As wine connoisseurship evolves, I look toward developing ways to express the aspects of wine I love the most. I recognize that wine is a product of nature and science; my goal is as natural as can be: to help make the connection between joy of taste and the bountiful pleasures of life.”

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Let me hang, make me hot, spin me round, bring me water..let me rest, toast and marmalade for breakfast …thanks

One of the tasks associated with my job that just about no one that I know can relate to has come to close. As a part of a new corporate wine purchasing program, in late December I submitted requests to a number of suppliers and distributors soliciting submissions from their portfolios or individual wineries. I provided parameters to each of them, specifying a number of varietals, something called “other whites” and “other reds” and then up to 3 price/ cost tiers for each. The result was a monstrosity of wine that covered most of the floor space in my home garage. Then, over the next 10 weeks or so, after the laborious task of separating and classifying the samples, I tasted through each of the tiers, in heaps that sometimes approached 30 wines per tier. Because the majority of the wine sampled were prospective btg placements All wines were evaluated initially straight from the bottle then, without gassing or any means of artificial preservation, I tasted them ( the reds) again at 2 days and some even as far out as 72 hours after pulling the cork. I cannot in this short space, begin to express to you the number of ways that so many of the wines resembled each other. Sure, they were all presumably made from fermented grapes, but oh my,…as much as you might expect that there are vast differences between say a 13 dollar Sonoma County Merlot and a Malbec heavy blend from Mendocino, all that really separates the two is one,.. maybe two elements that are even so, difficult use use as distinguishing elements. This was true in almost every category not just in varietal reds but also in sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Here’s where it became interesting, ….after tasting approximately 2 oz from each bottle, I plopped them back into a case and sent my devoted wife of 11 years out into the wintery chill, delivering the wines to neighborly neighbors. She did this for weeks and weeks. What I heard back from folks was where the bad news begins and ends. The wines that proved to be the most manipulated, the most extracted, the most jacked full of candied fruit, the toastiest, the roundest, the most acidified and adjusted, the most uninteresting, the most stripped of anything that I like to call distinction were the favourites 6 to 1. Just about anything with minerality, anything that was sleek, racey, and not just nightstick- in- the- back- of- the head clobbering, crammed full and oozing of syrupy fruit, was dismissed as too bitter, or too sharp, too funky, dirty, dusty, gravely and the list goes on and on. Sadly, after what I thought and hoped for so long would be a renaissance in the art of domestic winemaking, a renaissance whereby winegrowers and winery owners alike would turn a blind eye to the appeal of a 90+ score and do whatever it took to make a more natural wine, a wine that really and truly gained its distinction from its naturalness, a wine that speaks place over process and earth over mind came to a frighteningly abrupt halt as the census or consensus of the masses spoke,..
My aspirations for a day where the craft joined arms with nature and the finished wine,.. would stand erect and proud in all its nuance and irregularity. Unfortunately, winemaking like high fashion and plastic surgery seems to be firmly rooted in the spirit of augmentation. So if you are like me, you’ll be happy with the nose you have, or the boobs you don’t have and you’ll find calm, peace and tranquility in all that you are without changing a dang thing. No spinning, no extra hanging, no need for water, ill take the marmalade but you keep the toast.


Hardy / Dirty said...

Total bummer.

The positive here is that there is a world of potential consumers that currently only know 1 thing... spoofy-juice.

Rarely are there instant connoisseurs. People want what they know, or what they think (and have been told) is good. Give the average person someone a cup of primo black coffee vs. Folgers with tons of cream and sugar-- Folgers would probably win hands down.

I listened to someone this weekend go on and on how residual sugar in any wine (especially GER Ries.) is a flaw and a tell-tale mark of plonk. I tried to find out where these thoughts came from, and he couldn't tell me.

But when people go out- what do they want? Do they want what they know and are familiar with? Or do they want to experience something, learn something, to take a trip in their glass and on their plate?

Those who want what they know are at places like Outback, Mary Mac's, and Ruth's Chris- And there is nothing wrong with that...

But- Then there's a whole different world. People that aren't sure where they want to go, but that want someone's help to take them there. In the US, we are getting there with food, but with wine, we are still in infancy.

Don't give up the fight!!!!!

D TradeIdeas said...

Agreed. Don't give up the fight.

The higher order of pleasure-seeking you (me) find from the wines, that show care in their making or bring out the characteristics far beyond the standard deviation of what a normal consumer expects, only comes from the preparation & attention we bring to the tasting moment.

Like an athlete or professional at the top of any game - they make it look easy in comparison to an amateur. In the restaurant or among your busy neighbors there are so many other purposes, goals, matters-at-hand that it's impossible to slow a life down long enough to handle what's different in a wine.

Clearing the mind or slowing time to the 'right now' is no easy task, yet it's required to appreciate wine, hold a pose in yoga, or even to just enjoy a moment. Solve that - and you'll have the right audience for your (and my) wines.


David Aferiat ('ol Grapefields)