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, October 29, 2009

the hermano of overfished

Sitting with the east coast editor of the Tasting panel magazine the other day in the wine caves beneath the historical Santa Carolina winery just on the outskirts of Santiago, a number of curious conversations sparked. The varied and unpredictable results of high velocity verbal banter like this convo are what I like to call “fountainheads”. These are in essence, ideas, which normally arise amid a flurry of decentralized topics and thoughts that as you would expect, can only become logged and immortalized if I have a pen nearby. Not that I was ever a heavy drug user or that I should have some obvious explanation for why I need a pad nearby but normally I do. So anyhow, on and on we went discussing the nature of young Chilean wines and in one of the many rants this notion of crop rotation, then endangered seafood, then millions of people drinking immature red wines all coagulated and became one. Someone from the winery had moments before asked the entire table how everyone was enjoying what was a typically young, menacingly spry, fruit crammed Chilean Carmenere and most importantly, with a prideful grin on his face, the question was posed as it related to a giant, cheese filled ravioli slathered with a b├ęchamel esque sauce , spiked with tidbits of cured pork and herbs. Rich? Ya think? Sure, …but not the rich that supports a massive deep purple hued young fruity red. Not in my book anyway. So after a quick gasp and deliberate refocus, this notion of crop rotation came about. Like a multinational seafood corporation that crashes an entire population of fish and just as the species is at the brink of extinction, they pull the plug, shift marketing gears and start selling the next largest dorsal demographic.

Similarly, where an Illinois parcel is soy one year and corn another, for the sake of diversity, not so much…for the sake of real sustainability yes! So, like the corn, and soy swaparoo, and the tilapia for sea bass, a part of the answer to resurrecting the impression of Chilean wine as a whole and mostly for the sake of food pairing, I think wineries in Chile need to start thinking about what they can produce that behaves like Yellow tail now that they’ve figured out how to make wines with finesse, balance and the structure to actually evolve. In other words, that same Carmenere, while inappropriate today, and perhaps forever for the above mentioned ravioli, will, in my opinion eventually lose some of its baby fat and become more about the earth and sophistication enabling a myriad of pairings thereby changing the impression of the varietal, as a category and maybe if they are lucky, Chile as a place of origin. The fact that someone thinks to pair a wine like that with a preparation as I mentioned is a whole separate issue but nevertheless, we learn not to shun but moreso to accept and more about what is and what will always be.

In the meantime, those of us with patience and the faith in the future of what can be, we ask for that crop rotation, we ask that this new breed of long(er) lived wines with the structure to develop personality are allowed to do so. Perhaps it’ll take a winery with the assets to do it first but the risk is really off the table. The proof is in juice. Hold those fruity ladies back a few vintages and turn something else loose in the meantime. I don’t eat tilapia unless I must but I sure am excited about my corn pudding and my seared sea bass.

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