Standing out in a crowd...
What is it that makes anything or anyone stand out in a crowd? Is it as simple as being different, colorful, or one of a kind? When it comes to wine the answer is a resolute no.
In order to stand out in a crowd, a wine must possess not only qualities found nowhere else, but also flavors and textures that are the result of a unique combination of soil, climate, and people that we call terroir.
The French, for example, have been striving through trial and error for thousands of years with different vineyards and grapes to find the right marriage between grape and site. And the French have produced great partners, such as the Chenin Blanc grape and the Coulee de Serrant Vineyard in the Savennieres region in the Loire Valley. Why? Because the wines that come from this vineyard have flavors and textures that are found nowhere else. Try as people may, these wines can not be recreated in any other place.
The Chenin Blanc grape is planted in South Africa, California, and a few other places around the world. Yet, the forces of climate, grape, and, very importantly, soil, have come together at the Coulee de Serrant vineyard to forge a product of nature that stands out in the crowd.
If I may be so bold, whether or not one actually enjoys the taste of this particular wine is beside the point. Yes, we drink wine for pleasure. But this wine is about so much more than just the flavors, aromas, and textures it provides to our sense of taste, smell, and touch.
So many products that we consume today are mass produced, commoditized, if you will, into a "one size fits all model." This is not necessarily bad, as commercialization gives people wide access to reasonably-priced, consistent products. Wine is no different. There are mass-produced wines that fit the bill for many occasion, especially after a long day at work, when we like knowing exactly what to expect from our drink - bottle after bottle, year after year.
All this said, there are occasions when we want a wine to appeal to our intellect as well as our taste buds. The wine produced from the Chenin Blanc grape at Coulee de Serrant Vineyard (mentioned above), as well as a number of others from around the world do just this. Consider, for example, the Gruner Veltliner grape in the Wachau in Austria, the Tannat grape in Madiran in Southwest France, and the Negroamaro in Puglia in southern Italy, to name a few.
What makes each wine unique is that they all have a story to tell; a story about the soil, vines, and the people who tend them. Each of these stories is unique, having no counterpart anywhere else in the world. Even if these wines are not to our exact taste, they can and should be appreciated for their individuality.
To really swoon, however, you should find a wine that speaks to your mind and palate. How do we find these? Tasting and more tasting.
As you begin to identify what your palate prefers, as well as understand the styles commonly found around the world, you become better equipped to spot a wine that stands out in the crowd. I should add that if I were stranded on a deserted island for the rest of my life and could choose but one wine, the Coulee de Serrant is it.
Why? Because it tastes so good . . .