Last year, there was an outburst of scorn for California-style Chardonnay.
They were too often disappointing, with too much oak, too little fruit and little care. Too many tasted like stagnant water, like pickling spices, or like vanilla flavorings added to water. They were not pleasant to drink on their own and would not pair well with any food.
This year, there are signs that big Cabs are going to be subject to the same kind of apostasy. Dan Berger, writing in the Napa Valley Register, fires a shot across Cabernet’s bow:
I was a judge at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition last week and one flight of 60 cabernets was utterly disappointing: almost all were huge, ungainly red wines that had no aroma I ascribe to cabernet. And these oafs had no food compatibility whatever…I cannot figure out why so many people are still buying them.
Fact is, people aren’t still buying them. I get emails every day offering giant, small-production California Cabs for 30% – 50% of their one-year-ago price. The obvious reason is the economy, but fashion and tastes may be changing, too. Serious wine consumers tend to be explorers. Steve Heimoff, apparently a fan of New World Cabs, recently wrote that “it’s hard to see where it (Cabernet) goes from here,” since they don’t seem to be able to get any bigger or juicier.
Which reminds me, somehow, of the last days of disco. For a decade, the ethos was bigger, wilder, more outrageous. But once you’ve dressed in a skin-tight silver lamé space suit, packed your nose solid with blow and stayed up all night having public sex with people you couldn’t recognize ten minutes later (because, technically, you never actually saw their faces), it’s hard to see how more can remain a viable strategy.
The things that came after the excesses of disco were all reversions to relative simplicity. It seems to me big Cabs may be at that same break point, where the only way to avoid self-parody is to change directions. Disco split into preppie and punk; wine will likely factionalize between elegance and the primitivism of what Denise Medrano calls “hairy armpit wines.”