I’ve been blogging here for 10 years now, and I think (if my memory serves me correctly) that this is the first guest blog post. It’s by Daniel Primack of Around Wine, who tweets as @winerackd.
Less Oak, More Folk
George Dubbya Bush used to refer to everyone, even enemies of the state, as ‘folk’. I thought this was an inappropriate use of the word, as folk always makes me think of family, friends and community—people you know or would like to know.
The more I have learnt about wine over the years, the more important I think it is to have some contact with the folk who produce the wine. Whether it is meeting them at a tasting, or reading their story from their own website or someone else’s blog, that knowledge enhances choice and experience. By learning more the drinker can really get to know what has been done to create the wine in the bottle.
With the odd exception, the majority of wines I have been excited by and purchased over the last couple of years have been made using very little or no new oak. I make a point of finding out. I can discover how much, in advance of tasting, drinking or buying, by asking the folk. I like wines that have been matured in very large oak barrels as old as the trees they came from, but am now discouraged by anything that stops the fruit shining. Combining this with the fact that my favourite wines have been made by people who have learnt when not to interfere with the wine (and of course knowing when to act), I could be labelled as having a preference for the ‘natural’, with a small dollop of sulfur dioxide.
I am certain that developing a palate for wine is a journey that takes time, experience and a good memory. Most wine enthusiasts will be able to tell you a story about the first great wine they tried, that led them to become an enthusiast. If wine is a journey, much further down the road from that first taste, there certainly seem to be other junctions. These include a preference for Riesling over other white grapes, and an appreciation for quality Sherry.
There are other markers amongst any person’s pantheon of well-travelled tastes. Looking back at mine, pre the Riesling and Sherry stop-offs, I clearly remember the wine that made me question my love, at the time, for wines that had been picked late, cold macerated, pumped over daily and put in small barrels of brand new oak. The wine in question was La Pialade 06, a Cote du Rhone from the Rayas stable. I picked it off the shelf as I thought anything by Rayas had to be worth drinking. It was a wine so light in colour, so transparent, that I wondered if it would taste of much at all. The first mouthful was a surprising combination of delicacy and complexity, a combination that turned out to be addictive. I continue to try to repeat that experience with other wines.
A friend of mine who owns three wine shops once said to me that when you are a kid you like hamburgers. When you are an adult you like tartare. Sometimes as an adult you want a hamburger. This was his way of saying that big, bold wines have their place. They are easy to be seduced by, and when done well are exciting. A drink of greater refinement will reap more reward, but might require a little more effort.
It is that effort that seems not to be worth it for some folk. I think many producers find it easier to make hamburgers and drinkers to order them. Hopefully the likes of Wineanorak and its ilk will continue to shine a light on the less-oak-folk.
Daniel Primack, @winerackd