So the idea of slutty vs. non-slutty wines came up at a pre-Christmas “family” dinner with some of my best friends…but first I feel like I need to provide a bit of backstory.
As is tradition as soon as I bottle a wine I try to give it a try within a couple of days just to see how the final blend all came together. The wine might be a little bottle-shocky but once it gets some air it mellows back out. I also try to get the wine in front of friends and/or family to get some 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th opinions and so on. After that it is time to put the rest of the newly bottled vintage to bed until it smooths out and gets through the rest of the bottle shock phase.
It just so happened that after bottling the 2012 Merlot we had this dinner coming up so I made sure that I snagged a bottle to throw onto the table. We had a pretty killer lineup of wines but there was one other that I really wanted to try: 2007 Paloma Merlot. For those of you that don’t know Paloma has been one of my benchmarks for Napa Valley Merlot for a long time. To be fair it is a very different style than what I do for MTGA. First it comes from Spring Mountain, second it usually has 10ish percent Cab Sauv blended in (I think) and last but not least it definitely shoots for a very different flavor profile. When we sat down for dinner my ’12 Merlot had been open and decanted for a bit and just about everyone had been able to try it. The ’07 Paloma was also open and folks started to dig into it.
A question was posed after everyone had started sipping on the Paloma and MTGA: what is the deal with slutty wines and why do people lean towards them? The consensus was that the Paloma was slutty and the MTGA was not however both had plenty of character to keep taste buds on both sides of the fence happy.
For me a “slutty” wine is one that is very approachable or easy, very silky, smooth with rich and ripe flavors. There is some structure there but definitely not enough to make it edgy or require food to help smooth it out. Last but not least there could be a halfway decent chance that there is a tad of residual sugar hiding in these wines; not enough to make it sweet per se but enough to make you tastebuds stand up on end and pay attention. Also in regard to food pairings these wines are notoriously hard to pair with anything. They are usually so approachable that they don’t have enough backbone to create fun and interesting contrasts with potential food pairings.
With all of that said I think it is easy to understand why people lean towards these wines. They have some good character, they are big, bold and easy to drink. You don’t have to wait for them to age and you don’t need to pair them up with food to help tone down the structure. I think just about everyone enjoys taking a trip down this road everyone once in a while (and I am still talking about wine here I think…). These wines help fill that every day need of having a wine on hand that you can just kick back and enjoy. The issues I find with these wines is the lack of food pairings that work with them and they can be one dimensional. A slutty wine doesn’t really make you contemplate what it is, where its from or how it was made. It doesn’t really want to be bothered with the details anyway; a slutty wine just wants to get down to business. A non-slutty wine does want you to pay attention to the details. It wants to be courted a bit and would love to be paired up with some food prior to being enjoyed.
I wouldn’t say one is better than the other though I would say that certain situations and states of mind favor one over the other. So I guess you just have to decide what you are looking for before you settle down (yep still trying to talk about wine).