Drink MORE Bad Wine

Posted by The Wine Whore |

I remember the moment well. We were driving through the rolling hills of the green vineyards of Bordeaux and a thought rolled off my tongue as quickly as the passing scenery. The thought punctuated a conversation about Bordeaux wine...

I said, "I have to tell you, after all of the wines that I have tried, it doesn't seem the French have much BAD wine"

French wine whore's response: "Oh, we have PLENTY of bad wine"

This got me thinking... not just about which country has more bad wine, but I started thinking about how we are all affected by the experience of tasting "bad wine". Like most people, when I started drinking wine, I don't know if I could recognize what I would consider a bad bottle of wine. There may have been bottles of wine that I didn't enjoy, but I don't think I knew enough about my palate to know what I like and don't like about a bottle of wine.

Does experience tasting wine actually make you dislike more wine?

I don't think that this is necessarily true but I do believe that drinking more wine helps you recognize exactly which characteristics you enjoy. It also helps you learn the characteristics that make up what you would consider a "bad" bottle of wine. In other words, drinking "bad" wine helps you learn and appreciate the characteristics that make up a "good" bottle of wine. Everyone should drink more bad wine.. or at least challenge themselves with bottles they would not normally try either because of cost (both low and high), type, or looks. After all, palates and personalities can change... you may find that the bottle of wine you once despised is now your new best friend.

My homework for everyone this weekend is to challenge your palate. Pick up, crack open, and enjoy a bottle of wine that you wouldn't have otherwise tried and report back your findings.

  • Did it suck?

  • Was it what you expected?

  • What did you like/dislike?

  • Would you buy it again?

  • What did it remind you of?

Use the comment section below to post your results and most importantly...


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Richard Auffrey said...

I do agree. There are a couple grapes, Cabernet Franc and Carmenere, that I tend to dislike when they are the primary grape in a wine. To me, they often have a green/vegetal flavor that really turns me off. I don't want to drink a salad.

But, I perserve and continue to taste wines made from those grapes. Despite generally disliking them. That has led though to me finding several such wines that I have actually enjoyed, wines which had a different profile from the ones I disliked. Yet I would never have found them unless I drank more wines I disliked.

The Wine Whore said...

Did you find that your appreciation for these grapes was actually increased by tasting more wine that you would have considered "bad"?

bschuler said...

I am not sure "BAD" is the right term to use. Perhaps introducing the concept of "Bad" vs "disappointing" is a better way to think this through.

I know many vegetarians who think steak tastes bad. I love steak. I have had great steak, I have had disappointing steak and downright bad steak. But because someone doesn't like the taste of something doesn't make it bad. However we can differentiate between something that is made badly or produced from poor ingredients, resulting in an inferior product. Also, there can be something that is very good, but disappointing, perhaps because of price.

When I started getting interested in wine (way before I started making wine) I too very quickly discovered I don't like "green notes" that taste like green bell pepper, or make a wine vegetal. I later found out that immature Bordeaux can have a lot of green notes that ultimately age out of the wine or transform into a "hint" that some people really like.

At the same time these green notes (caused by methoxypyrazines)can be found in high levels in lower quality California Cab, never go away and are typical of low price-point Cab. I would call that "bad."

Clearly there are many wines produced in the US made in bulk, with low quality fruit simply intended to appeal to the mass market. Most people who develop a palette and passion for wine would say they are bad.

In France the overall bar for wine is much higher at the low end of the market. French people have been drinking wine at every meal for centuries and have developed sophisticated palettes. But they would never refer to an everyday $10 table wine as "bad" but instead "inferior" to the expensive Grand Cru they enjoy on special occasions. But to your point, the general quality of low price-point wines in France is way better than mass market wines in the US.

On another point, I have tasted First Growth Bordeauxs and notable California wines and have been disappointed. None of these were bad wines in anyway. They were well constructed from great fruit but they never took me on the"journey" that I have come to expect from a great bottle of wine. So my response is meh and disappointment. But I wouldn't call them bad, maybe "overrated" in my opinion.

Then there is the whole question of varietals. I love Pinot Noir. The Whine Whore is more tentative about it. But you do have to taste a lot to decide what is good, great, disappointing inferior or downright bad.

Wine in general is an acquired taste. With it's many varieties, styles, blends there is so much to explore. No question, the more you do it the better you will get at it. You will learn what flavor profiles you gravitate toward (and find that even this will evolve over time). You will also learn how to match your desire to your wallet.

In the end it is the learning and exploration that turns wine from a drink to a passion.

The Wine Whore said...

Great comments! I agree with many of your points. There is certainly a distinction between bad and inferior wine and the best way to find out is to explore!

I'd love to be a champion for a specific grape much like Miles from Sideways brought more people into the world of Pinot Noir. I have always thought that Cabernet Sauvignon is my favorite but after drinking many good/bad/inferior/expensive wines from this grape, I don't think it is my favorite anymore. Isn't that funny how tastes can also change?

Which grape should I choose?

bschuler said...

For your audience I think Syrah might be a very interesting varietal. It is a very easy entry (important for any whore) but has plenty of complexity and many styles. Also it is made in many regions, California, the Rhone, and in Australia where it is called Shiraz as you probably know.

Great cocktail and food wine and many really good wines at terrific price points.

But keep in mind, you can stray from Cab but she will always lure you back ;-).

The Wine Whore said...

LOL! Easy entry is always very important! :)

I am seriously considering your advice... I think Syrah has always been my girlfriend despite the fact that Cab has been my wife.


ChrisO said...

Dear Whore,
I think the point that needs to be made here is not to drink more bad wine, but drink more wine period. Experiment more, drink outside your comfort-zone more, and be more open to the unusual. Why would anyone want to drink bad wine?

We must remember that wine reviews or preferences are never objective they are truly subjective, so by drinking more wine you will learn to discover YOUR likes and dislikes. I always liken it to the journey of discovery that a child takes from infant to adulthood, whereby they are exposed to new foods almost daily and through these experiences learn what does and does not appeal to them.

As I often say "wine is about the journey of discovery not the destination of an empty bottle!"

Go out and try, reflect and build your own experiences and wine self esteem!



The Wine Whore said...

Let me start by saying that I love comments that open with that salutation! :) Always makes me laugh!

I totally agree... I'm heading to the wine store right now. Wonder which wine will be the next on my journey as my palate grows from an infant to an adult. What about that movie "Curious Case of Benjamin Button"? Do you ever feel like your palate is aging in reverse?

Which wines are you going to expand your palate with this weekend?


ChrisO said...

Since you enjoyed it so much last time let me do it again ;)

Dear Whore,

On the docket for this weekend are wines from Rueda, Spain! Check back to see what I ended up with.

As for your Benjamin Button question, I would have to say no, because I find that the more I try the more I enjoy and want to try. However I often feel like my wallet is aging in reverse as my thirst for unique wines grows.


foodandwinechickie said...

I agree with your comment about your favorite wine changing from a Cab to something else after tasting many good & bad Cabs. I feel the exact same.
One wine I've not been able to change my opinion of is a 'typical' California oaky Chardonnay. Just can't stomach them, and don't know one instance where I'd ever NEED that wine to pair with a dish.
Uncorked a nice Chianti last night and paired it with a beef tenderloin. Didn't think it'd work, but it actually did...nicely.

GrapeSmart said...

I did this accidentally this weekend. I was given a bottle of wine from Monterey County and I drank it.

Now, Monterey County isn't a varietal (heh) but it's an AVA with wines that I RARELY find I like. Still, my knowledge about wine tells me there must be SOME Monterey wines I like (other than Ventana Chardonnay) so I keep trying them.

This weekend's surprise was 2006 Cubica Dynamo Red Wine from Monterey County. (http://www.wineofthemonthclub.com/product/809emm/malbec-is-hot-and-pinot-noir-is-hot). On the first night I thought it was gross. All I could taste was tobacco and a little bit of chocolate, with absolutely no finish (other than more tobacco). Could have been the wine I'd been drinking before I made my way to this bottle, and it could have been the pizza (but I find that unlikely). Anyway, the second night the wine was a delicious surprise! Smooth, nice finish, tobacco was gone entirely, hints of chocolate and red fruit. What a treat! I would buy another bottle (assuming the last bits fare well tonight, too).

I guess The Wine Whore is right... you gotta keep tasting bad wine!

FTC Watchdogs Note: The bottle was given to me by "The Original and Only Wine of the Month Club"

visitnormandy said...

Living in France I can vouch that there is PLENTY of bad wine. It comes in plastic barrels and costs peanuts. However, it is good in the sense that you can spit it out in the garden where it both kills weeds and keeps cats away.

Then there are the cheap bottles costing as little as a euro. They are either utterly tasteless or they taste like vinegary lemons and mouldy socks (white and red respectively).

But over 3� (and that's bloody cheap) I've never had a truly horrible wine; as price goes up I notice only differences in quality and comlexity, but especially kudos - like an trunk on an airport carousel, there's an awful lot of baggage attached to a label.

Some of the WORST wine experiences I've had have been expensive reds that have not been allowed to breathe properly.

But heck, I'm no expert. I even like some wine boxes, the popularity of which is exploding exponentially in supermarkets (where most of us ordinary folk buy our wine in France).

The Wine Whore said...

Plastic barrels?!? I never would have thought it would be THAT bad! :)

Overall, I think France has much better "value" wine. I would agree that quality and complexity were the biggest difference between a 3� bottle and a 30� bottle. The thing I liked best was that those 3� bottles were still enjoyable, a characteristic lost on many inexpensive US wines.


Sascha Illyvich - The Dark Wolf Prince said...

bad wine..bad wine...oh yes, last year's Beaujolais Nuoveau was abysmal AND in a plastic bottle..

And then there was the Trader Joe's Chard several years back. I like metal, but NOT in my wine.

Yes it's all helped to refine my palate.

The Wine Whore said...

It funny you mention that because I never used to notice that "metallic" taste in wine until I drank enough bottles of wine that I hated because of it.

I wonder what tastes I will learn to love or hate next?

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