03-01-2017 ~ 3 Comments

“Wine lies” are still lies

My plans for New Years were probably similar to those not terribly game for the evening which was to say, chilling with my dog and a bottle of Champagne from the “decent” range. But, at the last minute, I had to fill in for a multi-day tour which was mainly in Barcelona with trips down to Penedès and Cava producers. I’d say the dog was not amused but he got to go up to the farmhouse, chase the scents of wild boar, and be next to a fire that’s more than a touch warmer than what I can muster in my village.

Jumping in to a visit you hadn’t planned is a lot like jumping in to a churning squall: you figure out which way is up and do your best to watch out for debris. This, combined with it being in the middle of Spain’s lengthy holiday period made things, “interesting”.

When I go to Penedès and Cava, I go to cellars I trust as I know their wines and history. In this case, the visits were already scheduled and not at places I had an ongoing relationship with. I found myself constantly having to “correct” what was being said by those leading the tours, off to the side. One instance was a winery serving a 2014 wine from its Priorat cellar and telling one of the people on the tour that it, “will be excellent in five years, so drink it in ten”. Afterwards, I mentioned to the fellow who had been told this that while the 2014s from Priorat are generally sound, it’s a short-lived vintage best had in the next 2-3 years. He admitted that the sales pitch had left him a bit wanting and he hadn’t bought a bottle of it in the end.

The aging exaggerations are par for the course with most wineries so I didn’t think too much of it other than to wish wineries didn’t do that. But what really got me was another winery we went to where we finished the meal with a wine that was a blend of mostly Chardonnay with a smaller percentage of Muscat. Off to the side I asked the fellow leading the tour, in Catalan as to be discreet, how much residual sugar it had. He told me that it was just the sensation of the Muscat.

For anyone who knows Muscat, you know that it’s a very singular grape in terms of aroma. It’s unique in taste as well to some regard but if it’s made dry and not sweet like they do in dessert wines of Empordà or Rivesaltes, it tastes dry. There is no “illusion” of sweet.

Naturally, some of the people in the tour asked me about this to which I basically had to say the guy leading the tour was lying as even they, as passionate wine lovers with no training could tell that the wine had a sweet tinge to it. And that looks bad as then people lose confidence in your wines.

It should be emphasized that this isn’t just the big producers doing these things. I’ve found plenty of “wine lies” in small producers as well, the most common being, “we use organic methods for viticulture”. “Do you have organic certification?” “No, but we follow it strictly.” Most anyone should run for the hills when encountering this as there are no valid excuses to not have your vineyards certified organic if you are indeed “practicing” it.

And I bring all this up as we start 2017 because 2016 has closed out a blockbuster year in terms of fraud in wine. It may start with little flubs of the truth, but these things can quickly get out of control as silly as that may sound. If we don’t start policing them better ourselves, then Carole Meredith’s awesome quote, “Can there be any other business where there is so much bullshit?” will continue to reign supreme.