Why Is Wine Important?
I drink a lot of beer, that’s the honest truth - when I get home from a hard day's work - I reach for: a can of tasty tasty craft ale. Even typing about it makes me want to grab a nice cold frothy to pass the time while I muse about ‘not wine’.
Seems like an odd way for me to kick start my first ‘wine musing’ blog post on here - but we’ve always been about truth, authenticity and the like; so I thought I’d start with a brutal fact: it takes a lot of beer to make good wine.
Ignoring for a second how ironic it is to be writing a wine blog and admitting to such an outwardly hedonistic pleasure (like drinking Barolo on a regular isn’t hedonistic) - it got me thinking: if beer is so delicious; why have I dedicated my life to the pursuit of wine? Why is wine even important?
To start with: the plethora of brands and their constantly growing narratives leaves this particular millennial, having been raised on Pokémon & Digimon, Pog & Tazos (even had a brief dabble with Beyblades) - literally wanting to collect them all. Which is inherently folly, as the world of wine is expanding at an exponential rate; I'll either die of liver failure or end up broke and penniless (hopes tied to crypto) before I’d even reach the inaccessible pricey heights of Burgundy these days.
Secondly, it’s tasty. There are few crafted beverages that convey a sense of satisfaction than those carefully prepared from the humble grape. Beer getting you bloated? Try wine. Spirits hit you harder than a sledgehammer? Try wine. Cider going down like razor blades? Yep: Wine. Wine sometimes is simply the better option.
It’s the third reason that I feel wine is so important, and the reason I dedicate almost every waking hour to it’s promotion, growth and diversity: I feel a sense of belonging when I consume it.
Ok - I might have just lost you with that dose of philosophy but bear with me. Every single bottle of wine is tied to a time and a place. It’s a culturally loaded and expressive beverage that beckons you with its inherent approachability - almost as if it’s begging to ‘tell me a story’ and I’m listening.
Thinking about it now; it’s hard to find any other food in general that gives as granular a sense of belonging to a time and a place as wine. Perhaps whisky (or whiskey) - although the impact of barrel maturation, its prior seasoning and filling and varying mash bills speaks volumes of the artistry and manipulative impact rather than a specific time and place. Arguably; brandy (and its high-brow cousins Cognac and Armagnac) would be a more fitting representation of a spirit speaking of a time and a place (cue whisky trolls) - but isn’t that simply wine distilled?
As a young winemaker I fell into the trap of thinking that ‘grapes come on trucks’ - indicative of being obsessed with technique over terroir. At this point in my wine journey I was more concerned about whether or not wines had undergone carbonic maceration, endured battonage or spent time in large (or small) format oak. Who cares about soil anyway? That’s all just marketing fluff to sell wine crafted by hard working cellar hands - a product of technique, blood, sweat and beers (never tears).
Well, that was until I encountered Cannubi.
For the uninitiated - Cannubi is a single vineyard in Barolo - one of the most revered places to grow wine grapes in the world. The grape was Nebbiolo, the year was 2015, the vintage was 2008. The producer? It didn’t matter: and that’s the point, the producer didn’t matter.
It literally doesn’t matter if you’re Brezza, Chiara Boschis, Damilano, Ceretto, Paolo Scavino or Rinaldi - they all approach this vineyard in different ways; and the result: tastes almost identical - robust, blue-fruited, violet-driven, dense with succulent beautifully chiselled tannins. The result is so intense; even a layman would pick the difference in a blind tasting. This blew my mind - even after visiting the producers, it was clear that the combination of a super-expressive variety on a hallmark site such as this means it largely doesn’t matter how you craft it, it matters where and what you’re crafting it from.
Notwithstanding a penchant for terroir; the moment this dawned on me - an entirely new world opened up. In particular, another form of belonging: to a community enthralled with the pursuit of soil-borne beverages. It brought me back to Australia and set me on a path to explore what Australian terroir might be - as silly as it may sound: we’re a nation of beer drinkers after all - but I think a perfectly crafted wine might actually be the most Australian thing I could help bring into this world.
After all, we craft wine from a place such as the Riverland - and in this sense; we’re a part of an amazing crew of winemakers all seeking to prove the same point that Cannubi does with remarkable clarity - and I’ll repeat it for you: it doesn’t really matter how it matters where and what.
Sure: beer is great; it’s all about conviviality - with some notable exceptions (ahem: farmhouse ales, saisons, many sours) - although a distinct connection to land is lost. But that’s not why beer exists (to me anyway).
It exists to quench the thirst of a person on a mission to discover the secrets that soils are begging to give...