Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sweet Wine Drinkers Unite!

A summary of the results of the Wine Consumer Preferences study I conducted via the Consumer Wine Awards at Lodi, www.consumerwineawards.com , are now posted and can be downloaded that web site and at www.timhanni.com . The report compares differences in preferences, attitudes and behaviors between SWEET and TOLERANT (love big red wines) consumers. Dr. Utermohlen, my research partner, and I also issued a press release that is sure to draw the ire of the dry-wine-is-good-wine crowd. I will be posting some of the comments, pro and con, as they are received. Please send me YOUR story! tim@timhanni.com

The first one is from Jeff Quackenbush who lives in Sonoma:

Thank you for sending this. I’ve been ridiculed by black coffee–drinking big cab lovers as not having a “sophisticated” palate for preferring sweet wines — fruit-far-forward rieslings and icewines, preferably — to pucker-producing titans of tannin. I like icewines, because they don’t have the bite of high-alcohol ports or the like. A Napa Valley chef recently tried to convince me that learning to savor bitterness was part of “growing up” as a cosmopolitan connoisseur.

The next from a very cool mini-consortium of Sauterne producers called Boredeaux Gold (and this is covered in detail in the revision of the wine and food section of the WSET materials I was asked to rewrite):

"We are working with the Sauternais to 'Liberez les Sauternes' or free Sauternes from it's labelling as a dessert wine and I instinctively feel that you might be able to help us. The Sauternais drink their wines with fish, roast meats and spicy foods as well as with dessert - they can't understand why the world insists on drinking it only with sweet dishes, cheese or foie gras... The 'anti-sweet' phenomenon is frustrating and confusing to them. They sense that, if left alone to choose, most people would prefer to drink sweet wines much more frequently and your research suggests that this might be the case."

When the Lafite and Hermitage came out in a formal, French haute cuisine meal sweet wines were served right along side as DINNER wines, not dessert wines. As stated in Larousse Gastonomique in 1938, "if the guest prefers." Kinda shoots down 'traditional' wine and food matching.

Finally for now is this embarrassing (for our industry) recount from a meal at a very famous restaurant last year:

Lissa Doumani is representative of the millions of hyper-sensitive wine drinkers in the world and does not fit the stereotype of a "wimpy" consumer in any way, shape or form. Lissa, daughter of iconic vintner Carl Doumani, grew up in the heart of the Napa Valley surrounded by vines at a winery that was famous for intense red wines. Lissa became a pastry chef by trade (not unusual for a highly sensitive taster) and now she and her husband Hiro are proprietors of two Michelin-starred California restaurants; Terra in St. Helena and Ame in San Francisco. Also at the table were Dr. Harold McGee, food scientist and guru to the culinary world and Chef Kukuoka from Kyoto.

During a dinner at a world famous high-end restaurant she turned to her table mate Tim Hanni MW, co-author of this study and a recognized authority on wine and food, and asked him to order a wine that she might like better than the ones pre-selected by the restaurant. The highly rated, high-alcohol wines that had been chosen by the wine experts to accompany the meal tasted unpleasantly overpowering and even burned her hyper-sensitive palate.

What ensued is the bane of the vast majority of consumers who prefer light intensity and even sweet wines. Hanni's request for a recommendation of a "light, delicate wine" was met with the embarrassing retort, "if you knew anything about wine and food you would know that these are the appropriate wine for each dish."

Says Hanni, "This is not an indictment for well-intentioned wine professionals. It is indicative of our lack of understanding how vastly different our sensory physiology can be from one person to the next."


Anonymous said...

As a sweet wine drinker, and a Napan, I can tell you the prejudice is palpable. Just say "sweet" wine and you are OUT!

I would love to see the tables reversed and have a sommelier or two turn up their noses the next time someone orders a zinfandel or Cabernet and see what happens!

Anonymous in Napa.

Anonymous said...

I find many hopped-up CA wines sweet...ask any yeast trying to ferment grapes coming at such high sugar levels.