Monday, January 21, 2008

Purity vs. Accessibility

I was at the Winery last week putting the final touches on the blend for a Grenache release for our club members later in the year (the wine will be called Symmetry, the label for which is at right and was created by Emma Alexander). I had gone into it thinking that I would probably add a bit of Syrah to the blend to round the wine out some, give it a touch more softness and a bit more fruit.

As I tasted through the 10 barrels of Grenache and picked the 7 or 8 I liked the best (I carry a little tape recorder with me and voice my notes on each barrel then transfer the info to an Excel spreadsheet...each barrel gets an A-F grade as well), the issue of varietal purity vs. a wine's accessibility made for lively conversation between me, Claude Bobba, and Brad Buehler (two winemakers at Wente Vineyards).

The 8-barrel composite blend of 100% Grenache (this is the first one we have produced) made a wonderful wine...delicious upfront notes of vanilla-tinged berry and citrus, a long, well-balanced finish. What made the wine unusual, apart from its unique fruit palette, were the quite obvious and sturdy tannins that came on like gangbusters on entry and persisted throughout the wine.

The addition of 12.5% Syrah softened the early tannins and rounded the mid-palate as I thought it would. This wine was also wonderful.

So here we are...two very different wines, both delicious; one more singular than the other, and requiring more open-mindedness perhaps...the other, still varietal, more likeable, but less interesting, maybe.

We have made our decision regarding the final blend, but I don't know if it's the right one.

What's more important to you...exposure to NEW wines that are interesting and delicious but may be a little too different or a wine that prizes comfort over differentness?

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