Saturday, 23 February 2013

Scribblings of a Wine Geek - A Shoutout to the Bigger Producers?

FEBRUARY 23, 2013

Indeed, none of my friends (or enemies for that matter) would expect me to have this as my first post.  However, some things must be said.  Rachel and I have just recently topped off a bottle of E. Guigal's 2007 Gigondas.  Parker 92-94, Wine Spectator 91 - I was somewhere in the middle.  There is no denying that 'liking' a winery that has the superstar status of Guigal will win you any friends taking their Sommelier certifications, or the directors of wine programs in naff or ultra-hipster wine bars for that matter.  But it has to be said, sometimes the giants simply cannot, or more importantly, should not be ignored.  

Is it boring to slap Mondavis, Ornellaias, Tigs, Grand Cru Bordeaux, and Chapoutier Hermitages on your wine list, or buy them for your personal cellar?  Perhaps...but historically, some of these houses have sacrificed the most to get where they are right now.  If you had a franc for every time someone said vines didn't need to be pulled during the great phylloxera crisis in Bordeaux, you could have bought the entire region.

Additionally, many of these producers are also the folks who are expanding into new countries, pushing the altitude boundaries of the Andes, pushing further into Central Victoria, or founded entirely new appellations by gambling on land that few can afford (or are willing) to purchase.

Wine enthusiasts need to tread carefully - eschewing a wine simply because it is popular only gets your pats on the back from people who like taking your money just as equally.

Indeed, I can recall that when I first started writing for the Canadian University Press, many tasting colleagues used to kick the snot out of Bolgheri, a region that they believed was created by rich Tuscan winemakers so they could grow internationally recognized wines made from internationally recognized varietals.  They claimed that wines from Bolgheri lacked any sense of place, of terroir.  "When you taste the wines, they could be from anywhere", I can remember a colleague remarking during a tasting.  Sure, there are wines from the region that contain only the Bordeaux varietals, but critics and connoisseurs are finding that some of the most compelling wines of Bolgheri are those that are composed mostly of Sangiovese, and blended with the "international" varieties.   

And why, you ask, couldn't they taste that "sense of place" when drinking through a line-up of Bolgheris?  Because Bolgheri was a young wine region.  But now many of us can pick them out of a lineup of other Tuscan wines.  The reason?  Increased familiarity.  Seems intuitive, no?

In my opinion, what really matters is: do the wines that I drink have some sense of authenticity?  The Gigondas that we drank tonight was quintessentially Gigondas.  Sure, Guigal produces up and down the Rhone, but each of their wines reflect the soils in which they are grown.  After all, what more could we ask for?

-Andy

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