Passion and Pomp
It’s not surprising that wine, like many things, attracts characters with all sorts of idiosyncrasies. Having enmeshed myself in the wine world for some time now I’ve discovered that many wine-o’s fall into two categories – those that are passionate about wine and those that are passionate about people thinking they are passionate about wine – and it can be hard to tell the difference.
Picture this – you’re sitting down to a lovely dinner, the host a well-to-do professional is serving a fine cut of red meat and couple of nice wines, one white, one red, when his rather precocious friend proclaims to the table “oh no I never drink white wine with red meat”….. Not an uncommon sentiment as traditionally red with red, white with white is a pretty safe rule for matching food and wine. So you think nothing of it – right?
Well there in-lies the subtlety that I wish to point out. You see, those that are passionate about wine will never say never, they will not make proclamations of what does and doesn’t work, they won’t make broad statements about varietal characters and they certainly won’t judge you for liking something different. Now this may seem obvious to you, you may recognise the diversity in wine, realise that no ‘rule’ cannot be broken, that in-fact – there are no rules.
Taste is subjective, wine is subjective, experience is subjective, preference is subjective and most importantly YOU are subjective. Everything you do is your own experience, everything said is from your own point of view and wine is no exception to this. Anyone with even a modicum of experience in wine knows that all the rules are thrown out the window on a daily basis by those revolutionaries who constantly seek their own version of perfection. Such people battle daily to broaden the definition of good taste and break down the staid and traditional values that get indoctrinated on the unwitting and unimaginative.
I can think of 100 examples but let me share with you just one. This one left me breathless. It stopped me in my tracks. It very nearly made me cry. I once believed that a good Pinot was delicate and fine, something to be gentle with and required the utmost care in production. Anything less was dull, boring and wasted. (Yes I too was one of those people once). And most importantly I believed that a Pinot grown in a stiflingly humid and wet region like Gisborne would, in reflection of its birthplace, be wet, bland and uninspiring. Then I tried the Milton 2007 Clos de St Anne Pinot Noir.
I’m not saying it’s the best wine in the world – I’m saying it made me weep. James Milton produces wines Biodynamically, which is to say he throws diluted cow poo around the vines with a paint brush and only minimally interferes in the winemaking process. What results from this is, surprisingly, biblical. It was soft as a virgins nape, bold as a fighters grin and after it has stuck it’s hand down my trousers and had a rummage around it sat quietly brooding in the corner like a chided three year old for most of the evening. It was mind boggling, to say the least. Now I’m not going to wax-lyrical about it’s complexity or tell you that the hints of cherry blossom and ripe plum aromas tipped a hat to the divine – but let me say one thing – It. Was. Epic.
So that’s my opinion – the friend who bought it to my soiree promising it would change my life didn’t like it – at all. He said it lacked the gumption of a Martinborough and the subtle aromatics of a Central Pinot – and that’s just the point. No matter what you know about wine, no matter what the ‘rules’ are, wherever you are, whoever you are with – wine is what YOU think it is. So forget the rules, forget the subtle hints of cracked acacia bark and wild nutmeg, forget the pomp – but do not forget to be passionate! Because if you open your mind and your heart – one day a wine will humble you into the simple realisation that you know nothing – and you will love it for that alone.