I'm reading what is fast becoming one of the most interesting, compelling & ultimately challenging wine books I've ever read. Great art, & therefore great wine, is supposed to do just that. Challenge. Over my short career in wine my palate has transformed & developed. It has been influenced by countless different wines & a small handful of individuals (not counting the few winemakers I've had the pleasure of interacting with). However, books have always been a sort of refuge. A place to teleport myself, get excited, become someone else & be inspired. Jonathan Nossiter's "Liquid Memory" is something else entirely. While I find it intriguing & intelligently well written, I also find that its challenging some beliefs & mindsets of mine.
Nossiter is a firm believer in "terroir". For lack of a a detailed description this is the mindset that a wine (or any agricultural product really) is, or should be, a direct expression of its place. The climate, soil, sun exposure, mineral content, etc. is what makes a wine. I believe that too. In my experience, some of the best wines I've ever had are indicative of their origin. Nossiter rails against the New World for its "Botoxification" of its wines. Why manipulate a wine to turn it into something that its not? He sings the praises of Burgundy, Jura & especially a small group of French winemakers who carry the torch of terroir that was passed on from their ancestors. To me it almost seems as though he is implying that only a few regions throughout Europe should be producing wine because only these regions make wine thats worth drinking. I have a big problem with that. How many of us can afford to drink, much less have access to, the great Burgundies of Jean-Marc Roulot or Dominique Lafon? I wish that I could drink aged Brunellos, Barolos or Riojas on a regular basis but I don't have access to them & I most certainly can't afford them.
Are New World wines inherently bad or of poor quality? Are they not what wine is supposed to be according to Nossiter? I credit many inexpensive New World wines from Spain, Argentina, Chile & (god forbid) even Australia for helping me get excited & interested in wine. I'm thankful for quite a few of them because having them in my arsenal has helped me excite many customers & has helped me lead them on a path to many different wine experiences.
Throughout the book some of the highlights are when the author is with a winemaker who is sharing an older vintage of their wine. He writes in a very experiential style that transports you to the whatever wine cave he is in. Its quite exciting. But they are mostly drinking wines that most of us will never have the pleasure of drinking or even laying our eyes on. Yes I feel like I'm missing out by not being able to explore Burgundy the way I would like to but I also feel like that isn't the end all be all of what wine is.
Many wine nuts out there don't have deep cellars or deep pockets. We scrape together whats leftover from our paychecks to buy bottles we feel passionately about & if we are lucky we have someplace in our home to put them. We wait patiently for the moment that seems right to open them & we drink them in. More often than not we share them with friends & fellow wine lovers because that to me is utmost expression of wine can be. Sharing can make a mediocre wine taste incredible. Sharing can make a great wine transcendent.