Happy Holidays with Wine: Just Make Sure It Is Good Wine!

by Ian D’Agata

The other day I had lunch at one of my city’s best bistros, and was served a natural wine that didn’t just smell bad, it smelled much worse. Trust me: the thing smelled fecal, like something out of a septic tank. How anybody in his right mind would think it something worthwhile drinking is beyond me: and yet the bistro owner, an otherwise normal person but who loves natural wines to a fault, failed to accept the thing smelled like an unflushed toilet.  It was not a matter of some funky smell that someone might like more than I. No, the thing smelled horrible and the person I was having lunch with thought so too). And yet the guy who owned the place thought it was perfectly fine. How normal people can have such blinders on when it comes to flawed natural wines, is really beyond me.

You mention the chemical reactions that take place explaining the reason for that smell. Wasted breath. And so your mind drifts off to all those epic poems penned on wines that when they’re mousy it’s almost a good thing compared to what I was smelling that day in my glass. What can I say? Hey, for some, there’s never a point in letting something like scientific data get in the way of a good narrative and a chance to try and do Faulkner and Williams one better. Of course, you’d have to read the scientific data so you’d actually know what you’re talking and writing about; but come on now, don’t be such a party pooper, practically nobody who drinks wine and writes about it bothers reading boring medical or other scientific journals. After all they gotta drink wine man, that’s what this is all about, having a good time, living the good life (that they cannot afford and somebody else pays for) and moving on to the next free press trip and tasting or dinner. Stereoisomers and esters: who cares? It’s all about the natural thing man, the yeasts you are using are they industrial? Oh really? Ooooooh no! Well… bad bad bad, three points off. You try politely mentioning that the wine they like made naturally smells: actually, that it stinks. At which point they give you a glazed look, heavily offended, because you know, mousiness is good. Yes, that’s right, hear me out now! Mousy is just right. It’s not just good, it’s very, very good! In fact, mousy is sexy! We should all have more mousiness in our life! Gooooo mousiness!  Mousy for president! And then they finish their trip off by just murmuring that you are failing to see the greatness of that one winemaker’s vision and just how sooooo in touch with the earth he or she is/are. Hey, I get it, I’m not some Neanderthal type. All that’s good, really good: just like the next guy, I too like wines that are all so cool and heavy. Why, in fact, let me tell you, that’s my goal in life: to be able to taste all those wines that aren’t just real heavy, but that reach total heaviosity, to quote Allen. Because being in touch with the earth is where it’s at, man, you know it’s really quite cool, cool for cats, and who doesn’t want to be a cat? But personally, when I’m too much in touch with the earth, I for one usually have to go wash my hands.

Dear readers,

it’s that time of the year when we all take time and reflect on all that happened in the previous twelve months, revisit some moments that were special and others less so, and look forward to spending a wonderful time with family and friends while also gearing up for a new year in the hope it will turn out better than the previous. Next week is the last one of the year, and so our coverage will differ from our usual fare: Michale Apstein and Robert Millman will delight you with their “My Year in Review” takes and I’ll have the Memorable World Wine List 2023 for you as well.

But most importantly, everyone here at the TerroirSense Wine Review, and me first and foremost given that I write 90% of it, wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Holiday Season. Thanks for your support, always.




Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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Ian D'Agata