Veracity in wine

2010 Metala Shiraz CabernetMetala Langhorne Creek Shiraz Cabernet 2010
Apple iPhone 4s, builtin 4.28mm
(~35mm) lens, 1/60 sec, f/2.4, ISO 50.

In vino veritas … but is there? I suspect the saying simply refers to wine’s infamous ability to loosen tongues, and that is not what interests us here. Wine, however, has its own truth, which is unrelated to the unguarded confidences of inebriates, that is perhaps universal and eternal precisely because it is so local and specific.

You might be seeing the idea that I’m dancing around here. Great wine reflects where and when the grapes were grown as much, if not more, than what happened to it once they got to the winery. They reflect the weather of the growing season, and the climate, soil, and aspect of their vineyard — or vineyards. (Must the impact of terroir be more dilute in wines made with grapes from a number of different vineyards within the same region? Or, even, from different regions?). As Henri Jayer said, “Vines each have typical aromas, small red and black berries and cherry for pinot, which can be found regardless of the region of production, but terroirs develop the potential of that extraordinary and still mysterious vine” (Rigaux 2009, p. 148).

That winemaking will have an impact is inevitable — grapes do not turn into good wine by themselves. Different techniques in the winery, and choice of oak barrels (or no oak barrels) will all have their impacts. But, hopefully, not enough to drown out the rather quiet voice of the terroir. Good winemaking may be about growing (or purchasing) good grapes and not messing them up in the winery, but there’s more to ‘not messing up’ than such a simple sentence implies!

All of this is a roundabout way to saying that great wine will reflect where it is grown, and this may lead to wines which are truthful to their site, but idiosyncratic. The wine pictured is a Shiraz-Cabernet blend from Langhorne Creek in South Australia. It is a big wine — full of the “muddy soulfulness of the Creek”, and the “eucalypt-and-mudcake” character that Philip White described as typical of the wine (White 2013); deep and opaque in colour, and 15% alcohol — and thus, perhaps, seems as far away from, say, a Jura Poulsard as one could get whilst still being a red wine. Yet, if each reflects where it was grown with some honesty, they could both be said to be true wines, great wines. They reflect the radically different sites in which they were grown. As Henri Jayer said, “From all this we should learn that typicity exists, that it shows itself in extraordinarily diverse ways, and we must respect that” (Rigaux 2009, p. 49).

None of this is to erase the individual preferences of whoever ends up drinking the stuff, of course. It’s possible someone more accustomed to Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Loire may not enjoy such a massive, full-bodied wine as the Metala. Or that someone who likes such wines may not like lighter reds. (Personally, I like both…). But is it possible to say that, whilst you don’t like the wine style, it is a true reflection of its terroir? And can a wine which is not from a great site be a true wine but not a great wine? As Jayer said, “When we taste a wine, we taste to see whether it has good typicity, and if it illustrates the general characteristics of its terroir ” (Rigaux 2009, p. 46).

 

Lucy Margaux Vineyards Jaspers Estate Pinot Noir 2010 Lucy Margaux Vineyards Jaspers Estate Pinot Noir 2015
Apple iPhone 4s, builtin 4.28mm (~35mm) lens, 1/20 sec, f/2.4, ISO 80.

Rigaux, J 2009, A Tribute to the Great Wines of Burgundy: Henri Jayer, Winemaker from Vosne-Romanée, trans. JK Finkel, Terre en Vues, Le Chatelet, France.
White, P 2013, Jimmy Watson Tropy Goes To a Wine, viewed 4/12/2016, <http://drinkster.blogspot.com/2013/01/jimmy-watson-trophy-goes-to-wine.html>.

Stuff…

Cluttered bookshelf

Stuff, it seems, tends to accumulate. The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of a closed system will always increase, something which becomes particularly evident when contemplating spring cleaning. As I am now.

I am envious of those who can do without ‘stuff’, and perhaps keep enough for their day-to-day needs in a suitcase. If nothing else, it simplifies moving. But how to apply this to books? Books always seem to be more than just ‘stuff’, they are fragments of knowledge and windows into other worlds — and other minds. But, they’re still physical objects, something that becomes intensely obvious when  you have to move them. A box filled with books quickly gets heavy!

The obvious answer is an eBook reader, like a Kindle. But I have too many old or unusual books, that will never be offered as eBooks. And nothing, for me, can replace a shelf full of books. Being amongst books offers a sense of security, and rootedness, that is hard to find.

So, how does one solve the problem of ‘stuff’…?

John Clare, “Dewdrops”

Diamonds, Morning, University of New EnglandUniversity of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia, 24th June 2006 16:54
Pentax Optio S45, 10.2mm (~61.4mm) on inbuilt zoom lens, 1/800 sec,  f/5.6, ISO 100

The dewdrops on every blade of grass are so much like silver drops that I am obliged to stoop down as I walk to see if they are pearls, and those sprinkled on the ivy-woven beds of primroses underneath the hazels, whitethorns and maples are so like gold beads that I stooped down to feel if they were hard, but they melted from my finger. And where the dew lies on the primrose, the violet and whitethorn leaves they are emerald and beryl, yet nothing more than the dews of the morning on the budding leaves; nay, the road grasses are covered with gold and silver beads, and the further we go the brighter they seem to shine, like solid gold and silver. It is nothing more than the sun’s light and shade upon them in the dewy morning; every thorn-point and every bramble-spear has its trembling ornament: till the wind gets a little brisker, and then all is shaken off, and all the shining jewelry passes away into a common spring morning full of budding leaves, primroses, violets, vernal speedwell, bluebell and orchis, and commonplace objects.
— John Clare

Fog, Upper Tooloom, Christmas

IMGP8351-1Wallaby Creek, Upper Tooloom, NSW, Australia, 27th December 2015 o3:52.
Pentax K-x, 18-125mm lens @ 30mm, 30 sec, f/8.0, ISO 12800.

I woke early — it was light out, and I could see clearly across towards forested hills. Early morning fog pooled in the valley, covering the dam, flirting with the hills. The light was diffuse, flat, pearlescent. It seemed as bright as day — a dismal, foggy autumn day, at least. As I watched, the fog gradually eroded away at the hills. I debated internally: was this worth a photo? Could I capture it?

Eventually, I gave in. The hills had all but disappeared. And it was not, I found, as bright as day. My first few exposures were pitch black. I had to ignore the lightmetre: 30 seconds, with the sensor sensitivity at its highest setting, were needed. The landscape seems lost in fog and grain: dreamlike, dreaming.

It was an odd day, that. The hills glowered in fog, which came and went, revealing and hiding the vista. By evening, the light went weird: first sepia, then purple, as the day faded into evening.

IMGP8393-HDR-1Wallaby Creek, Upper Tooloom, NSW, Australia, 27th December 2015 15:49.

IMGP8394-HDR-1Wallaby Creek, Upper Tooloom, NSW, Australia, 27th December 2015 18:53.

IMGP8416-HDR-1Wallaby Creek, Upper Tooloom, NSW, Australia, 27th December 2015 19:01.

Barcelona, 25th October 12:15

Seafront, Barcelona

By the beach. Cafés and bars all along the beachfront. People lie on towels. A young boy with crutches tries test the water, supported by his mother. Music from the bars. Out to sea, sailing ships cluster, their sails billowing. Two guys hawk shawls printed with stylised Indian designs of elephants and intricate abstract patterns. There are no takers. The constant swish of waves against the beach.

Back by the bar, in public seats, old men play dominoes, mahjong, cards. They smoke and argue, animated but amicable, their voices cigarette-hoarse.

The sun goes back beyond a cloud. Another kid builds a sandcastle. A woman has a massage. Helicopters circle.

Lisbon notes, October 2015

Alfama, 22nd October 2015 21:14Alfama, 22nd October 2015 21:14

  • The ‘m’ in Belém isn’t pronounced.
  • Alfama, winding, fractal-like, sprawling, tumbling towards the sea but never quite reaching it, is the old part of town. Being on a hill, it wasn’t destroyed by the tsunami that followed the earthquake of 1755. Baixa, the lowlying city centre area, was; and was rebuilt on a grid. It is more formal, more ordered.
  • The city, to Lisboans, is like a young woman. Is a young woman. Lisbon is always referred to as ‘she’, never ‘it’. Maria Lisboa. Alfama’s narrow streets are like her arms, holding you in an embrace.
  • St Anthony of Padua (Santo António de Lisboa in Portuguese) is Lisbon’s patron saint. His feast day — in June — is an excuse for a festival, a city-wide party, with stalls hawking food and drink all over the city. He is also the saint of mariners, of the poor, of pregnant women and of infertility, of travellers and of the unemployed, of seekers of lost articles, of shipwrecks and starvation.
  • The Torre de Belém (Belem Tower) stands out alone in the bay. From the Monument to the Discoveries, you can look past it towards the Atlantic. But it’s better close up. From the shore, you get a sense of its isolation from the land it is meant to protect. The river roils against its walls, fish pushed into crags in the sheer stone walls. If it is isolated from the land, it also seems alien in its riparian setting. Neither one nor the other.
  • The melancholic whistle of the traditional knife-sharpeners is meant to bring rain. They cycle from door to door, their knife-sharper pedal operated.
  • Fado is, perhaps, the music of Portugal. It is expressive of saudade – a peculiar kind of melancholy and nostalgia, a longing for lost love, or a lost homeland. It’s sad, but it’s happy too, as if looking back on a lost or almost forgotten joy. Fado is the music of immigrants, of wives left at home whilst their husbands were at sea. When much was banned or repressed under Salazar, fado was still allowed.
  • Fado is played with classical guitar and Portuguese guitar. The Portuguese guitar — somewhat like a cross between a lute and a mandolin — is tear-shaped, because fado is sad, the music of loss and longing.
  • Fado is the music of Alfama. At night, it spills out from the cafés into the winding backstreets, where nine hundred years of living have created a chaotic labyrinth of streets and houses. In its steeply sloped alleyways, people come and go, stare out of windows, stand in doorways and watch the world. Women hold conversations across the street, from one window to another. Even in October, the night is still warm, the air filled with a sense of the ocean.

The Razorback — 22nd April 2015, 7:24am.

The Razorback

I am not normally an early riser, but for once I made the effort. The drive from Port Campbell to the Twelve Apostles was difficult — there was a beautiful predawn blueness to the sky and the land, and I sensed I was missing something special. Still, I got to the Twelve Apostles around 6:30. There were already people there when I got to there, though the bay still hadn’t got any direct sunlight. I took some photos, and moved on. These two were taken further back towards Port Campbell, at the Razorback, at about 7:20. There was still a touch of the blue light of morning, but the sun was already warm and golden.

The Razorback

New

AubergineWell, this is a first. I haven’t taken blogging seriously before. I probably still won’t.

One argument I have long had against blogging is that any idiot can start a blog, and then expect to be treated as an expert — even me. Well, I finally decided to put my lack-of-money where my mouth is, and (re)start my own blog.

I do not claim to be an expert in anything — despite having studied both systematic botany and oenology — so will make no claim to authoritativeness in any particular area. Nor will I try to keep this blog focussed on any particular area — it will be eclectic and roam freely as I feel fit. There will probably be quite a bit about wine, botany, gardening, computing, photography, food and history. Unless there isn’t. We’ll see.

I also cannot promise to post daily — or weekly — but as and when things interest me, or I find time. For the moment, I can only promise ‘more soon’ …

(As an aside, I should thank Sonia Ghiggioli of Vine Time, who has encouraged me to resume blogging a number of times.)

À bientôt …