These two descriptors of state have both positive and negative connotations. It’s the context that determines which applies. For me, I like wines with sufficient firmness to give them body, structure and line. I tend to dislike wines that are soft, broad and flabby as their amorphous character makes them boring and flat. So it may seem ‘hard’ is the preferred. But in practical terms, the food is the context, and even then it’s what kind of food too.
Making us think about this were two dry German wines. The 2014 Donnhoff Grauburgunder Trocken was on the firmer side. Certainly not plush and rich as Alsace Pinot Gris has moved towards. And not like the gentle, aromatic and easy New World New Zealand examples. Nor like the crisp, refreshing linear and taut Pinot Grigio style as epitomised by north eastern Italians. This was clean, clear and driven, with depth and a hard core, plus 12.0% alc.. Austere white stonefruits and not the aromatic guile the variety can have. And acidity melded into the body, adding to its tightness. SWMBO and The Young One enjoyed this, but I couldn’t get into it. Food definitely needed here. This surprised me, as usually I love the Donnhoff wines from the Nahe.
More to my liking was the 2014 Wittmann Schuerebe Trocken. This was soft, rounded and mellow on nose and palate. Richness and mouthfilling flavours of yellow florals and stonefruits, with the soft, aromatic earthiness of the Rheinhessen. Also 12.0% alc, but seeming lighter on its feet. Usually, I find the Wittman wines could benefit from a little more acid bite and some more linearity. But I do love their breadth of flavours that form a complex amalgam that just grows and grows. That’s why they’re so highly regarded, but for me maybe a bit too soft, generally. It may be the regionality peaking too? But with this, it all seemed ideal. Drink it on its own and with any sort of accompaniment, it appeared to be at ease with itself.
Lessons to be learned? Keeping an open mind and taking the wines as they come. They can surprise you, and you can surprise yourself.