Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2000 Lopez de Heredia Rosé

While I would love my first blog post to be something more substantive, I’m likely to doom myself before I even start if I set my standards too high. Nevertheless, there are worse ways to kick off summer than Lopez de Heredia.

I have been drinking wine seriously for about 18 months now - long enough now to have had my fill of what’s being commonly lamented among wine writers as the "New World" or “international” style (among much more derogatory names - see Alice Feiring or other less radical writers to get an idea of what I mean) - you know what I’m talking about. Big sweet fruit, high alcohol, low acid, not too much complexity. Wines designed for immediate pleasure, not for examination. Anyway, most days, I’m over that, and the new, the weird, and the eccentric is what charms me, even if I don’t end up particularly loving the bottle. Case in point: Lopez de Heredia, an old, traditional, geeky winery in Rioja (Spain). They do it old school - ageing their wines for substantial periods before release (their current release for their gran reserva wines, until just recently, was 1987...the year I was born). This current - release rosé is from the 2000 vintage, and in a world were virtually all rose is consumed within 12 months of the grapes leaving the vines, ageing this wine for over 1000% of the average time frame is pretty exceptional.

Anyway, to the wine itself: suffice it to say, it was pretty fascinating stuff. Again, here’s the fuzzy grey zone between like and dislike, because while this is not really my cup of tea, it’s so unique that I found myself charmed, despite a lack of desire to ever buy another bottle (at least for a couple years). We drank it slightly chilled - about cellar temperature. It had great floral and fruit characteristics on the nose - very pure - nothing fake or manufactured about this wine in the least. The mouthfeel was full, the wine was complex, especially for a rosé, and carried more earthy tones than any rosé I’ve ever tried. But it was the finish that was especially fascinating. To me there are two sorts of things acid in wine does to the palate, the first you notice right off the bat, the zip as it hits your tongue and stings your mouth - the second being the residual pucker and knee-jerk salivation response once you spit or swallow. This lacked the first kind, but had the second in spades. It was probably the most acidic wine I’d ever tasted, and not in a bad way. Still, at the end of the day, too acidic for me to be a real winner - it took us a couple of days to get through the bottle, since you don’t want more than a glass of this stuff. But it was worth the $25, just for the experience.

So, now, you interact with me: what wines fascinate you, even if they don’t appeal in other ways? Do the two categories collapse? And are there any other things that you get excited about for the sheer novelty?

Finally: A brief look ahead at some blog posts I have in the works...

Wine Scores, And Why They Fail
What is Terroir?
How A Wine Review Should Be Written
Dos and Don’ts for the New Wine-Drinker
Subjectivity/Objectivity in Wine Criticism

These more substantive/theoretical posts will be interspersed with ones like this one, about the wines I drink and my thoughts. Plus, maybe some philosophy and miscellaneous, we’ll see.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What is The Examined Wine?

From Plato's Apologia,

“Perhaps someone might say, ‘Socrates, can you not go away from us and live quietly, without talking?’ Now this is the hardest thing to make some of you believe. For if I say that such conduct would be disobedience to the god and that therefore I cannot keep quiet, you will think I am jesting and will not believe me; and if again I say that to talk every day about virtue and the other things about which you hear me talking and examining myself and others is the greatest good to man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you will believe me still less. This is as I say, gentlemen, but it is not easy to convince you.”

While few of us are forced to make a choice between philosophy and death, all of us are faced with opportunities to decide between convenient conventionality and (sometimes inconvenient) devotion to discovering the truth through reason. How we choose determines whether we, like Socrates, deserve to call our lives “examined.”
So what does this have to do with wine? Well, frankly, nothing in particular. Except that the serious examination of anything, wine included, pays dividends to the faculty of examination itself, which as Socrates asserts makes life worthwhile. As philosopher Simone Weil (link) put it,

"Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul."

In summary, while this is ostensibly a wine blog, my hope is that this project will turn into a paean to the examination and enjoyment of all the rich things that life has to offer. Wine is but one of many pleasures in life worth some serious thought, and the examination of it can serve as a unique gateway into the examined life as a whole, because as Weil reminds us, “Intelligence can only be directed by desire. For there to be desire, there must be pleasure and joy. Intelligence only grows and bears fruits in joy.” And wine, needless to say, is a joy.