Sometimes wine just makes me scratch me head. Despite the subjectivity of taste, I still think I know good wine from bad. But then I go and try something popular with the critics and subsequently the masses, and I feel completely lost and disconnected from my fellow humans.
Case in point - the 2004 Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha. This is Spanish red wine made from the grenache grape, the king of the southern Rhone Valley in France and hardly anywhere else.
Along comes Spain, with seemingly endless tracts of old and young wine grenache that is allegedly - if you believe what you read - taking over the wine world with some of the best quality wine for the money anywhere.
Las Rocas, a co-op wine from the Calatayud region, has a few vintages of glowing reviews from the tastemaker himself, Robert Parker. Do a quick Google search and you'll find bloggers drooling over this stuff. So I see a bottle of the latest release for $10, which isn't as cheap as you can find this...wine elsewhere, and listen carefully the wine clerk's assurance, "I think you'll really like this wine," and toss a bottle in the grocery cart. Never mind that the clerk doesn't know anything about me or my taste in wine. Who needs to know any of that? This is good wine, everybody knows it, so naturally I'll enjoy it.
I get home and open the wine, pour a glass and notice a seemingly unnatural purple color. This is grenache, which even with the best producers tends to give a cherry red wine (if not something much lighter). But this wine looks more like motor oil, with an oily sheen and a violet tinge to the black/red color.
I smell the wine. Burnt rubber tires, stewed cherries and plums, pepper (this is grenache after all), and strange vegetal fruit syrup aromas. This is a winner - weirdest wine of the year, to date. What is this? Who did what to common grapes to end up with this? Can a wine smell harsh? This one does.
Reluctantly, I taste the wine. It's predictably sweet and fleshy, with warm alcohol and possibly a touch of residual sugar, cola flavors with berries, that vegetal syrup thing, more burnt rubber tires, low acid until a strange, false sense of acidity pokes holes in the revolting flavor, gracelessly but happily ending the experience.
I smell the wine again. It's still the same. I taste it again. No change.
Honestly, if I made this wine - and make no mistake, this wine is true creation - I would think it should be sold off in bulk. In winespeak, it's clearly reductive, which can go away with exposure to air. But it also seems to show mercapten, which isn't so easily reversible. Mercapten is the nasty stuff they put into odorless natural gas so you'll smell as gas leak. So that the smell is nasty enough that you'll do something about it. Quickly.
No, this is critically acclaimed wine recommended by wine retailers, resold by wine bloggers, and apparently loved by the masses. Great value, terrific QPR, back up the truck, buy it by the case.
But I'm left thirsty and in a foul mood for having wasted time and money on this wine. Not to mention the fracture in my soul for knowing such wines exist and that I clearly can't tell you what will appeal to the average person. So note that and read further entries in this journal accordingly. You've been warned.