17 October 2009
I may be crazy, but there is just something natural, primeval and perfect about the nose on this wine: I can already tell it will be refreshing, not only from the alcohol content, but really from the nose. I don't detect any heat; I'm not assaulted by any outlandish aromas of candied cherry or milk chocolate: What I'm getting is subtlety, but in a very aristocratic way. I get what I associate with good Syrah-hickory bacon with a dash of pepper in the skillet, a hint of tobacco (cigarette butts really, but tobacco nevertheless), new leather, perfectly ripe and honest cherry, and some iron notes that waft in and out. The palate is just bright; it's not Marianas Trench deep, it's not Gobi Desert brooding, but it brings refreshment like I've never had from the northern Rhone (here, however, I do admit my adolescence with respect to the region). Focused flavors of cherry, pomegranate and not-too-intense cranberry give serious vigor to a palate with just enough grip and complexity to keep this as sophisticated as it is succulent. Syrah...pur.
One of my favorite vineyards in the lower Nahe is the Muensterer Dautenpflaenzer, both for its candid, exotic forthrightness in youth and its potent, familiar smell of sweet Autumn. Back in August I had the good fortune to dive into the Rumpf's 2008 Dautenpflaenzer Riesling Spaetlese, an extraordinary bottle of late-harvest wine displaying wintergreen, pear, extremely ripe kiwi and apple mash on the nose, alongside the Dautenpflaenzer's typical scent of dried or even burnt leaves (there are at times faint traces of smokiness that I associate more with the slatey aspects of this site). Palate-wise, there is distinct structure, an electric liveliness, if you will, that creates an instant desire for another drink...NO sips here; just full-throttle gulps. There is an abundance of crackling acidity in this beauty, even a degree of grip that keeps all the tropical nuances taut and nimble, not cloying, gooey and boring. Lots of sweetness here though, but I'm struck by how sophisticated it is. When you bury your nose in the glass you still get the slightest hint of fermentation aromas. When you take the first gulp, however, any overt yeastiness has given way to an extremely polished, tropical-fruit-cocktail-meets-middle-of-the-forest-floor iteration of a truly Grand Cru site...the Muensterer Dautenpflaenzer. Folks, this is the stuff: Riesling, auf Deutsch. Drink up!
12 October 2009
If I make a few more posts tonight, I should share with the readership (one, maybe two of you?) that I didn't drink all these wines on the afternoon and evening of October 12, 2009. My notes are piling up; that's all. I need to get some of this down before I start to feel like I've committed injustice to these wines, especially this one: the 2004 Prieler Leithaberg rot from the Burgenland, Neusiedlersee district of far-eastern Austria. I'm not a celebrity chaser by any stretch, but I couldn't help but be amused by my timing...Drove to Pinard de Picard in Saarwellingen on a Thursday (maybe?), picked up some dream wines with the folks (here for a long summer stay), including three bottles of Prieler's 2004 Leithaberg rot (Falstaff's best Austrian red wine of 2004), then headed home to open one. Then went to the Thalia bookstore the next day, stumbled on the latest installment of Falstaff, and to my surprise-well, maybe that's not the best word; I was just flabbergasted by the timing...Silvia Prieler and the rest of the family crowned Winemaker of the Year by Austria's premier wine and all-things-gourmet periodical. There was already enough Sin of Expectation in the air from the previous night, and thankfully before stumbling on this sensational and richly deserved news, the note was writ:
"This smells like a camp fire with bing cherries and plumb roasting on a cedar spit. Really just breathtaking. All the seduction of Pinot Noir is there, the mystery of Sankt Laurent (and really, when you drink truly stupefying SL, you have to wonder How is this not a Great Grape of the World?), and the grandeur, the complexity of Blaufraenkisch. The fruit and the intense spice on the nose literally reach out and smack you. My nostrils are singed-not by alcohol, but by striking intensity. Everything is beginning to roll out on the red carpet right now: pomegranate, blueberry and tangy cran, framed by a satchel full of clove and licorice. Sensational. The whole of this is united; a supremely holistic effort only just beginning to bask in the glories of maturity."
Yeah, I liked it.
This is what can happen when you expect too much from a wine-in this case, a rosé. This, as opposed to just letting the wine tell you its own story, rather than the ignorant mind of some traipsing amateur conjuring one of his own (which nearly happened...I was the amateur). So, I have this unfiltered rosé from 100% Grenache grown in white clay and decomposed granitic sand, the 2007 Portal del Montsant 'Brunus' Rosé, and I'm all too anxious to have this paralytic rosé epiphany. Alas, I reach the bottom of the bottle on an early August picnic date with the frau, and all I'm greeted with is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. What a drag, right? -To have expected so much, and thus never to have realized the point at which your expectations had long since been met, satisfied even to utter exhaustion. I suspect we wine geeks at times can't even speak the language of fulfillment and satisfaction, the dream of something bigger, better, deeper haunts us so.
But that's also what drives profundity on the sell-side...so whatever. The nose on this Brunus was a bit inexpressive at first, mulish even. I imagine the wine was a bit too cool at first. This had more of a seductive white wine nose, with the wet chalk and red berries you sometimes get with Riesling (Selbach, say). Marked acidity here, great structure, ever so subtle tannin, like a tickle monster with a two-year-old's hands. After the temperature corrections, this started to take on a Minute Maid OJ persona, both on the nose and palate, and became just an absolute joy to drink. There wasn't one aspect of this wine that screamed louder for attention than another-everything was in perfect harmony. Sure, I failed to notice the moment of satisfaction-as devoid of empiricism as such a notion is-but at least I took the time to say 'slow down' to myself, especially when it comes to offhandedly inferring greatness to any rosé wine that corners me, without so much as a nod to context.
05 October 2009
06 August 2009
02 August 2009
SOIL: The medium through which these interactions grow, take form and at last, nurture.
These two elements constitute the very fabric of wine as it weaves its way through contemporary culture. While styles and fad-like tendencies repeatedly change, swayed as they will always be by a bevy of well-intentioned critics and self-professed cognoscente, wine will always remain “sunlight, held together by water” (Galileo Galilei, 1564-1642).
Wine should not be a complicated endeavor; it should be a cherished one. To associate the pleasures of wine with that of striving toward some foregone conclusion--what varietal, what winery, what weight of residual sugar--is tantamount to assuming wine will always afford a ‘Yes/No’, ‘You’re right, he’s wrong’ sum. It is for this reason that Body und Soil even exists. While a great deal of study, and even more snobbery and hubris can be thrown at the subject, what matters ultimately is that a wine speaks deeply of its origins, and that it draws an audience even deeper into its story through the weight of its own wonders...Body und Soil.
People, Passion, Pleasure. That’s all there is. If you don’t know yet that wine is about people, you’ve missed something. That’s OK. You’re probably still enjoying the heck out of some seriously delicious vino. And rightly so, although you may not have recognized that behind that wine are very special people, who see to it that what you have in your glass tastes mind-numbingly great and not like raspberry vinaigrette. Though you may have never met these special people, they care deeply about you. In fact, most of them care passionately about everything, from folding laundry into crisp and perfect squares, rinsing every wine glass by hand to utter spotless clarity, to lining up every fork, spoon and knife even with the edge of the table. They are meticulous, and pathologically so. In this they ensure that habitual passion and attention to detail make it into the products they produce as well. And when they spend every night and day thinking about what they could be doing better, what would be healthier in the vineyards, how to be more hands-off in the cellar, when to pick...know that they are your intercessors. They are asking these questions on your behalf. Because you want an honest wine, you want attention to detail in the vineyard and the cellars, and you want something that brings an immense amount of pleasure from the second it hits your lips until it wets your gut. But you have no control over that process, only over what you buy.
You also have control over how you enjoy wine. Do you drink it by yourself without food? That may be the sign of deeper problems, not deeper pleasure. Or do you share your wine and break bread with family and friends? Are there fellowship, laughter and good eatin' at the table when the vino starts to flow? These questions are the very confluence of people, passion and pleasure. The people behind the wine--the ones detailed above--are important. But wine will always leave the winery with seams, a little disjointed and flustered. In the end it needs something to bind it all together again, to stitch the seams and seal the joints: It needs fellowship, the same ingredient in every loving family, congregation, friendship. Is it any wonder that a wine tasted for the first time with the best of friends and the greatest food never quite tastes so good again when tasted alone? If you have a 500-bottle cellar and no one to share it with, then you have 500 missed opportunities. Every bottle of wine I ever bought, I had someone else in mind who I thought could love it even more than I: the wine was predestined to be shared with those I love (even those I don't love so much).
My demand is that the wine I buy and drink be produced by someone I know personally or have read about extensively, and in turn have been convinced by his or her passion, his or her integrity with respect to viticulture, processes, and philosophy, and his or her focus on bringing pleasure to the palate, not points. I want to know these people, because I feel when I know them (or ‘know’ them, as the case may be), I begin to understand the true context of their wines, their true nature. I begin to trust them, and in turn the families behind them. The circle is complete. Terroir is important, without question; I will harp on climate, exposure, and soil to a tormenting extent. I will preach on a multitude of other things as well. But ultimately, the winemaker, the owner, and the folks in charge of babying the vineyard: They are the holy triumvirate, and ideally they are One. They will affect a bottle (or box!) of wine most completely, by leaving it utterly alone and still, or interacting with it as necessary toward an agreeable goal.
A parting note on what I hope this agreeable goal becomes in the near future: I hope it's something that truly-as in honestly-brings pleasure. It is exceedingly difficult for me to equate atmospheric alcohol, excruciating tannin, or extremely unlikely color saturation, with pleasure or integrity. The prices paid for such self-proclaiming monuments are irrational, and seldom can I conjure a rational explanation for how this trend continues to pervade and poison the wine scene. I little bit of research will reveal an ocean of wine for relatively no money that delivers pleasure in a more accessible and more timely fashion, something that should appeal to those who can't stand to wait 30+ years for right-bank Port-deaux to 'mature', or who simply won't be around in 3o years. That little bit of research may even unveil the story of one or two families that aren't too different from yours or mine, a story that makes the wine closer to home than it ever could have been before, shadowed on the dusty shelves of some forgotten corner grocer. With wine, families are the most important story-not terroir, not hang time, not barrels, not anything. Wine is about people. Passionate people. Folks who want nothing more than to make wines that mirror their charisma, their virtues, their criteria for what makes a wine worth drinking over and over again.
Wine is family, reduced.