In a rare example of a poem that has become an aphorism, Frost’s ‘The Road Less Taken‘ reminds the reader that choosing the unbeaten path makes all the difference.
This aphoristic wisdom applies to wine, too.
Wine, like all pleasures, can be an easy rut to fall into. Favorite grapes, favorite regions, favorite producers drive buying habits. We often seek and expect consistency, channeling ourselves into ever-narrower consumption runnels.
How do we strike a balance between familiarity and discovery? Is there an optimum ratio of old to new?
I have no idea. The answer will be different for everyone, but one thing we must do is taste, taste, taste.
This week I had occasion to try two amazing wines that I wouldn’t normally have encountered. It would have been as easy to not try them, to stick to the known. Had I done so, I’d have missed out on two impressive producers and a brace of unexpected wines.
The first was a Brujidera (Moravia) produced by #garagewine. Amaya Cervera, writing for Spanish Wine Lover explains:
“Garage Wine is run by two cousins, each with their own clearly defined roles. Jesús Toledo, the fifth generation of farmers, is the man behind the wine, and consultant Julián Ajenjo is the no-nonsense guy crunching the numbers. They started out in a garage with barely two tanks, two barrels, a destemmer and a crusher to produce their first 500 bottles in the 2015 vintage. In 2016 they made their first Brujidera (Moravia Dulce) to which they refer fondly as “La Mancha pinot”. Grapes are sourced from the only Moravia vineyard left in the village, mistakenly thought to be Garnacha. Hadn’t they taken care of this and other old plots, they would have likely been uprooted.”
Mark O’Neill, the laser-minded proprietor of The Wine Place in Valencia, had a bottle of #garagewine Brujidera open for a tasting when my husband and I went in, and offered us a splash.
I was expecting a typical central-Spanish bruiser — dark fruit, oak, plenty of tooth-darkening tannins. Instead, a bright, supple, quaffable red-fruit driven gem that practically danced in the glass. It had the freshness I only expect from cool climate wines, despite being grown in a fierce continental zone. It was, in a word, splendid.
The second find of the week was a Tohu Pinot Gris from the Awatere Valley in Marlborough, New Zealand.
As with the Brujidera, the set of associations conjured by ‘Pinot Gris’ and ‘Marlborough’ would have prevented me from buying the bottle. Luckily, my friend knew and loved the wine, so she bought it.
Offered a glass, I prepared myself for either a over-honeyed floral interpretation of Pinot Gris, a la the Willamette Valley, or a Kiwi acid fest. The reality was something quite different: subtle aromatics, white-fleshed fruit, citrus blossom and a hint of yeast that lent an almost smoked or fungal touch. Without a doubt, one of the nicer Pinot Gris I’ve had.
Tohu Wines was also the first Maori owned winery.
According to its website: “Tohu Wines is part of Kono, a Māori, whānau-owned company based in Te Tauihu , the top of the South Island. With more than 4000 owner families, our purpose is to preserve and enhance our taonga for present and future generations.
Thoughtfulness, kindness and hospitality are central to our identity as Māori. We value people above all things.
One of our core values, manaakitanga, encapsulates care and respect for people and relationships, including the natural environment. It governs the way we interact with one another. An essential part of Māori culture is our desire to feed and nurture people. Sharing food is a traditional way of bringing people together. We demonstrate our love and respect for people by providing them with outstanding food and wine.”
These two excellent bottles reminded me how important it is to stay curious about wine. The satisfaction of discovering one’s tastes, identifying preferred styles and producers, etc can inadvertently quench exploration. It is easy to stick with what we love.
Resisting this gentle laziness is part of developing one’s palate, and personality. Keep trying, always.