Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Leave Your Lazy White Pejudice Behind

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Leave Your Lazy White Pejudice Behind

Article excerpt

There aren't many places where whites are exposed to more prejudice than any other colour, but wine is one. Red grapes are rarely the victim of sweeping stereotyping--yes, everyone who has seen the film Sideways knows that Pinot Noir is a sensitive little critter, but most amateurs haven't extrapolated a whole character profile from that. In any case, Paul Giamatti was singing a paean to the stuff, so any received ideas are likely to be positive. If not, never mind: anything that helps hoi polloi lay off red burgundy is fine by me. Supply is limited and I have only so many drinking hours in the day.

For some reason, white grapes get a descriptor slapped on them and that's that. It's ironic really, because the most frequently planted international white varieties are often planted precisely because of their adaptability. Also, if you think about it, the idea that two Chardonnays from different hemispheres are similar makes a nonsense of terroir--the notion that a wine tastes of where it comes from. But people don't think about it--and who can blame them? If they wanted a discussion of soil types, they'd pick up a geology journal, not a bottle.

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So, Sauvignon Blanc gets tagged the "gooseberry" grape; Chardonnay is herded into the "rich, vanilla" ghetto--and Riesling is only allowed to be sweet. Life is easier and poorer, as it generally is when simplified. There is, of course, a waft of truth here but what about the mineral Chardonnays of Chablis, or the aromatic Pouilly-Fume Sauvignons? And, while I love sweet Rieslings and also those with just the lick of sugar that so wonderfully sets off the quantities of crushed chilli I like to deploy at every possible opportunity, the dry ones are my favourites.

I like to claim I don't have a sweet tooth, although what I mean--as I discovered when I gave up drinking for a month once (and never again)--is that I love sugar but prefer it fermented. …

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