Pittsburgh (my beloved home town) falls within the borders of Pennsylvania, a commonwealth whose liquor laws barely have crept out of prohibition, so it should come as no surprise that it’s not the most wine-savvy city east of the Mississippi River.
Elizabeth Downer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s restaurant critic recently took over as it’s wine critic (cheers to the PPG for finally having a wine critic) as well. And, while her biography sounds impressive (see call out) one can’t help but wonder what wine world she’s a part of if she’s lauding aging wine in oak as "wine-making’s hottest trend".
The story starts out well enough, with some good information on different barrels, toasting, and ways to cheaply get oak into wine. But then comes this contention:
"The flavors that oak imparts to wine have become so fashionable that
it’s a challenge today to find a wine that is totally oak-free."
Fashionable? Hard to find un-oaked wine? That is absolutely ridiculous. If anything, I see a trend of wines displaying less (or no) oak character, at least locally. Whether good or bad is up for debate, but there are certainly plenty of no-oak wines on the market beyond Beaujolais and Pinot Grigio.
And even if oak barrels are being used more now, it’s hardly the "hottest trend" in winemaking.
Then again, in her first wine column she wrote "My advice to you is, don’t buy stock in wine bottle manufacturing
companies. It looks as if boxed wine might be the way of the future."
Wait, wouldn’t that make alternative closures/containers a hot trend? Maybe one that is hotter than oak barrels? What about organic/biodynamic? What about focusing on terroir? Manual de-alcoholization?
Those all seem "hotter" than barrique and I’m sure there are many more.
I’ve emailed Ms. Downer to find out what led her to this conclusion, but I have yet to hear back. Until I do, I’ll reserve at least a little judgment, but this sure seems like an uninformed opinion that is doing her readers a disservice.