Friday, March 30, 2012

What is a Good Wine

Meet Joe Koch…he likes Pinky!

What is a good wine? That is a never ending, but universal question. Everyone asks “what’s a good wine?” And I always answer, what wine do you like? Because whatever wine that is, then that’s a good wine. It really does not matter what I say, or what the “wine experts” say. All that matters is if you like a wine, then to you, that’s a good wine.

Harry & his Carlo Rossi!
If you ask me what I like, I will tell you my favorite wines are bold cabs with a lot of tannins, or robust Zins with a lot of up front fruit.  If you ask our neighbor Paul, he will tell you the name of some French wine, while John likes earthy wines that are true to their region. But to my friend Harry, its Carlo Rossi Cabernet. And I’ve sat many an afternoon on Harry’s porch having wonderful conversations while I drank a glass or two of his Carlo Rossi.

The number one selling wines at a lot of Texas wineries are sweet wines. And if you look at the number one selling wine in the US, White Zinfandel, you would have to say that a lot of people must like it. To them, it’s a good wine.   

 And that’s the point. What is a good wine is very subjective. I am not talking about how wine is rated by the people in the know, whoever they are. What I’m talking about is the wine you buy and drink, to you, that’s a good wine. Everyone has their own tastes and going to wine tastings are a great way to find out what you like.

Joe Koch likes Pinky!
Which brings me to Joe Koch…he likes Pinky…you know, White Zinfandel. To Joe it’s a great wine. In fact he likes almost all blush wines, but White Zins are his favorite. Now Joe is our designated driver on our wine trips and luckily white Zins are not at most of the wineries we visit.

On one of our visits to a Napa winery, Joe was looking around their very dark wood paneled tasting room. One of the winery staff walked up to Joe and asked if he could help him. To this Joe replied, “you got any Pinky…you know white Zinfandel”. I promise Joe does not live in a trailer, but he did get a fairly rude response!

So is white zinfandel a good wine? Well to me the answer would be a resounding NO! But if you like white zinfandel, the answer would be yes. And to a whole lot of wine drinkers, the answer is yes, and that is why white zinfandel was developed.

You see the US wine industry faced major problems after prohibition. Only wineries making wines for religious purposes had remained open, and most wine grapes had to be replanted. But finally in 1976 the US wine industry beat the French in a blind tasting. And with that win, the US wine industry started to grow. But the growth was primarily with existing wine drinkers. To get new ones, they had to get a US population that primarily drank beer and mixed drinks to try wine. 

White Zinfandel AKA Pinky! 
Enter White Zins and all the other sweet wines. White Zinfandels and wines like Boone’s Farm, Annie Green Springs, Ripple and Cold Duck are all cheap and sweet gateway wines designed to get new drinkers, especially young women, to drink wine. The theory being if she wanted wine, her date would buy it! It worked and Americans now drink more wine than any other alcohol drink.

I will never forget the line in the movie The Jerk, where Nathan tells his waiter he wants more wine, but bring him the new stuff not any of that old wine. And as I tell Joe, his White Zin has probably only aged a week. But much to my chagrin, Joe is doing what the wine industry hopes new wine drinkers will do, he is trying more wines. For now he’s only drinking white wines, but he has started the journey toward better wines. And who knows, someday he may even try some dry reds.

 Not everyone starts at sweet wines. My youngest son and our daughter started off liking bold reds. "Lucky me," they like the wines in our wine cabinet, especially the expensive ones!  But that’s also the point, different people like different types and styles of wine. So there is no answer to the question “what’s a good wine.”  If you like it, drink it!

And the next time you see someone drinking White Zinfandel, don’t be a wine snob, realize they may be starting their own journey toward a wonderful wine adventure!


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  1. Harold, I have been enjoying your wine blogs. I can't wait to get back to one of the porch parties and drink some Carlo Rossil with Harry. You do have a picture of one of my favorites--White Zinfandel, Barringer's White Zinfandel! A snobby woman once told me that it was "trailor trash wine." I am still drinking it and still loving it. Of course, John has introduced to me to some finer wines. theBAT (John's mother-in-law)

  2. I knew my mother would love this! Great article:))

    1. And momma, it IS your White Zin. I took the picture at your house and sent it to Harold - haha.

  3. The best part about white zin may not be the complexity or vintage, but you have to appreciate the cost. I wonder if it's possible to find a botte of white zin that is more than $10 (excluding the magnum and box sizes).

    Twobuck Charles

    1. I cannot image paying more than $10 for a bottle of Pinky, and I am pretty sure you can't!!

  4. Harold, is Joe Koch a real person, or did you make him up for your blog???? Only in Texas....'ya gotta luv him.

  5. Yes Joe Koch is a real person and a real Texan! You could not make him up if you wanted to, and I would not want to change him...well ok thats a sretch!! joe is my Brother-in-Law and one of my best friends, Pinky and all!!!