The SOMM Journal

December 2014/January 2015

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Page 19 of 119

20 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2014/2015 { one woman's view } MANY YEARS AGO, SCOTT RICH, then the winemaker for Etude winery in Carneros, California, used an analogy I'll never forget. Making Cabernet Sauvignon, he said, was like coming home every night to the best black Labrador you'd ever owned. No matter how long you'd been gone, or how late it was, the dog—tail wagging—was thrilled to see you. Making Pinot Noir, he continued, was like coming home to the worst cat. The cat would look at you as if to say, Where the hell have you been? Rich went on to delineate other aspects of Pinot Noir he found compelling, the main one of which was corruption. Somewhere deep within a great Pinot's flavor, he said, there has to be something darkly primordial, something corrupt. I've thought a lot about that idea since Rich first suggested it to me, and I'm convinced he's right, though I'd frame the concept slightly differently. To me, one of the characteris- tics all great wines share—no matter where they are from or what varieties they are made from—is this: The great wines of the world are never merely fruity. Fruitiness alone often comes off in a juvenile, sophomoric way—like wearing an all-pink dress with pink shoes and a pink hat. Great wines go beyond fruit and are woven through with complicated aromas and flavors—things like tar, bitter espresso, roasted meats, worn leather, blood, exotic spices, minerals, rocks, sweat, wet bark and dead leaves, to name a few. These beyond-fruit characteristics give wine an even broader and deeper sensory impact and make it more cerebral and emotionally stimulating. In their book The Psychology of Wine, Evan and Brian Mitchell write, "There's volumes to be said for a wine that takes you three glasses to decide whether you find it compelling or repellent." I couldn't agree more. Last week, the writer Bruce Schoenfeld (whose pieces on wine, sports, life and culture are amazing) reminded me of a time when we were in Spain together at a tasting and I liked a wine he didn't. "Don't you think it has brett?," he said. "How can you like that?" The very next wine was one he loved. "But it has so much VA," I protested. So were those wines flawed? Maybe. But years later, we've both come to see that we were responding to the same idea—the idea that a wine doesn't have to be (maybe even shouldn't be) perfect . . . to be perfect. The Dark Side of Greatness Karen MacNeil is the author of the forthcoming The NEW Wine Bible, fall 2015. by Karen MacNeil ALL OF THE WORLD'S GREAT WINES HAVE A HINT OF CORRUPTION

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