Thursday, January 3, 2013


Are Americans open to drinking more tannic wines than they have been in the past? My sense is that they are. Certainly, I am. But I think the trend cuts across more than just the taste of tannic wine. Why is it, really, that kale salads are SO popular? Why have bland white spirits mixed with fruit juice given way in their popularity to cocktails with a barrel aged spirit base and the addition of bitters? I think the American palate is in general skewing more towards the bitter, and closer to the savory edge.

How Americans relate to bitter flavors has come under discussion in a couple of different pieces that have come out recently, both of which you might find interesting even if you don't agree with me.

Eric Asimov's excellent piece about Dolcetto in the Times breaks the national silence on a grape that has a big audience back home in Italy, and a big presence on retail shelves in America, but which receives little attention here and no acclaim. I definitely recommend that you give Eric's piece a read. There really is a plethora of inexpensive Dolcetto readily available in the States, and you rarely are paying the oak tax at the register when you buy a bottle. I certainly have been drinking a lot of Dolcetto myself. One of my favorite producers of Dolcetto, by the way, is Flavio Roddolo. I would point you towards either of his two Dolcettos if you want to see what all the fun is about.

I drank this 1996 Roddolo Dolcetto a few months ago and it was dee -lish. Think about that for a second. This is a wine where you can pick up a current vintage for about $20 a bottle. What red wines for $20 are you able to drink with pleasure on release OR age for around 20 years with great results? Not so many options come to mind, but this one does.

Some of the other wines I'm drinking these days are talked about in a listing from Imbibe Magazine. I remember getting the email request from the author of that piece and as I was writing the response it was like, wow, wine after wine, what do these all share that's the same? The answer, of course, was savory and bitter flavors. No fluff stuff, and no General Mills packaging. It is a trend that I've seen in other people's drinking and eating habits as well.

What do you think? Are we Americans getting more savvy about savory?


Steven said...

It's been my experience that it is much easier to turn people onto savory wines of the red variety. That said, when I successfully turn people onto savory wines of the white or off-white variety, like an amontillado or Jura, they become much more passionately invested in the style they've just discovered.

Enjoyed the dolcetto article! The Imbibe article made me want to start a chefs only wine tasting group. Not sure when we could meet though... breakfast? If anyone would like to sign up, I'm on the internet.

David McCowan said...

I would love to believe you. I mean, seriously, I drink amari like water and once made sesame oil-infused gin... so I'm not one to shy away from savory. But are we (those in the know) just looking out and hoping that our love affairs are contagious? Or is there really change afoot?

I suppose that you, Levi, as a sommm have a closer finger to the pulse of the drinking public; if you see a restaurant selling more tannic wine, then I count this as evidence of a trend. But on the other hand, I hear you and your guests on "I'll Drink to That" admit that while you could survive almost exclusively on sherry and Jura, your wine lists/store shelves could not.

The world of cocktails, however, IS very clearly moving in the direction of more savory. Peppercorn tincture, celery bitters, black truffle negronis... these are all real things now and I think that people are actually quite open to these flavors. But I also wonder if it is because the cocktail movement as a whole is still young and fast paced. If you are going out to a high-end cocktail bar or if you are trying to pair cocktails with food (two things that just weren't happening 10 years ago), you might simply be primed for adventure. On the other hand, however, wine with dinner or wine at home is a longer standing tradition and whatever change may occur must occur incrementally.