Friday, March 2, 2012

Balanced Wines and My Tasting with the Owner of DRC

I’m in a wine tasting group made up of a motley bunch of winemakers.  We meet once a month and this year the eight of us decided to focus our monthly tastings solely on the wines of Burgundy. We all love these wines, but feel tremendously ignorant about them.

By a crazy stroke of good fortune, we were lucky enough to be joined in our tasting group this month by Aubert de Villaine, the propietor of Domaine Romanee Conti. Domaine Romanee Conti (aka DRC) is considered by many to be the best wine in the world (and is definitely the most expensive), and Aubert is the owner and a legend in the business. In his mid-70s, he still is extremely passionate and fascinated with wine. He’s been making wine from the same vineyards for over 50 years, and he told us that he wishes he had a tasting group at home in Burgundy so that he could keep exploring wines other than his own in the way that we do with our tasting group!

One of the nuggets that he shared was the critical difference between “natural opulence and contrived opulence,” This ties into the concept of restraint—a restrained wine can still be opulent, but it is a natural opulence, an opulence that comes with the fruit, not the manufacturing. I’d never heard this verbalized, but as soon as he said it, I felt a huge “ah-ha,” since it confirmed what I’ve felt but hadn’t brought into focus in my mind.

Another nugget that he shared was importance of balance in wine. Aubert stressed that it is the small nuances that transport the wine into another world—the exercise of experiencing wine is about discovering those nuances in the wine—without balance the nuances can’t be detected.

It is really striking to me that the very few times that I’ve had the opportunity to taste with true legends of the industry, I’ve always been struck by their fascination and appreciation of  balanced wines.

The influential sommelier Raj Parr articulated the importance of balanced wines in his interview in the Wall Street Journal this past Saturday, where he uses our MATTHIASSON White Wine as an example and describes it as having..."racy minerality. Dry, long, great balance."

From different parts of the globe and different personal histories people in the wine business converge in their appreciation of wine. After spending the evening tasting with Aubert,, my opinion was reinforced that wine appreciation is not relative, and that our goal of creating singular wines with classical balance is the one and only way for us to make wines that will truly stand the test of time.


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