A few weekends ago I participated in a wonderful wine event in Daylesford conceived and organised by Jenny Latta. As is the way, my attendance was for work, which happens to be my pleasure, and the aptly titled event ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ was indeed a pleasure to be included in.
Having vinously grown up with the classics, having been generously graced with great wine by equally great people, my lessons and subsequent aspirations (and hopefully outcomes) are pretty conservative. Not in a 1980s acid and oak academic Australian style, but rather with an embrace of vine farming and the wine grower’s way. I like my wine’s ambition to embody an attempt for it to taste of where it comes from. I mean this in a landscape sense, not a human sense. It’s about where from, not who from.
Show me land, not hand, in a wine.
My sensibilities have been honed such that my nose is turned up at aspects of wines that are not in place. The term ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ makes so much sense to my wine mind. I have come to mind the dominating caramel sweetness of new American oak (most confrontingly in young wines). I’m jarred by the hardness of theory chasing acid additions. Balancing where you find your balance takes some weighing up but the simple measure for mine is for a finding of deliciousness in wine. Finding charm, finding grace.
The above detracting winemaking techniques are outcomes created with consciousness. They come from decisions made with absolute known results. And the wines speak less of their vineyard origins for this. And they show less grace and charm because of it, and, to my mind and palate, they are, ultimately, less delicious than they could have been.
Similar to the above instances, where the mind and hand have interfered to the detriment of sense of place and deliciousness, I find wines that are dominated by a singular character equally disappointing. When a wine shouts of oxidation, brettanomyces, mousiness or volatiles I find it impossible to find deliciousness, let alone enjoy a search for sense of place. I find this frustrating when winemaking techniques obliterate the wine’s farming origin and speak of a heavy hand and imposing mind. The wine itself may possibly be additive free but the deciding mind has its hands all over the wine.
For some wines what detracts from and destroys others is indeed stylistically positive. Like flor and Fino, maderisation and Madeira. One wine’s fault can be another wine’s signature. But there are limits. There are tipping points. To find where the limits are takes stepping beyond the brink and then reflection as to how far is too far. We are in these moments and it’s intriguing to watch from close range.
Fine vineyards are very valuable. They take up land, they take up time, they take many years to mature. Each season they demand enormous care and funding to produce their valuable crop. The closer your link to the life of a vineyard, the closer your connection to its annual crop, the greater the demand you do your best to honour the fruit. There’s a responsibility not to let the winemaking get too far out of hand.
Conversely, the looser the connection to the vineyard and the works of the season the more freedom exists. There is more room for experimentation, for risk taking, as there is less depth of relationship at stake. Quite rightly, this is where much of the boundary testing is happening and it’s exciting and intriguing to witness.
The Lo Fi wine event that Jen conceived and successfully presented was an important occasion. It was inclusive, sincere, fun and stimulating. And hopefully it’ll be repeated.