Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wine Geometry

Are wine language an insider phenomenon - a commutation form only for the initiated?

Sometimes it is – sometimes not, or is it only because we assume the obvious is logical.

What is interesting about wine language is that it’s is a dynamic substance, which evolves with trends and corrections. Yet again, it could be that you discovered expressions along the way; you once had no idea what were, but now use as they were second nature.

Let’s take wine language down to a more specific level.  

“The wine is round”

You know what I am talking about, right? Round would be pleasing, soft and friendly. A wine with no hard edges, which could have a lush profile, filled with deep and intense fruit.  Velvet tannins, could also lead to round – even if the notes of chocolate and vanilla would appear, we could think of round. Yes we know round, don’t we?

“The wine is square”

Tricky! I assume a lot of people would have no idea what a square wine was or if so - our assumptions could most likely be miles apart and the term could have multiple meanings.

If we have to understand “square” properly we will have to have broader context and more information. I will give it to you now.

I heard this  “square” expression in arecent radio interview (it's in Danish) with chief sommerlier Pontus Elofsson from restaurant Noma .The host of the radio show asked Pontus why Noma and other top restaurants here in Denmark are turning more and more into natural wines – to a degree that the conventional wines are slowly being phased out.  Pontus said something like this:

“The trend at these restaurants is a more terroir defined kitchen. The distance between nature and plate is very short. The expression of the food is very brutal and honest – so is the wine. The starting point for both food and wine are the same. The conventional wines are very specific and square and might be spot on to a very specific dish. But when you pair against food, which is extremely wild, unruly and open - they fail. They simply don’t hit the right tones, like natural wine do. These natural wines work because they are flexible and open"

Does it make sense now?

(Pontus Elofsson)
Let’s try another term.

“The wine is free”

First time I got exposed to this term was the “Fri vin” event. I had a very good idea what “Free wines” were, as all of the producers attending either flirted with natural wines, organic, bio or very strong terroir orientated Champagne. Looking back – I didn’t get the term exactly right then, but I think it get it now.

A free wine…if we stay in the geometry lessons, we could say it’s a wine with no shapes – a wine that can’t be fitted into a form. A wine that is unruly, wild and open as Pontus pointed out. For me it’s also a wine that lives – filled with energy and life. Not belonging to a shape also means not forced to be a part of shape. Free wines tend to shoot in all kinds of directions because they are not forced only to go in one direction.

The most important thing for a wine to be free is that it lives.

It often takes me less than 10 seconds to know if it’s a free wine I have in the glass, but the obvious brain signal is almost impossible for me to explain. My best try would be it’s a wine I can feel – a wine that speaks to me and I can speak to the wine.

I know I’ve probably lost a few here and you been wondering what I have been smoking – but that’s the point. Free wines are an inexplicable connection between life in the wine and life in you. Those of you already exposed to free wines, know what I am mumbling about (please say yes).

I also know, when I present the geometry like this, I make the shapeless sound as the free paradise and the conventional, correct and square sound as hell on earth. Then we are back to the trench warfare of conventional vs natural wines. That’s not the case – at least not 100% ;-). You see correct and square can be great, when the variables are there. Such as my mood, food, occasion and friendship. But for my emotional barometer to get going it’s the shapeless, crazy, spontaneous, which reminds me I am alive and wine is more than just a liquid.

As all good students – I have an example for you. A square wine and a free wine – here goes.

The square wine:

2001 Felsina, Chianti Classico Riserva “Rancia”

Blend: 100% Sangiovese
Terroir: Limestone and Galestro marl
Vineyard: 6,25ha – southwest exposure – 410m above sea level.
Fermentation:  Temperature 28-30°c
Maceration: 16-20 days.
Ages of vines: Roughly 50 years
Aging: A mix of barriques and old oak casks – total of 16-18 months, plus 6-8 months in bottle
Glass: Zalto Bordeaux

Maybe it’s not fair to call Rancia a square wine. Or should I say it’s a dilemma to mark it as square. To some degree it’s exceptional square and yet again it seems like a wine have simply not woken up and I doubt it ever will.

I have tasted Rancia many times before in several vintages and know it takes time to come around. I even remember the 2001 here, which I tasted just after its release and decided to keep my six-pack well hidden in the back of my cellar. Here – many years later it’s still rock hard and not exactly a pleasure to drink

Sangiovese comes in many shapes and Rancia belongs where the red perfumes is transformed into darker cherry formations, Tuscan dust and dried herbs. We are not dealing with high alcohol or an extracted wine here – but my God I miss some life. The wine is tuned into a frequency, which I can’t listen to and no matter how gently I tried to whisper in it’s ear it seems almost offended and no contact was ever established.  

It’s the kind of wine where you take a sip of the glass and are disappointed every time, but still hope something better will appear. It didn’t happen and even though I have 5 bottles left I fear they are technical already dead.

The Free wine:

2010 Jean François Ganevat “Plein Sud”

Blend: 100% Trousseau
Terroir: Gray Marle and pebbles
Vines: Planted in 1949 and 2000
Production: approx. 15.000 bottles
Other: Almost all of Ganevat’s wines are without sulphur and can age really well.
Glass: Zalto Burgundy

To quote a friend on FB – “Ganevat is a genius”.

I couldn’t agree more and I could have picked all of his wines to represent my little experiment, but "Plein Sud" just happened to be the latest I’ve drunk and I had a couple of days after “Rancia”, which put focus on the contrast and why I thought about writing this thread.

Like all of Ganevat’s wines they are incredible delicious - drinking exceptional well with low alcohol and unbelievable juiciness. But there is also intellect – mind-blowing combination of depth, clarity and energy. You are instantly in close contact with the wine. It embraces you with open arms and the only problem is that the bottle is rapidly empty.

Ganavet can like no other from Jura lead your mind into Burgundy comparisons. He brings out an overly delicate sweetness, which in the case of this Plein Sud shapes like candy raspberry perfumes, cherries, Christmas spices and these ethereal notes. The taste is vivid – floating like a feather, yet with enormous bite and persistence.  Absolutely gorgeous and free wine. 


Anonymous said...

Please send me a bottle 01 Rancia at the beginning of next year, I will send you a bottle in return.

Merry Xmas!!!
Martin "BerlinKitchen"

Thomas said...

Hi Martin,

Deal my friend.

Enjoy the holidays.

Best from,

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