jamie goode's wine blog: Spoofy wine

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Spoofy wine

The inconvenient truth for those of us writing about wine is that 90% of all wine is crap. I apologise for putting it so crudely, but that's the way it is.

While I admire the UK supermarket wine buyers, I'm sorry to say that if you were to go into your local supermarket and pick a wine at random, you'd likely be getting something that isn't worth using your weekly alcohol unit allocation on. Serious wine is actually quite hard to find, and you need to know where to look.

We're not just talking about price here. Unfortunately, you can spend a lot of money and end up with rubbish wine.

Once you start spending more, you run a high risk of encountering a 'spoofulated' wine. One that has been tarted up to look like something authentic, or which has been made to appeal to a certain palate - for example, by late picking, extended cold maceration and ludicrous new oak barrel regimes.

I'm also quite depressed by the way that cheap wines are made to imitate more expensive wines. Rather than producing something delicious, authentic and simple, producers feel the need to trick their wines up with grape juice concentrate, barrel alternatives and misguided application of microoxygenation.

But the good news is this: the 10% of wines that aren't crap are utterly compelling, life-enhancing, thrilling examples of how the combination of site, variety and intelligent work in the vineyard and cellar can produce a product that conveys an authentic sense of somewhereness.

I actually feel very positive about the wine industry. My hope is that those who write about wine (1) can tell the difference between authentic and spoofy wines; and (2) can resist the commerical pressures to favour the latter in place of the former.


At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Jack Everitt said...

I score it a bit differently, using three categories instead of two:

Real Wine - 5%

Just Wine - 15%

Not Wine/Bad Wine - 80%*

*Includes spoofulated wine...and it's amazing how well thought of these are by some wine writers/critics.

At 1:17 AM, Anonymous Ian S said...

I very much agree with your comments here.

How do you think wine critics should address this when newspaper editors say they expect recommendations to be:
- Widely available
- Under 7, preferably under 5

FWIW I do look for experts in their field to champion the very best, or at least what they'd choose to buy for themselves.

Sadly too many wine critics talk up some pretty average wines, especially in newspaper columns and on the rare occasions wine is on TV.



p.s. I promise not to mention Zonte's footsteps!

At 4:30 AM, Blogger kevin said...

Hello Jamie

In your view does this apply more to some countries than others or does it apply generally across the board?

I think in the modern day it is probably being a bit harsh on many new world wine countries.

At 6:40 AM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Is that 10% by volume or by lines?

Must say that the 10% figure sounds a little high to me - and a bit casually defined. Assuming it's 10% by lines across all UK supermarkets and "bad" means <=85% (i.e. if you took one bottle of each of the different wines in all UK supermarkets - perhaps excluding the flagship stores, but including the "fine wine" ranges in the stores that have them) you'd find that only 10% would score higher than, 85%?)

Good point Ian - which category would you put Z.F. in, Jamie?

At 7:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The inconvenient truth for those of us writing about wine is that 90% of all wine is crap. I apologise for putting it so crudely, but that's the way it is.

What rubbish.
Why do you resort to such attention-grabbing statements that are patently untrue?

At 8:26 AM, Anonymous Iris said...

By saying, that 90% of all wine is crop, you're talking about wines in supermarkets, if I understand well. I can't discuss this, because it's not where I purchase my bottles normally. But by your definition of crap , I would rather say, 90% of those wines don't correspond to your taste - which for me, seems a quite different statement...

As a wine-maker, I'm a bit worried about your criteria for "spoofulated wines". Late picking for me means waiting for the ideal maturity, well balanced ripe grapes, which I have not to correct or mask by additives - cold maceration may happen "normally" under this conditions, if you just wait for your indigenous yeasts to start fermentation, without boosting with selected high-performers - and new oak barrels are for me the perfect cradle in good years, to help my wines to develop and grow up - and I can assure you, on the production side, it's not the inexpensive way to do things.

I agree with you, that with under-ripe and over-cropped grapes, things are different - if you want to make them look (and taste) like something different, you will have to tart them up by any means - and the difference will show at least after some years in the glass.

The problem seems to be, that less and less people are ready to give wine a chance to evolute slowly - as well in the cellar (mycrooxygenation in tanks with oak chips is quicker and cheaper than patient barrel work), as on the consumer's side, by keeping it for some years, surveying it under good conditions and opening it, perhaps decanting it some hours ahead of a meal celebration.

Wine is to often treated like fast food - easy to purchase and easy to drink.

Like you, I can only hope, that many of those, who write about wine, know the difference between a natural beauty, which may need to take some age, to reveal, that the ugly duck is a swan and the stylish, over-masqueraded bony top model - and help us, to educate the public of future wine drinkers, that sometimes it's worth waiting .

But this needs information and education - good advice, on the critics side, but also at the distributor's - so perhaps it would be worth while to talk more about the middle part between wine-maker and wine-drinker: a passionated and well informed wine-shop-keeper (caviste) - assisted by decent wine-writers, who follow your hopes expressed at the end of your post.

At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Patently untrue", Anonymous... well, actually it seems most people on here agree with Jamie!

In fact, I'd put the percentage of good wine well under 10% at Sainsburys, Tesco, Asada, Morrisons, etc.

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The definition of "crap" is clearly a subjective one. I take it to mean a sub-standard wine that tastes bad and is poor value for money.
I think the majority of supermarket wines do what they say on the tin, but don't expect to be wowed by drinking them. Does that make them "crap"? I don't think so.

I think there are lots of crap wines about, but to say that 90% of all wine is like that is rubbish.

Attention-grabbing nonsense; the true sign of an ineffectual blogger.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Nick Oakley said...

Tend to agree with the last anonymous comment. There is very little bad wine around these days (compared to 20 years ago when cheap wine could be a minefield). Pretty much all wines reach an acceptable, decent standard, even at the lowest price points in my view. As for the 'crap' comment, I think it's a bit harsh, although I can certainly think of some over-sweetened, gloopy offerings which sell more than they deserve. The power of branding..........

Perhaps this subject crosses over with last week's postings about wine snobbishness, and what people 'ought' to be drinking

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like you have opened up a can of worms on this one Jamie!

As a newcomer to collecting wine, and price is a key element in selection criteria - I am keen to know how a 'novice' can recognise spoofy wine (and therefore avoid).

I tend to buy new world wine due to the price (unless I'm buying cellar door). Do I take it from this that, for example, a south african bordeaux blend style wine is a spoof? Or are you talking about low quality wines from a region purposely making themselves look grand in order to pull the wool over consumers? Due to this I understand New World wines/regions much better then some great regions in France.

It would be good to have a greater explanation on this to clarify the situation.

At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't Booze & Blog Jamie...;)

At 9:42 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Of course, 10% is a figure plucked out of the air, and the term 'crap' is a bit harsh. But I do despair at the number of utterly boring wines I have to taste in the course of my work.

ZF is of course a spoofy wine, but sometimes spoofy is perhaps acceptable if the wine is clearly not pretending to be anything other than a spoofed-up, big-balls, in-yer-face assault on your senses.

Nick - there's little faulty wine around these days - but there's plenty of boring, neutral, soulless wine. And there are lots of wines with famous appellation names on the label that quite simply don't give a good reflection of their origins.

I suppose we are entering the realm of semantics here - what is 'crap'?

At 10:00 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

'Dull' would have done fine. You're not writing for the NME at the height of the Punk Rock Wars.

At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell it as it is, Jamie. I like "crap". :-)

At 9:32 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

I hear you Jamie, tell it like it is.

At 9:48 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Some interesting comments. Seems like one has to indulge in hyperbole to get attention - is this a spoofulated blog?

It's true that this is another slant on the education brigade. Take 10 wines from your favourite merchant, Caves des Pyrenes and compare to 10 wines from (say) Tesco and I suspect that the general public would prefer the Tesco wines (particularly if you told them the price, but even if you pretended they were the same).

Does this mean that the public has "crap" taste? Probably...

At 6:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure that when Jamie first drank wine, he would have found much of CdP's wines not to his taste.

But now, he has learned to appreciate them, and recognises that they are rather more interesting and complex than most supermarket wines.

Doesn't make 90% of all wine "crap", though. Just a touch on the snobby side, that remark, I'm afraid!


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