...is they're not young and sexy! We--in the impersonal, cultural sense (so not necessarily you...or me...)--are obsessed with youth. You wouldn't have to try hard to convince me that this has been true since the earliest hominids reached middle-age and first noticed the nubile charms of their H-O-T hot youth frolicking through the ferns. Eons have passed, and there has been nothing to stop the insanity! Just take a look at music: in popular music, attractive kids are first snatched into the stage-mom vortex at the Disney Channel, and if they kind of have talent, that's an added gift; in classical music, the examples of child prodigies are legion--young violinists or pianists are lionized because of their technical facility, and while physical beauty is not so important, well, it sure would be a plus.
This attraction to youth is, I have noticed, also true with wine. For a while, economic factors--and advances in winemaking technology--drove many producers to make flashy, fresh, up-front wines. It makes perfect sense: as the buying public grew, the horde of new wine drinkers gravitated naturally to the wines that are easy to drink right away. Such wines have always existed, but now they can be as tutti-fruitti as you could want, and that makes them even easier to slurp down.
Too Much of a Good Thing
My least favorite scion of this trend is the wine that you can either drink now, or save for twenty years. You can do this with most any wine of course, but I'm talking about wines that are fruit-forward as well as capable of aging. It's the vinous equivalent of having your cake and eating it too. Advances in technology now allow winemakers to control oxygen absorption (micro-oxygenation) to a specific degree before bottling. While oxygen is the the enemy of wine, it can--if well-monitored--make a wine more approachable. This means that now you can buy wine that will, supposedly, taste great young (because the tannins are softly nestled into the structure and expressed with varying degrees of intensity, directly proportional to the price you paid) and age beautifully (those tannins are intended to ensure longevity...though I've witnessed many wines that are decrepit before their time).
I don't know about you, but despite my inclination toward wild flights of fancy, this notion has my reality-o-meter blaring like a car horn in a box-blocking traffic jam. A wine that is delicious now and is great after a score of years sounds idiotic. It's like Kingsford charcoal, which now "lights faster, burns longer!" How's that possible? Imagine the chemical engineering that went into that! This is the wine world's version of a dress-'em-up-to-look-old-enough kind of thing, and not the way a 16 year-old tries to look twenty-one. It's more disturbing than that...there's something a bit too JonBenét Ramsey about it for me.
Continued in Part II on Monday
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