Sunday, June 14, 2009

The philosophy of a quiet wine

As I taste, study, and live with wine, I notice patterns. Slowly patterns lead to theories, which lead to philosophies. The fruits of that process of discovery and enlightenment inspire me to write these pages.

Time and again wines that shine at tastings fail to provide companionship at the dining table. Savvy is the taster who knows that. Take two wines - one that stands out at a tasting, and another that is more subtle, more subdued - and more often than not at the end of the meal, it is the quiet one that will be playing a symphony in your belly, while the super-star is still sitting at table, snickering at you.

Last night after a tasting at Vineyard Gate, several of us grabbed dinner at the nearby Afghan restaurant, and brought a couple of newly imported value Bordeaux at under $20 - one a 2004 Margaux, and another a 2005 St. Emilion. The 2005 is a legendary vintage, having produced wines of tremendous power and concentration. Even this non-classified St. Emilion showed bright intense fruit, while the lowly 2004 did not seem to have much aroma or flavor, and was quite light on the palate. While elegance is often associated with lightness when it's backed by depth of flavor that lingers (a trademark of the commune of Margaux), this Margaux seemed to lack elegance, and was just plain "ok" for me.

The food came - spiced pumpkin with yogurt, dumplings with onion and zesty ground lamb, beef stew with eggplant, and lamb and chicken kebabs. Naturally, I went for the St. Emilion, but... after washing down a few bites of food with it, it seemed too bright, juicy, and intense, masking the flavors in the dishes. I sighed and reached for the Margaux...

At the end of the meal, the Margaux was almost gone while the St. Emilion was almost full. For in wine, as in life, a pretty face that you notice first is hardly ever the one that you can share your life with.

1 comment:

Annie Huang said...

I like you last sentence. It really makes sense,

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