grow grapes on inexpensive land and make drinkable, if not great wine, does that mean it’s crap? Because that’s what he’s pointing to in Europe, where most wine is in fact crap and people lapped it up because that’s all they had or could afford.

The better wines he’s talking about? Marketing, technology, and outside influence has helped them - a lot of the wine he refers to comes from former co-ops that made indifferent plonk. Guys like Eric Solomon and Kermit Lynch have made millions by finding those producers and helping them improve their products specifically so that they don’t taste like grandad’s wine.

I do agree with him that the business is not about oenophiles, or at least the largest part of the business isn’t.

Bad article. Greg summed it up well.

I think Asimov is saying, like food there are two different categories of wine. In food you have the perfectly chemically balanced amalgam of salt, sugar and fat, from Chili’s or McDonalds that is the same no matter what, and you have that farm to table place where you know where all the food is sourced from, you meet the people preparing it and you taste the individuality of the place and people. Wine has the same divide, there are bottles of grape based alcoholic beverage sitting behind a label with no sense of place or personality, only a need to hit set chemical markers that will trigger mass appeal, and there are wines crafted to express where they are from with a sense of personal identity. One is industry the other is art or at least craft. So in saying that, to critique them as the same is a foul’s errand is right. You would not ask a restaurant critic to review an Applebee’s just because allot of people eat there.

Asimov is correct in calling into question the idea that drinking engineered wines an entryway to “real” wine. For most people, they are an end onto themselves, much like you can’t say that Subway is a gateway to gourmet. One reason for this is there are both “artisan” and “made” wines up and down the quality scale so if you are content with big fruity off dry wines, you can spend as much or as little as you like and they are easier to get.

Where Asimov goes astray is in the use of the terms of "bad and “good”, for the very reason I have stated before, you can’t compare things that serve different prepuces by the same criteria. A minivan is a terrible sports car but is great for getting five kids to baseball practice.

Good = 90 points or above
Bad = Under 90 points

See, it’s objective and clear… deadhorse


I disagree with Eric’s view that mass-produced wines aren’t likely to be “gateways” to drinking better, more authentic wines. Like most of my friends and many people I know in the wine industry, I started out drinking Boone’s Farm and various Gallo-esque “blush” wines. They tasted good to me and I could afford them. When I started working in an upscale restaurant in college, my manager suggested that I try an off-dry Gewurztraminer. I loved it, and it led me to explore other wines I hadn’t previously considered or known about. I’ve been a wine journalist now for almost 20 years. You never know where those industrial, crappy wines might lead.

Welcome Tina and good first post.

As Fats Waller supposedly said,

“One never knows, do one?”


I don’t think you read him carefully or in context. He was replying to this statement by Bianca Bosker (whoever she is):

“Thanks to pumps and powders, drinkers who can’t splurge no longer have to settle for plonk,” she wrote. “The gap between fine wine and commercial wine is shrinking as producers use chemical shortcuts not only to avoid blatant flaws, but also to mimic high-end bottles.”

Moreover, Asimov went on to acknowledge the role of technology:

“Technological improvements were beneficial, too. Refrigeration helped to make fresh, fruity white wines, as did the wide availability of stainless steel. Yet the technology for manipulating textures and flavors, and for taking away alcohol, hasn’t improved wine. It’s just made it more formulaic, like soft drinks and other beverages, by streamlining production for consistency and stability. It’s like saying the development of Wonder Bread made bread better.”

I don’t think there’s much analogy between the beer and wine markets. You can get an interesting craft beer for not much money in absolute terms, so it’s quite affordable to seek out more distinctive, less industrialized products. In wine, you have to graduate from mass production Gallo or Kendall Jackson to (a) more obscure and/or (b) significantly more expensive products before you get away from the industrialized products.

Moreover, Asimov directly tackles the “gateway” argument (plonk drinkers will learn to appreciate better stuff):

“[The wine industry] doesn’t produce millions of bottles of bad cheap wine because it wants to develop knowledgeable, judicious wine drinkers. It makes junk wine because it sells like junk food.”