Mankind like to compare – even find suitable Benchmarks. It’s everywhere, from the financial markets, electronic-and music industry. Even wine. It’s the result of data analysis and an easy way to judge performance, strength and potential.
In the financial markets, portfolio managers are being judged against leading benchmark indexes, maybe even competitors – specific designed to match their risk mandates and focus areas. Did you over or underperform?
The iPhone set new standards when it was launched. It’s nearest rivals have ever since been labelled as the new iPhone killer.
The music industry builds up their heroes and stars. Put them on pedestals and maybe burn their fame down again. Some survive, despite rough times and end up as legends. Some don’t even need much time to establish their status because their talent had enough uniqueness. Just think of Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and lately Amy Winehouse all died at an age of 27 years. These legends become benchmark icons – often ruling as kings & queens of a certain genre or time period. We like to compare new comers against these peers, despite it’s clings like a cliché to hear the new Beatles every second year.
For the critiques, whom are often behind such statements, it’s a logical equation as the simple comparison makes it easy for the public to understand the scope of the “new” and it’s potential.
Yet the benchmarking are often in risk of fading out, becoming that false and naïve cliché, because it’s somehow never the new Beatles, Michael Jackson, Elvis or Madonna. If new artists are constantly able to become equal clones to their Iconic Idols it underlines that our presumed King or Queens weren’t a reference point after all. Those who survive and make it into the hall of fame possessed enough uniqueness, defining their own sound and storytelling. They eventually became a new reference point.
In wine we also know about Benchmarking. Some wineries or producers are legends. The thumb rule for possessing the legendary labelling seems to emerge from impressive historical track records. If you want to make it historical in wine you have to make sure your wines will age gracefully. That’s the ticket to legendary status. Worlds most sought after wines are often those who comes with a considerable costs – those who make it into Christie’s most extravagant wine auctions. Once you are there you are a potentially what we in the “Old world” would call a Benchmark wine.
The battlefield in wine are however not as even as even as one should think; because these legends comes with considerably costs and are not like music for everyone. Even some are not interested at all in these wines and don’t pay much attention to them or the fact that they are a reference point.
Right now we are seeing some of the most innovative restaurants around the globe slowly phasing out old conventional legends. In my own backyard, restaurant Noma (and several others following) are now only serving natural wines.
Most wine lovers would acknowledge historical references, but somehow you are never better than your latest release and there is no guarantee that you even liked the style, “sound” or “genre” of a wine.
Personally benchmark legends don’t interest me much. Seeing wine from a zero angle scope is much easier. Not taking a quality measurement against myth and historical tales makes it much easier to level with wine. It doesn’t matter to me whether a wine can last 200 years or 4 hours. I care about the experience here and now - life in the wine and drinking pleasure….and so many other things.
Benchmarking in wine is however an interesting descriptor, as you can quickly draw attention to a known/style, which your audience can relate to. However if you really fall in love with a wine/producer I would bet it always had enough personality and didn’t needed to be compared against a reference point.
I am about to introduce a new producer to you and 4 debut wines. I found myself benchmarking and comparing him, to get a feel of both overall quality and potential. My inspiration to this introduction came from hearing myself saying; is this the New Elvis, Sting or maybe Stevie Wonder? It’s obviously not and that’s good news because this is something I haven’t seen before. Potentially a new style and reference point – who knows? I can tell you this much, that I found myself almost lost for laudatory words.
Yann Durieux is his name and he makes wine under the Domaine name of Recrue des Sens. I have limited information – only from various Internet sites, blogs and the Danish importer did I learn that he worked seven years for Julien Guillot - a name that rings very good bells in my ears. There is also a connection to Prieuré Roch as I understand it, where he still helps out and get some of the used barrels from. Some also comes from Alain Burguet. He works purely organic and natural wine ideology. He is located in the village of villers-la-faye in the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits region, which isn’t exactly known to foster the most pompous Cru-appellations. Yet it doesn’t really scare me off, because I have learned to pay more attention to the singularity skills of a grower and not appellation hysteria.
2010 is the debut release from Yann Durieux and he currently have 3ha of land, but will slowly obtain more land. Current production is about 6.000 bottles, where 50% goes into his Aligoté “Love and Pif”.
These are the wines I have tasted from Recrue des Sens and I haven’t written any notes, so this is from memory.
Red and “Manon” was tasted from Zalto Burgundy – “Love and Pif” were tasted from Zalto Unisersal
2010 Black Pinot
A very light and fragile red Burgundy wine, only possessing 11% of alcohol. There is initially a beautiful fragile raspberry scent coming forward, but eventually also notes of forest floor and herbs blends in. It creates a little bit more rustic feel, but also creates good baseline and character. Overall it’s still so fragile and drinks really well.
2010 Les Grands Ponts
“Serve it on a good day” – that was the sort of only instruction I got, from the importer – other that he thought it would be something for my palate. Well – I first of all served it on a fruit day, but had no idea what waited. I have to say, pinned to the chair with a lie detector wrapped around my arm that this is one of the most emotional and intoxicating wines I have tasted in a while. Despite I can dissect it for you – as I have written no notes – I still dream about it though it has been 14 days since I last tasted it. I remember is as extremely floral with roses and raspberry wrapped in an extremely intense – yet overly weightless feel. The structure of the wine is exceptional elastic; ballerina light on it toes, yet with enormous persistence and juiciness. I was blown away by it’s beauty and harmony and I felt like pouring the whole bottle down in one go – which was easy with it’s 12% alcohol. It’s not a cheap wine - but my God it’s worth every penny.
2010 Manon (Chardonnay)
If a white Burgundy – especially when crafted from Chardonnay – are to win my heart it has to find a soil intensity or a really refined a elegant style. This wine does exactly that and its uncompromising mineral spine made me think of Alexandre Jouveaux and it’s raciness made me think of young Chablis. It’s also a wine, which feels really young with lots of potential. It’s still flavoured with lots of citrus fruits, yet if you raise it in temperature it unrevealed some more creamy notes of fresh butter and yeast components. The taste is really clean and delicious. I would love to taste it again with a year or two more age.
My experience with Aligoté is pretty limited – so when saying this has to be one of my absolute favourite versions it doesn’t really mean that much. It’s a very playful wine, which on one side has one hell of a tickly freshness with newly pressed apples, lime and lemon peel. On the other hand – and it actually flips back and forth - it has some pretty sensual sweet notes, emerging from Champagne yeast, vanilla and overly juicy pears and peaches. The drinking pleasure is in the category; “Finish me and open a bottle more”….brilliant wine. (tasted it two times btw – one time in a restaurant (simple Spiegelau Authentis) and one time at home from Zalto Universal. The experience in Zalto was so much better.