April 25, 2009

More on Peynaud

I came across this article, which talks about Emile Peynaud. Its interesting to note that a term (Peynaudization) was coined, reflecting his influence.

Read it... I did.

April 22, 2009

Joly on Biodynamics

I'm almost finished with Nicolas Joly's book "Demystifying Biodynamic Wine". His passion and personality shine through in his writing, but you still have to have an open mind about biodynamics to get into the content. One theme that is constant is how there is a tangible and intangible world made up of matter and energies, and when these are harmonious and balanced, and when we treat the process with respect, something greater is allowed to happen. It reminds me a bit of yoga, or religion, and for that matter, the experience of drinking wine. These are all things which are often hard to describe and explain, and work on faith or feeling. And it's hard to deny these things once you've experienced them.

April 20, 2009

Broad, but not Deep

After meditating on the subject for several weeks (okay, not meditating per se), I thought I would pass on these three jems I picked up from the 2009 Vancouver International Wine Festival:

  • Avoid people who ask to “try the chardy”, they just want to drink.

  • Pregnant women, even if you are a rep, and its your job to be there, should not be at wine festivals. We will still judge you.

  • Bring your own spit cup. You will be so much better off.

"Broad, but not deep" pretty much sums up how I feel about the event. It's certainly a conflicting set of emotions I come away with. On the one hand, my personality and interest in wine desired the geeky discussions about specific subjects, asking the hard questions, and bringing forth worthy answers. But, I am still, in a big picture sense, a novice taster, and thus the opportunity this wine festival afforded me was invaluable.

By volunteering, I was able to get a free ticket to the International Tasting Room, and sit in on two seminars. Thursday (March 26th) I toured the tasting hall, with over 175 booths, pouring some 8800+ wines. I chose to limit my tour to French producers with a handful of Californian wines thrown in for good measure. Clearly, I have a slanted perspective, and I know I missed out on opening my horizons more to Italian and Spanish wines.

Even with the opportunity to try some fantastic 1er Cru and Grand Cru Burgundy and Alsace wines, I was frustrated by the distracting environment, which was noisy, poorly lit (yes, they dimmed the room) and crowded (which made getting to the spittoons difficult.)Crowded!

Another frustration was the lack of meaningful organization. The hall was divided into two man areas; BC wines and everybody else. These two groups were then organized alphabetically. This made the tasting hall very schizophrenic, with big reds next to elegant whites, and silky reds next to flabby whites. Although I had drafted out a rough plan for the evening, and highlighted several producers I wanted to see, I could have used another 2 hours to plan the attack. There were some excellent whites (Monrachets and Corton-Charlemange) which were dulled, if not lost to me due to tannin fatigue. The flip side of this is the joy of finding something unexpected that stands out. This happened to me with a Morgan from Domaine Piron. The wine was fragrant and compelling, and stood out because of its unassuming but well composed harmony.

The interesting thing is that the lack of organization made no difference to the BC section. The seminar on Saturday, Icons of B.C, demonstrated this well. Aside from the lack of cohession to the group the wines poured, it felt self congratulatory, especially with the winemakers present. And besides the moderators and winemakers, no one else choose to speak about these wines or even ask questions. The Okanagan Valley is one of the youngest wine producing areas in the world. It does produce a handful of quality and interesting wines (generally aromatic whites), but on the whole, the region is too untested, too small, too inconsistent and too overpriced to take itself as seriously as it does. On a positive note, by highlighting B.C. wines as one of the themes this year, the Wine Festival may have exposed the faults and strenghts of the this wine region. Hopefully this will encourage people in the region to focus on the strenghts, and it will encourage to demand better results from their local producers, especially when offered so much choice from the international market.

April 14, 2009

Recent Reading

The Taste of Wine
I just finished Emile Peynaud's The Taste of Wine. Although it was professorial and very technical in parts, it did offer an extremely thorough look at the sensory aspects of wine and mechanics of how we taste. One of the most interesting discussions came towards the end of the book; a short discussion on the concept of cru. This is often translated into growth in English, as in première cru = first growth. What got my attention is how Peynaud's definition of the word compared to his definition of terroir. (Ah! terroir, that over used nebulous French concept-word.) Terroir, in Paynaud's description only accounts for site and soil (which implies degree days, sun aspect, drainage, etc.), whereas cru relates aspects of terroir to man and agricultural production. Terroir, in a sense, is a fixed set of parameters, but cru is how a producer uses those parameters for a qualitative expression, encompassing methods of production and tradition. Cru, therefore, is a much more useful word when talking about wine than terroir. After all, and Peynaud stresses this, wine is a human cultural product. Quality in wine is in large part determined by the choices that a given vingeron makes. Whereas terroir can only offer a potential, man must strive to fulfill that potential.