My favourite thing about wine is always its ability to express a region. My favourite advertising campaign, for sheer irony's sake, is Anakena saying that their wine is an expression of the people. If so, it does not bode well for the people of Chile. Fortunately, there are better wines from the narrow stretch of land between the Andes and the sea. That said, they are right that a wine should be an expression of people, but it should also be an expression of the place. Though I usually disregard the notion of "Old World/ New World" distinctions, there is one consistency which I find appealing and that is the expression of soil found in Old World wines.
|Chateau Palmer 1998 Margaux|
While I was in Champagne last weekend, visiting the premises of Bollinger in Ay, I was allowed to try some truly beautiful wines made to express the soil and the atmosphere around the vines. The environment which sustains and gives life to the vines should be present in the final bottle of wine and no country more so than France shows this in the glass. The house's own wines, in particular the more recent vintage, the Grande Année 2002, showed a beautiful character of chalky texture and aroma which is just so definitive of the Champagne region alongside the hints of green pepper and bright green fruit which makes young vintage champagne just so quaffable.
During the competition we were once charged with the identification of three red wines. We were provided with the context that one wine was French and the others should be identified with their appropriate regions. Upon smelling these wines, the three presented very different styles, but the first and the third wines gave themselves away. The third, clearly a jammy Australian Shiraz, told no lies. It was open with it's fruit and it's deep blueberry body. The first one, smelling of a bit of cracked black pepper and a lot of a maritime breeze jumped forward as a classic Syrah form the Northern Rhone. Though we guessed Crozes-Hermitage and it turned out to be the appellation down the road at Saint Joseph, we knew exactly why we selected France as it's country of origin.
|St. Andrew's Tasting Team at Bollinger|
In the tie breaking final round, the red which was presented to us, a Chateau Palmer 1998 from Margaux in Bordeaux, leapt forward as a bottle of minerality. Though I personally thought it to be a Cabernet Franc/ Merlot blend from Saint-Emilion on the other side of the Gironde, it's stoney texture and smoothly slate-like tannins were definitely a mark made upon the wine by the soil. While this is a supremely expensive bottle of wine, you can f course get ahold of some lovely wines with the expression of the soil in the glass. Check out my earlier post on a nice affordable Crozes-Hermitage form Paul Jaboulet-Aîné. Similarly, Chablis is a good place to start for picking out the chalky wonders possible in a good Chardonnay.
Basically I love the idea of being able to experience a place in the wine. When you are unable to go to taste a wine in the region of it's production and smell all the aromas of the vineyard, the next best thing is to taste it in the glass. I hope you all get the chance to try out something unique, which celebrates it's place of origin.