December 27, 2012
In wine, there is always a story. It's a product of the earth and therefore subject to both the vagaries of Mother Nature and the winds of fate.
In many instances, the grapevine thrives on barren soil in combat conditions. Yet somehow, it manages to distill a magical elixir out of pure rock and stone. And in that struggle, it crafts a liquid that possesses both heart and soul.
Many years ago, when I worked in the wine wholesale industry, I had the privilege of selling both the Banfi portfolio, and the Seagram Chateau and Estates portfolio. The first was largely Italian and Chilean; the second was French.
One day, my wholesaler hosted a huge trade tasting of Burgundy wines. The next day, I worked with my Banfi representative showcasing Italy. He had a special bottle in tow, a new product called Bel Nero. It was Tuscan pinot noir.
Victor Vettori poured me a dollop and waited while I sipped and savored.
Honestly, flavor echoes of something more familiar started to ping across the synapses of my brain. The wine was like a half-remembered song. As I swirled and sniffed, and sipped a second time, it hit me: Chambolle-Musigny.
It didn't take me more than a moment to piece it all together.
The Banfi Bel Nero pinot was grown on the calcium-rich soils of Tuscany and Chambolle-Musigny possesses a limestone-rich terroir. Here was a jaw-dropping common denominator between two red wines that were worlds apart — and it showed.
It was like an epiphany.
The soil sang through. The wine became "liquid geography," and I became a firm believer in terroir. Soil, I was convinced, dictated destiny.
Today's Bel Nero is now a delectable and age-worthy blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot — a silken mélange of dark chocolate and dried cherry ($25).
But I do remember when Bel Nero, as a pinot noir, echoed a primordial sea.
One of the most magical aspects of wine is its ability to heighten the senses, or perhaps it is in our efforts to understand it more completely that we become extraordinarily attuned to our senses. Most foodies discover wine. Most wine lovers discover food.
And since wine and food belong together at table, most wine lovers become skilled in the kitchen and skilled in the art of conversation.
In essence, it is along the route du vin that we come to explore the world more completely; or perhaps as we explore the world through wine, we come to see all the connections. As the saying goes, the waters of the world separate us, but wine brings us together.
Wine is multifaceted. Wine study encompasses geology, geography, history, botany, biology, language and a host of related-disciplines. Yes, wine is hedonistic, but it also an intellectual pursuit.
It makes for a fascinating hobby that often ends up turning into a lifestyle, a lifestyle of focus. Wine lovers are mindful. They pay attention to the details.
Rarely do they gobble and guzzle. They sip and savor. They analyze and they appreciate.
And this focus ends up carrying over into all that they do.
It's all about life's simple pleasures or simply finding pleasure in simple things. A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, a brick of cheese and good company. Do we really need anything more?
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