Questions: Is a wine's signature characteristics, appearance, smell, body, flavor, and finish, as a whole or in part, more discernable as the wine's quality increases, and does it fundamentally follow that this is true with more expensive wines? These questions arise from a friend which has commented on a wine's "style", and that of a blogger which asks: Are modern wines "lacking in personality?"
I suppose that leads to other questions, but words like homogenization, consistency, and boring lead to ideas like: Modern red or white table wine just maybe the rise of nearly indistinguishable varietals, but of far superior quality over past plonk everyday wines; a boring, but palatable wine, even a fairly good wine, is preferable to one that is character-rich, but oxymoronically nearly undrinkable, though this isn't by necessity the rule, but is often the case, often enough to inspire, with marketing concerns (drink young wines), the trend toward what is often referred to as an "International wine style".
Varietal character is more important to some consumers, and that rightly being of concern for more expensive and esoteric wines. While standardization of healthy and consistent, but boring winemaking techniques just maybe broadening wine's appeal and having wine on the dinner table; this should, and I think certainly, not preclude finding good character-rich wines, though they maybe harder to find in the future, and more expensive too.
Following trains of these thoughts leads to more and varied questions, but now of great import (to me), is the wine critic and his/her ability to separate good standardized/homogenized wines from good wines of varietal character.
Case in point: Heitz Ink Grade Vineyard Napa Valley 2012 Zinfandel is a good example; I found this Zinfandel to be so out of the box, so different from, say, a Lodi Zinfandel, that regular consumers of Zinfandel wines just might mistake Heitz for a Sangiovese; is the Heitz un-Zinfandel-like, or are average Lodi Zinfandel wines guilty of homogenization? Isn't there a conflict with the question itself?
I can't answer that for anyone else, but from what I've seen, and I very well could be a culprit in this accusation, find many reviews on this wine nearly as characterless as the average Lodi Zin itself; yes, I read other's reviews, and yes, I know many critics never do; so what?
If you're drinking Merlot wines that are indistinguishable from Syrah wines, but as long as they taste good, does that matter to you?
My own experience, as limited as that may be, is that in blind tastings, all things being equal, the standout wines are those of good varietal rich character over the more standardized/homogenized wines.
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