Will Globalization Kill Individuality in Wine?
It may sound like some ambitious thesis, but in fact it is a growing trend we notice across the world of wine. Basically what used to be well-defined borders of taste and style have given way to winemakers chasing reviews and the palates of the consumers, thereby leading to a rather innocuous yet positively detrimental phrase: international style.
International style is the loose term used to describe, in a far more palatable manner, the effect of making a wine that is big, ripe, new world, fruit forward - a fruit bomb if you will. Oh and don't forget the oak! A wine of "international style" is often characterized by the lack of acidity and overly discernable tannins in favor of gobs of red and blue fruit, jammy consistencies, higher alcohol and therefore glycol levels, and a general over-ripe presentation in the glass.
So when you think of a Barolo and you long for those dustier and almost air-dried fruit components with moderate alcohol and tannins that promise a long life in the cellar, only to find a high-priced Italian version of a grocery store brand Aussie Shiraz boom you are the victim of the winemaker being lured by the appeal of "international style."
What is the appeal? Points, scores and favorable reviews leading to sales and subsequent money. It is simple economics. If the vast majority of the world's wine drinkers just adore Aussie Shiraz, and you choose to make a true-to-your-region wine that may run counter to that large demographic's tastes, you alienate a large buying audience. But if you remain true to your region and style and heritage, etc then you win points for keep the dream alive, but at the cost of perhaps sitting on an entire vintage of your unsold wine.
I used Italian wines as an example, but far more subversively embracing this phenomenon are the French, and especially the Chateaux of Bordeaux. With the recent attention of collectors and investors to their centuries-old tradition of wine making being fueled by renowned writers and critics who have very specific taste expectations, the winemakers have eschewed tradition to curry the favor of a literal handful of influential writers who favor this growing pox of "international style." But California is not without guilt or blame in this either. In fact there is not a wine region in the world that is not affected by this new mantra of wine making.
However, fear not. There are diehards, and like every fad and fashion, the cyclical nature of them all assures us at least the glimmer of relief in the future. With careful searching and tasting, and hopefully the skill and attention of a credible merchant you can find wines that are indeed indicative of their respective growing regions.