Dark Roast : Coffee :: Overripe Reds : Wine

In his latest Drinking Out Loud post at winespectator.com, Matt Kramer makes the case that Starbuck’s new Blonde Roast signals a general shift in American tastes toward more nuance, less intensity-for-intensity’s-sake:

As the marketing mavens of Starbucks have discovered, the American palate is seeking an alternative to heavy flavors. Are we becoming—dare I say it?—more nuanced? By golly, I think we are.

Witness the recalibration among an increasing number of California winemakers as to what constitutes “ripeness” in a grape. In a reaction against the wine version of “dark-roasted grapes,” newer producers such as Rhys, Copain, Arnot-Roberts, Peay, Kutch and Parr, among others, have put their pocketbooks where there palates are by making wines (mostly Pinot Noir, as well as Syrah) with alcohol levels as low as 12 percent. Longtime producers such as Mayacamas, Au Bon Climat and Cathy Corison, among others, have quietly gone their own restrained way for decades.

It’s an apt analogy. And I wonder if there’s an even broader rule at play here that applies in countless other areas of interest: intensity-seeking as a base form of connoisseurship. Do beer snobs look down their noses at hop-heads counting their IBUs? Foodies make fun of heat-seekers and their chile pepper flip-flops?

Whatever. I believe in the Big Tent philosophy of wine enthusiasm. There are thousands of different wines for a reason. Drink what you like. Dark roasted or unoaked.

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