Set the tone. Lay out all the parameters. Draw the line in the sand. Choose the wine. Pop the cork.
A few years ago, I sat on a panel at the Monterey Wine Festival that was moderated by Doug Frost. He had asked each of the three panelists to bring two Sparkling Wines or Champagnes to pour for the audience and discuss our selections. I brought Jean Milan Terres de Noel Blanc de Blancs Vieilles Vignes Brut 2000 and Larmandier-Bernier Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru Brut NV.
I noticed that one of the other two people on the panel had brought two domestic sparkling wines. The other person brought two very well known Champagnes (rhymes with skid row). So the wines were poured. Everyone tasted and spoke. We were all sage, wise, and well informed.
It was time for the crowd to comment. The wines that I had brought had shown perfectly – minerally, crisp, with laser like intensity. The majority of the crowd loved the California Sparkling wines. One of the first comments was from a winemaker from a very well known California sparkling wine producer who hated my selections. His remark about the Jean Milan? “The wine is too penetrating.” It is always disconcerting when someone uses words that you would interpret as being positive, but they clearly mean as a negative.
The only thing that I could say was, “I think that’s the point!” I don’t think there is anywhere to go from there. There really isn’t even any need for argument about these things. “People that like that sort of thing tend to like it.” I think Abraham Lincoln said something like that – at least it sounds like him.
So that’s where Penetrating Wine comes from. Penetrating wines are the wines that speak to me. For me, they are the only wines worth pursuing.
What I care about is what’s in the bottle and why it tastes the way it does. Great wine has to be more than just intellectually interesting to taste. It has to be delicious. It has to have structure. It has to impart a sense of its origins. I think it is time to stop talking about wine as something more than what it is. It’s time to move beyond the “marketing” whether it comes from the winery, the winemaker, the supplier, the distributor, the journalist, the blogger, the educator, or the “masters”. We take it and ourselves far too seriously and suck all the life out something that is very pleasurable.
So that’s the first entry. I’ll try my best to be brief and to post regularly. Sometimes I may even talk about wine.