Monday, February 17, 2014

Rant: A Vinous Indiana Jones

Raiders Of The Lost Ark was a major hit, becoming the highest grossing film in the U.S. in 1981. I remember seeing this movie in the theater, and felt transported as the adventure progressed upon the great screen. The film evoked a sense of wonder, presenting a story of exploration and discovery, an adventure that traveled to exotic, foreign lands. It presented a mystery, which led to research into ancient traditions and cultures. There were negative forces that wanted to assert a monolithic thinking upon the world, to crush any desire for diversity.

I feel like a vinous Indiana Jones.

In a recent rant, Robert Parker lashed out against those who enjoy, promote and advocate for more esoteric grapes. He referred to them as "...some godforsaken grapes that, in hundreds and hundreds of years of viticulture, wine consumption, etc., have never gotten traction because they are rarely of interest.." He continued to say that such wines are " truth, rarely palatable unless lost in a larger blend..." I think Parker has lost that sense of wonder about wine.

To me, a large part of wine is exploration and discovery, the adventure of seeking out the vast diversity in wine, including many hundreds of different grapes. That exploration has taken me to wine regions all over the world, and back thousands of years in history, seeking the origins of rare grapes. It is the mystery of these esoteric grapes which beckon to my soul, which cry out for tasting and investigation. Like Indiana Jones, I am off on a vinous adventure, resisting the negative forces trying to impose their narrow minded thinking upon the world.

I have long been a champion and advocate of more esoteric wines, grapes and regions. I like supporting the underdog. However, I only support those wines which I feel are worthy. I don't just support a wine or grape because it is obscure. It must be delicious and compelling, interesting and palate pleasing. And unlike Parker, I have found many excellent wines produced from more esoteric grapes. For example, this past weekend, I tasted intriguing wines made from grapes like Mtsvane, Krakhuna and Saperavi. Such wines have earned my support.

None of that means I ignore the classics, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. I have immense respect for them, though we all know there is plenty of rather uninspiring wine made from these grapes too. During this past weekend, I thoroughly enjoyed some exceptional wines from Burgundy, both white and red. One can enjoy both classics and the esoteric. One doesn't have to choose one over the other.

There are calls for diversity in all aspects of our society now and the wine world should be no different. We want to see more women and people of color involved in the actual wine industry, as winemakers, winery owners, sommeliers, and more. We should also seek more diversity in the wines we drink. Enjoy Chardonnay, but also understand the wonders of Godello, Arinto and Rkatsiteli. Embrace Cabernet Sauvignon but don't ignore Mencia, Touriga Franca and Caladoc.

Not every wine seeks to attain the lofty heights of Romanée-Conti. Some just want to provide a compelling and tasty wine that delivers on its price. Esoteric grapes can produce plenty of wines exactly like that. And we may never know the potential heights they can reach unless there is more experimentation with such grapes. A hidden gem might be hiding in a remote vineyard, a grape that has almost been forgotten but with vast potential. It is the folly to think we know everything about wine and which grapes make the best wine.

For me, I want to continue on the path of Indiana Jones, exploring everything that the world of wine has to offer.


Odd Bacchus said...

Fantastic! An excellent rebuttal to Parker's grouchy, curmudgeonly rant. Grapes like Malbec were once obscure too, and as you say, there are likely many more waiting to be discovered.

Richard Auffrey said...


Richard Auffrey said...