Monday, January 25, 2010
Just Curious, When Did Sweet Become The "S" Word?
So I have been wrestling with this post, not the writing part (which is my usual issue) but if I should even bother. It’s been done, the argument had and the outcome is always the same…nothing is ever resolved, both camps believing they are right and the other must be high. So why bother bringing it up again…just not so good with the whole, “leaving well enough alone” deal I guess. After tasting and commenting on a bunch of California wines this past weekend the whole thing came up again….sweetness.
Now before anyone goes jumping on my neck let me just say, sweetness, perceived or actual is all in the palate of the beholder. I don’t wish to continue the argument about what is sweet and what is not, or if the, “perceived” sweetness is from actual residual sugar, alcohol or oak…wanna know why? Because it doesn’t freaking matter! Who cares what is giving the “impression” of sweetness, if the wine tastes sweet, it is freaking sweet. This thing drives me nuts, every time I taste something and say, “it’s a little sweet” I get to hear the speech again, “Oh no, that wine is not sweet, there’s no RS on that wine. If you are getting a perceived sweetness it might be from the oak” this speech is always delivered with the slightly aghast, how dare you say that, face.
Two things about this whole thing twist my undies; one is the arrogance of one person telling another what they are tasting or worse, that they are tasting wrong…who the hell do you think you are?! What I taste, how I taste and my perceptions are correct…for me. Would I turn around and tell a customer that the wine is sweet, probably not, not unless I knew their palate well enough to know that it would likely taste sweet to them. All taste is subjective, some people have a higher threshold for sweetness than I do, matter of fact I think most do. I don’t drink soda, will take cheese over dessert every time and I even put salt on my fruit for balance, I don’t find pleasure in sweetness but I would never call it a flaw. The other thing that gives my knickers a twist is the fact that those people that scrunch up their face when I say I am getting sweetness on a wine, see that as me pointing out a fault or flaw….when did, “sweet” become a bad word?!
I just don’t get it, some of the world’s greatest wines are sweet, some of the most respected, most sought after, most expensive…but I mention that I got sweetness on a Marcassin Pinot Noir and I get the scrunchy face and speech. Did I say I didn’t like the wine? Did I say that it was in any way jacked up?! No, as a matter of fact I rather liked the wine, it was sweet to me but I still liked it, was still able to taste things beyond the initial, “perception” of sweetness…so what gives? Why the defensive attacks on people’s palate when they mention sweetness? Why be defensive at all? Somehow we can talk about animal pee and poo but mention sweet and the fancy pants wine police thump you about the head and shoulders. Fruit is supposed to be sweet right; I mean you rarely see a shelf talker that says, “aroma of under ripe cherries” do you?
Last month I was given a box of rare and very special California wines, a beloved friend was trying to show me, teach me really, what great California wine can be…that Marcassin Pinot Noir was one of those wines and I popped it at work to share with the kids. I was tickled by the wine, I knew it was special and alone gave me a giggle, here I was the proud owner of this hard to get bottle of California wine. It was a gift from someone I absolutely adore, nother giggle. When I took my first deep whiff I must confess that my brow furrowed a bit…brown sugar, not my favorite thing to find in any wine, but I kept trying and I was able to pick out some cooked black cherries….ripe ones even. I brought the wine to my lips and again was a bit taken aback by the sweetness, that smack of sweetness that seems to attack the very tip of my tongue, but the more I tasted the more I was able to pick up. I liked the wine, even ended up pouring myself a deep glass of it to keep me company while I was doing my closing duties.
The more of those wines I tasted the more I started to crave that little sweetness, the way it wrestled with my tongue…and won. I would get home and dip into my fridge to see what was next or, I would be having a glass from the bottle I had opened the night before, or the night before that…..and you see, the thing for me, the way I drink, I never have a leftover bottle of French wine to dip into. So while I may not always go for a second or third glass in one night, I find that sweetness quite pleasant. Now I’m starting to wonder if I should be using some other term to describe that, “sucrosity” that I tend to perceive when tasting a lot of domestic wines….cuzz I’m getting kinda tired of picking at that crusty old scab of a conversation about residual sugar. If it tastes sweet to me than it’s sweet….to me and I personally don’t think sweet is a bad word.