Steadfast Sancerre Stands Strong Amid War Of The Words

I believe I have finally begun to grow up.  I am about to discuss an article written by a colleague named Beppi Crosariol, in which I intend to spend zero minutes making jokes about his preposterous name, but rather, will focus upon the content of his character.

That’s progress, right?

Beppi is not to be confused with Beppo

Beppi is not to be confused with Beppo

The piece, in the Globe & Mail—arguably wine’s most sacred writ—reports on a magnetic-resonance machine study conducted at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language; it is titled ‘Science has spoken: Big wine doesn’t mean more flavour’

First, regardless of whether or not you believe that big wines have more flavor, I think we can all agree that big words are for anal poindexters with penis issues; thus, use of the term ‘magnetic-resonance machines’ when you mean ‘MRIs’, and ‘Cognition’ when you mean ‘shit we think about’ and adding wholly superfluous and ostentatious ‘U’s’ to basic words like flavor suggests that Beppi doesn’t like his pee-pee.

In any case, the first sentence is:

‘It appears that haughty Euro-centric wine connoisseurs were right all along: Lower-alcohol wines are more interesting than the big, fat ethanol bombs coming out of California.’

Wine glass shown actual size.

Wine glass shown actual size.

Now, unless he is speaking about Donald Patz, big, fat ethanol bombs represent but a small fraction of the things that come out of California, and plenty of the wines take their cues from Euro-centric winemakers in Southern Rhône and Northern Italy.  But, my point is, regardless of what science may find, when it comes to wine, ‘interesting’ is about as subjective and non-scientific a word as any I can imagine.

Which Brings Us to a Case of the Case in Point: Sancerre

"Do I look like someone who bores easily?"

“Do I look like someone who bores easily?”

Another wine scribe, David Honig, opined recently: “Flavor descriptors are useless because different people taste different things.”

I’m still oscillating that portion of my anatomy which encloses the cerebellum over that one, especially since he said it in defense of wine scoring systems, stating that they are the better ‘consumer tool’—even though critics score wines based on what they taste, and, of course, different critics taste different things.

(He later went on to say that brett isn’t a flavor, and although I swear I have tasted it,  I have sufficiently self-inflicted upon my braincase the neo-adult version of Shaken Baby Syndrome to worry about that right now.) 

To me, flavor descriptors are useful precisely because different people taste different things.  That’s what wine education is all about; listening to others and gauging the weight of their sensations compared to yours.  Sometimes you convince, sometimes you acquiesce. But always, you learn.

comte labelSo to the point, one of the requisite rituals of my Spring is cracking open a bottle of Sancerre. This wine represents to me a first-among-equals sip that speaks boldly but gently, a perfect metaphor for the season. As a reliable go-to, Compte LaFond, from Baron Patrick de Ladoucette, is an upper end (around $30) Sancerre that displays all the myriad subtleties that we look for in the appellation.  That is, as a Sauvignon blanc it displays floral and mineral notes without being aggressively citrusy or grassy—the 2011 that I poured had not yet begun to show ravages of age, but had settled into its twilight years with elegance.  Four or five years is about maximum for this label, when the tempered acidity and tamed terpenes seem to pull out the lemony bottom, and rich, complex undertones appear.

At 12.5% ABV, it is the polar opposite of a big, fat, high alcohol bomb from California.  The Hall to the Patz, in other words.

Now, I consider that interesting, which I suppose makes me a Euro-centric wine connoisseur, and thus, according to preppy, peppy Beppi, right all along.

But, although such descriptors as Mr. Honig finds useless include the following:

Springtime‘…Nice, almost musky intensity with aromas of light peach, white flower blossoms and powdery chalk; the palate develops into a bright blend of lime zest and fresh rosemary, especially nice when chilled; the wine is refreshing and light, but grounded with a backbone of minerality.”

…on a personal level, the truly interesting qualities in this wine are the following:

‘…The bouquet conjures up smells from an open window in the house where I grew up, with April breeze behind it blowing into a living room where I, though underage, was allowed on Sunday afternoons to sip wine alongside the adults, each of whom had unique smells of their own according to clothing, cologne and the peculiar je ne sais quoi of personal chemistry; the palate completes the image of quiet, happy moments when the lemony tang of Sancerre and the velvet of a callow afternoon buzz seemed to me to be the greatest thing on earth…’

That would indeed be useless to Honig or the homogenous horde of hoi polloi he happily hosts; in fact they’d be useless to anyone but the only one who really counts:  The dude drinking the Sancerre.

In which case, to moi, it is the opposite of useless:  It is priceless.

You see, although I may have grown up a tad, the moment I lose such marvelous, wine-inspired childhood thought-associations, the distinction of being a Beppi or Honig-style adult immediately loses its technicolor.

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