Thursday, October 9, 2008

How to be a Perfect Wine

I've had a few really good technically perfect wines, and they always remind me of the body of a sports car; smooth, fluid, luxurious and seductive but, likewise, slightly impenetrable in their high-gloss gleam. They're nice, but for me, they don't necessarily provide what I'm looking for in a great wine. I suppose you could call what I'm after "character" but, then again, I don't want to say a Ferrari wine doesn't have character. Although, I did say on Twitter the other day that in terms of wine, I'd prefer a gypsy housetruck to a Ferrari... I guess what I'm really looking for in a great wine is the unfolding of a narrative hitherto unimagined. I prefer a mystery machine.

I know I’m not the first one to ponder perfection versus personality in wine (or art) but, I think the notion bears repeating. I’m sure a lot of us have heard similar comparisons drawn between wine and music, such as, what is more stirring, a technically perfect execution of a Mozart concerto, or an emotional interpretation? I guess it's debatable. The other night on NPR for example, classical music critic Tom Manoff praised pianist Andras Schiff for not "wallowing" in emotion and for letting Beethoven's music shine through...

Anyway, I’m all for perfection in machines and other man-made structures; cars, blenders, architecture, government, etc. Yeah, I know wine is “man-made” to a point, but I prefer to think of a winemaker more as the steward of the grape’s transition from soil to fermented juice, and less as the designer--even if economic pressures render that vision somewhat compromised in reality. Ideally though, the job of the winemaker is to facilitate this transformation, with the goal of allowing the wine to achieve its fullest expression without training it to some predetermined blueprint. Housetruck from Nambassa Trust and Peter TerryOh sure, intervention may still be called for if the juice hits a crisis along it’s way, but other than that, it’s allowed to be who it is, and who it is is for it to know, and us to find out. That's what I really mean when I say I prefer a one-of-a-kind rambler of a wine to a precision performance wine...

Or maybe it's just that, deep down, I'm a sucker for a sweet tricked out conversion van.

Image by: Nambassa Trust and Peter Terry