Friday, February 28, 2014

BLENDING: Truth in Plurals

Tradition is a wonderful thing because it takes time. So much time in fact, as it cannot be the latest or a nouveau trend.  In wine traditions, balance becomes harmonious when more than a single note is played. But are two notes enough?  Wouldn't three or four or a dozen be richer, more interesting. Complexity in wine is also a wonderful thing when found as by expanding the palate of flavors, and even textures, as well as its structure. Yin and yang, Merlot ripens earlier in the vineyard; its feminine roundness is there to balance out the course, in your teeth structure of late ripening Cabernet Sauvignon. Blending then sees that a sum is greater than its individual parts. Early ripening Sauvignon Blanc is lean and brightly acidic. Semillon is richer, its late ripening berries almost waxy in its stone fruit textures. Together they make a more interesting, a fuller white wine. It's a vino scored correction, and I love the music.
Drinking outside of school, Bordeaux
On a cool and rainy evening, I recently presented an informational Bordeaux seminar to a small group of dauntless and supportive wine lovers.  They attentively listened as I hemorrhaged dusty detail after (hopefully)intriguing detail of the serendipity that is the story of the evolution of Bordeaux white wines. As its tale unfolds, it is not just a few events strung together over the long course of history, but rather a series of actions and re-actions, geography and politics, necessity and innovation, that harmonize into the engaging wines of Bordeaux.

This white Bordeaux presentation also included a few examples of fascinatingly blended wines.  As is my nature, these products with 'Bordeaux' on the label were not expensive by contemporary standards. For less than the price of a lunch at a local diner I was able to enjoy centuries of harmonious evolution in a thirst quenching glass!  They presented aromas and a texture that altered my memory of Sauvignon Blanc, because it was a wine of beautiful complexity.  Sure the characteristic herbaceous was there in the nose, but it was not alone, sharing each wiff with yellow tree fruits, an almost familiar tangerine pith, and a hint of vanilla.  Round on the palate, it rolled over my tongue and presented reinforcements of its aromas, but now on the back of racy minerality. Its marriage to Semillon and its textured flavoring with oak created a sensation in the mouth that gave me pause.  It was quite unlike what I had tasted in recent memory.
And, it lingered.  Another sip followed a bite of a waterwafer smeared with L'Ami du Chambertin, a soft cows milk cheese, and the wine's expression was transformed.  There was that herbaceous personality, now sharing palate space with a refreshing, mouth-watering tartness. This wine had changed. With dairy fat its texture was diminished, yet it refreshingly made me thirsty for more.  Blending estate grown Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, combined with a little oak aging, composed in this wine a richness and balance that I have rarely found in a white wine.

Throughout its long wine production history, Bordeaux has had an evolution of quality.  Native varietals, long known as the components of the 'Bordeaux blend', have been tested, acclimated and composed, to present a standard of quality found today in few other places in the wine world.  Whether a product of a historical estate(chateau), a negociant, or a local rural cooperative, the blended wines of Bordeaux(rouge or blanc) continue to reflect a long tradition of quality in blending.  It is truth in plural, from the most generic Bordeaux AOC, to the higher standards of sub-regional and village appellations.

Sauvignon Blanc harvest Ch. Couhins-Lurton, Graves
With our seminar video recording currently received by the Society, it is now a waiting game.  I've got a few Old World bottles and some unread wine books in the home library to keep me occupied.  The SWE will critically evaluate our submission for its educational merits and its continuity to our accepted production outline.  If approved, the video should satisfy the Presentation Skills Demonstration advancement requirement for my long awaited CWE certification. It is exciting to be near the end, but daunting to look forward into the unknown.  How will the Certificate, the initials after my name and a lapel pin translate into secure revenue or professional opportunities?  Perhaps I should explore another wine industry specialty, because as we know tradition tells us that there are truth in plurals!