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Don’t Hate the Grape, Hate the Game

Don't hate the grape, hate the game

Your Least Favorite Wine Isn’t Flawed; it’s Just Misunderstood

By Erin Ortiz


Is the variety you love to hate inferior or just misunderstood? Let’s unpack what’s in the wine glass and turn this grape story from bitter to sweet.  Don’t hate the grape.


Chardonnay has a bad rap. People claim to hate the grape because of the oaky, buttery wines that were once so popular in California. But that style, nicknamed “cougar juice,” a slightly pejorative association with stressed-out soccer moms, is not the only style of Chardonnay available. 

Many critics who confidently espouse their hatred for Chardonnay in one region revere it in another: Burgundy. Few sommeliers would turn down the chance to explore a glass from Burgundy’s second-largest appellation, Montrachet.

 “The well-sheltered vineyards sit atop Jurassic-era rocks that date back 175 million years ago (the period also known as the Mesozoic Era).” according to wine blogger Chermaine Chee. 

The 15-18 month oak aging provides delicious complexity to complement your mushroom risotto or favorite seafood dish perfectly. While wines from this region can cost as much as a downpayment on a home, you can pick up the far more reasonable Albert Joly Puligny-Montrachet ‘Les Tremblots’ 2019 at Le Du Wines for $90.


“The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice” is a great expression derived from an even greater book, but an unfortunate wine myth often associated with rosé. While this wine style has been around for centuries, an unfortunate accident relegated rosés reputation to the bargain bin. 

In the 1970s, Bob Trinchero,  a second-generation vintner at Sutter Home, attempted to make a dry, white version of Zinfandel when the wine stopped fermenting. According to Wine Spectator’s Dr. Vinny,  “It’s known as a “stuck fermentation”—when the sugar doesn’t completely convert to alcohol—so the wine remains a little bit sweet.”

Instead of correcting this happy accident, the winemaker bottled it. People who dislike drier styles embraced this easy-drinking juice. By 1987, it was  a bestseller.  The popularity of White Zinfandel contributed to the myth that if a rosé is dark, it is also sweet. But, of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth.   Theodora Lee, proprietor of Theopolis Vineyards, , produces a killer dry Petite Sirah rose at Theopolis winery for $28. The Texas and San Francisco trial lawyer now wins legal cases while selling award-winning cases of wine from her Anderson Valley Winery.

But just like skinny jeans and flannel shirts, all trends eventually come to an end. The wine’s popularity was supplanted by Chardonnay, Merlot and red Zinfandel. Unfortunately, that cast a shadow over unsuspecting rosés everywhere and provided sommeliers and journalists of the opportunity to inform the public that the wine’s color comes from time spent in contact with the skin of the grape. 

Sweet Wine

Sweet wines aren’t just debatable when they are pink. The sweet or dry debate is a significant battleground for wine. Wines with some residual sugar outsell their dry counterparts.

While mass-produced, low-alcohol wines like Barefoot Moscato might be off-putting to the wine connoisseur, they still tend to fly off the shelf. And for the wine enthusiast, there is no denying that the residual sugar in prestigious wine styles like Sauternes adds a necessary balance to many spicy and savory foods. It would be difficult to think that the $560 price tag of a Chateau D’Yquem Sauternes 2017 is low-brow, but if you’re lucky enough to grab a sip of this citrusy, decadent Bordeaux nectar, you will probably understand its esteemed place at the wine table. 


Sweet or dry, light or dark, the enjoyment and discovery of wine is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Let 2023 be the year you look beyond the label, the color, and the price tag. You might find your next favorite tipple inside a bottle you thought you hated. Don’t hate the grape; hate the game. 

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