I had the occasion recently to talk to my tasting room team about evaluating the bottles that we pour for our guests at the Winery. We tasted three or four bottles of each of the different vintages that we had opened and noticed that there were subtle variations from bottle to bottle.
What started as a conversation about quality control soon morphed into talking about the role of oxygen in wine, reduction/oxidation, corks, the varying oxygen transmission rates in different closures, and how do we efficiently reconcile this complication so our guests get the best tasting experience possible.
Underlying this “inside baseball” detail, though, is an inescapable AND wonderful truth about wine and wine tasting: its only as simple as you want it to be. While I have observed in restaurants and tasting rooms that most drinkers prefer less detailed information to more, and the simple pleasure of enjoying a nice glass of wine shouldn’t be mocked, those who are passionate about great wines have a nearly unequaled subject upon which – in those relatively few vinous gems – to lavish their enthusiasm.
I would contend, that by its very nature as a living substance, wine must be complicated. And like people and great works of literature, the more one dives into it, the more our wonder and awe at its bottomlessness grows.
In his book The Shakespeare Wars, Ron Rosenbaum refers to the bottomless quality of the playwright’s work in its ability to give the passionate reader an unending set of discoveries each time a play is read. This sense of depth, this sense of vastness as personified by the infinitely capacious consciousness of Hamlet (and his creator) circumscribes all of the horrors and miracles of creation while also leaving one subject to the “unbearable burden of infinitude.”
If not so freighted as Hamlet, a great bottle of wine still gives irreducibly of its secrets. From terroir to farming to philosophy to the effects of age to the associations it conjures, we can never truly get our minds completely around the beauty and enormity of it. And that’s just the first sip. I want more people to drink wine, to experience the simple pleasures of the family meal made better with a bottle well-sipped. At the same time, not only do I think it is appropriate to celebrate the complexity of great wine (certainly, what we aspire to with Lineage | Livermore Valley), I think we do these rare beauties (and our capacity to feel and contemplate so much) a disservice to deny our enthrallment to them.