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Consumer tastes have changed to full-bodied wines

By Staff
Oct. 3, 2001
There was a time when men wore fedoras (that's a type of hat for those too young to know), every young girl owned an Angora sweater and a poodle skirt, and grown women had a collection of lightweight printed pattern house dresses in which they did their work or ran to the store.
But fashions changed, as they always do, and such clothing is now considered quaint and seen only in old magazines or in long-forgotten closets.
The same is true of wine. Fashions change. At one time Beaujolais was one of the standards of the wine industry, a major seller many considered to be as good as wine could get. Today this lightweight fruity wine with its short life span is not a major seller. While it remains in low demand, it no longer commands the respect or the sales of the past.
The soda pop ros wine of the 1960s and 1970s, Lancers, Mateuse and others, no longer sell. In fact, you'd have difficulty even finding them in most package stores, although once they were major factors in the wine trade.
Merlot still sells well but producers have changed their approach to this grape. Instead of that soft velvety taste of years gone by, it is being made with cabernet or other wines blended in to give it body it never knew before.
American tastes have moved on to the big powerful reds, the cabernet sauvignon, the red zinfandel, the Australian shiraz.
I see it all the time. Package store operators will tell you that the red zinfandels are on a strong rise. Australian wines have come from nowhere to become major sellers. Cabernets are now the most popular red wines in the market.
Most of all I see it in our tastings. Time and again when the tasting is over, I am asked about the wines that delivered the most intensity of flavor that evening, where to buy them, and how much they cost.
The reason is simple. Producers are not only making full-bodied, well-balanced red wines of enormous flavor, they are keeping the prices down.
An excellent example is Warrior Fires red zinfandel produced by a California winery named Karly. We introduced it at a tasting during the past year, and today Edna's in Broadmoor tells me it is one of their best sellers. Northwood Country Club serves it by the glass and it is one of their most requested wines.
More people have mentioned that wine by name to me as one of their favorites than any wine we have served this year. It is big, rich, powerful, yet smooth, and sells in the $20 range, an amount today's consumer is willing to spend.
At last Thursday's tasting, we matched a Wild Horse cabernet sauvignon from California (and its very name should be an indication of the wine in the bottle) against a French Bordeaux, the well regarded Chateau Pontensac which, incidentally, costs twice as much. We asked for a show of hands after both had been tasted and the Wild Horse blew the Bordeaux off the table.
The same is true of white wines. The bigger, fuller-bodied white wines that lean toward a citrus taste, but are basically very dry, Chateu St. Jean or Landmark Overlook, for example, are in much greater favor today than the slightly sweet, almost sugary Chardonnays of the past.
More and more consumers have discovered the sauvignon blancs or fume blancs, the best of which, such as Murphy-Goode or Beringer, are wonderful wines and greatly underpriced. There is not one drop of sweetness in them, which may be the main reason they are growing in popularity.
For now, at least, the day of wimpy wines is over. California, Australia, Chile, Spain, all are among the areas now making big, full-bodied wines that most people consider to be the best.
But I do have a warning for you. Once you taste better wines, you cannot go back to the insipid wines of the past. Perhaps "warning" is the wrong word. "Good news" would be more accurate.
Stan Torgerson is a long-time resident of Meridian who writes a weekly wine column.

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