I’m not a wine snob. I don’t feel the need to discuss vintage discrepancies or the loaminess of the terroir. It’s just that there are few things as pleasurable as finding a truly great wine. There are some objective truths to a great wine but like all arts, it’s largely a subjective exercise of the senses. Above all else, it fills one with a sense of wonderment as you recognize its endless possibilities. In other words, it’s just so cool.
What makes a wine great can be debated ad nauseam (please, no more about the tannic structure or I will have to get medieval on your %$#) Yet, I find that amidst all the clammer, there is that constant refrain of somethingness, for lack of a better word. In itself that somethingness is indescribable, you just know that it’s there. It’s the a-ha moment.
As the wine industry becomes more and more consolidated, there are fewer and fewer rebels brave enough to make wines of uncompromising singularity and brazen audaciousness. (Oh no, beware the socialist rant! Avert your eyes, child! Avert your eyes!) Most wines are becoming increasingly commercial. Perhaps, for the novice wine drinker, this is a welcome development. A cabernet sauvignon tastes, well, like a cabernet sauvignon. If you go into the local grocery store, you can find the big familiar names and know exactly what you are going to get.
To me, this is akin to looking at a Thomas Kinkaide painting- there are no enigmas, no hidden depths- it’s all right there for you and you get it. It’s familar. It’s comforting. But ultimately, it’s lacking. It’s not art. And winemaking is art. I much more admire the unabashedly “what in the world was he thinking” wine than the bland one. You just have to appreciate its chutzpah. Its if not quite there yet somethingness. And then, you find it. That wine that makes you rethink all other wines. Mine was a 2005 Longoria Fe Ciega Pinot Noir. I swirled for show. I sniffed and it hit me. This wondrous smoky bouquet of peaty earth. It wasn’t an easy nose but it confronted me and I had no choice to find out more. I was surprised as the wine hit me with berry- subtle raspberry and boysenberry. It wasn’t enough. I needed another sip. And it wasn’t berry this time but a layer of exotic spice and land. I knew right then that this was something different. That this somethingness was something I had to be a part of.