What a lesson from the Masters it is - to stand before them and watch as they explain a miracle that finds itself inside a bottle. We’re talking those who are talented, really talented, the top of the world of wine, the center of the wine trade. In a way for me, usually found on the wine trail in Italy, it is a little like going to a mountaintop and not knowing the country or the world I have found myself in. But nonetheless there is a profound manifestation of a natural cycle. Then, it is also like watching the big cats as they prowl the savannah. One must be sure to remain alert so as not to become prey.
Those who know me, they know I don’t buy into Bordeaux just because it is – I am a very curious person by nature, albeit somewhat introspective. And that is really what this journey to France is – more about how I think about wine than how someone is going to sell me on another vintage of the decade. For sure the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux is special – I can see it in the gestures, the excitement, the light behind the eyes. But it is also like being inside a bubble, like rare tropical fish that have been captured and put into a special tank. No longer are the fish swimming in their original nature.
Bordeaux is a proto-natural situation, a kabuki dance of the wine world. They are very, very good at it. One with an open mind and an observant heart can learn from these who master the modern wine world.
Think back to the Ancient world, say, 2,500 years ago. We could have had this discourse over the wines from Campania, at the time the center of the wine world. What would we have considered from these winemakers for Caesar, the emperor of the Western world? Another time, another bubble, now dissolved and pushed off the stage for another play.
It really is a beautiful dance, the play between the winemaker, the chateau, the negociant, the wine shop and all the players in the middle, on the side and in the center of this current campaign.
What do I say to a winery that makes 20,000 cases of wine? What do they say to me? “We are a niche market,” is what I am told. “We do not need everyone to want us, just a few in the world, here and there.” Really an interesting idea, this world view. America, Japan, China, we have all become their consorts, desired but not loved. Nor should love be part of it; after all isn’t finding some of the best places in the world for some of the greatest grapes love enough? Think about it – you can find a perfectly decent Cabernet from Chile, for say, $15, and how could wine from that same grape fetch $50, $200, $1000 and be rationalized?
Well, it cannot be rationalized. Any more than Picasso’s abstract art can be seen as a representation of realism.
Art, commerce, agriculture, spin, mirrors, barrels, sweat – wine in a glass, meant to capture an essence – in the final racking, one could no more put a price on it, whether it be $5 or $5,000, that would change what its fundamental nature is.
And what, pray tell is it?
As we swim around in this bubble this week, I hope to find an answer or two.
Or better, more questions.