The question occupies me: when does wine consumption become an experience? Does it need an exceptional wine? A particularly good vintage? A bottle that is as expensive as possible? A famous wine region? The same question posed a little differently: Can't any wine ultimately become an experience? Admittedly, a bold idea that will cause wine lovers and connoisseurs to shake their heads and not understand. At least a wine must not have any faults, they say. But: where do "wine faults" begin and where do they end?
|Tasting round: Pape Clément-Vertikale. Which is the best vintage?
Does it really take a lot of experience and specially trained senses to recognise the fine nuances and qualities of a wine, or is the experience simply in the knowledge of the quality or even the "famous first time"? So the question is not so easy to answer after all and therefore perhaps not quite as silly as it may seem at first glance. Before I develop these almost philosophical thoughts further and drift off into theory, I'll simply tell you about an experience that was probably only an experience for me. The trigger: an "old" bottle of Burgundy, vintage 1983, Mercurey - "Clos des Barraults" by Michel Juillot.
|Mercurey Clos des Barraults% Michel Juillot
The name of the winegrower means nothing to me, I only know the wine region in passing. On our tour through Burgundy, we only "touched" the Côte Chalonnaise, where Mercurey is located - we were too attracted by other Grand Cru sites: almost always fixated on very big names and famous winemakers.
So the wine I'm reporting on now is on the table when visiting good friends. The host knows my weakness for old wines and takes the opportunity to present the Bordeaux friend with a Burgundy, one from the "museum", as he says. In the early eighties - at about the same time as I came to Bordeaux - my friend also came to wine. He grew up in the Swiss Jura, but Burgundy is closer to him than Bordeaux. And that's how it has remained to this day: he is the Burgundy connoisseur and I deal mainly with Bordeaux.
|A tour of the different vineyards in Burgundy
Three different wines are available. For the aperitif, a Vin de Pays d'Oc 2008 from the Domaine de Chabrier in Bourdic near Uzès. A white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat: "Petit Grain". An everyday wine, but not an everyday wine. A wine that stands out from the everyday and yet is not big and famous. My friend knows that I'm not a white wine drinker, so he doesn't put a "big" wine in front of me, for example a white Burgundy, which I'm sure he has in his cellar. No, it's a piece of the South of France: the experience is in the recognition, in the aromas: spices, especially nutmeg, orange blossom, garigue... I feel at home, arrived in the South, where I am also at home.
|Memory of a beautiful summer evening in a courtyard in Bourdic.
It makes me realise: you don't necessarily need a great wine to experience it. Much more important is the connection to the wine; much more important is what a wine can move. In me, in my feelings, in my memories, in my ideas of pleasure. And as if the confirmation of this realisation had been planned, the "experience of wine" repeats itself with the second bottle of the evening, accompanied by completely different feelings.
An "old Burgundy"! No longer quite dewy. The two ladies in the group wrinkled their noses, probably rightly so, because the wine didn't smell at all like a Burgundy can usually beguile the nose. Stinky is probably the kindest verdict. This impression continues on the palate, it is claimed. But I have to protest vigorously. The somewhat dull cellar tones dominate, and it is also a little oxidative. But it is still surprisingly fresh for its age. I do have a little trouble with its slight dustiness, its cowering. I can even understand young wine drinkers who turn away and spurn the wine.
|Everyone puts their own wine on display% everyone has their own wine experience% even in Burgundy.
But I - as a self-confessed old wine drinker - remain unperturbed by the wine on offer. The palate suddenly reveals an astonishingly present structure, slightly smoky, with sweet notes reminiscent of crème caramel. Elegance and presence are missing at first, but they gradually return during the evening. For me, the wine gets better and better, the hidden, quiet aromas develop, not to storm, but rather to quiet pleasure. Quietly amused, I sniff, touch the wine with my tongue, let it "melt" in my palate and suspect more and more what a wine experience can be. In this case, it's not a drumbeat, but rather a tremolo - long-lasting, always softly lashing out... The wine moves me, I enjoy the experience.
The ladies have long since moved on to the next wine. Cos d'Estournel 1990, a beautiful Bordeaux, a great vintage, a well-stored bottle. Without a doubt the best wine of the evening - according to the usual criteria. For me, too, this Bordeaux is a pleasure. It is an excellent wine, the kind I have had in my glass many times. Admittedly, not every day, not on every visit to and with my friends. The Cos d'Estournel is something special, something great, perhaps also a wine experience, but not for me this evening.
|A convivial gathering in the middle of Burgundy. Who can say which wine will be an experience?
My "wine of the evening" remains the old Burgundy, because I have never drunk it like this before, because it is completely different from almost all other wines I have ever drunk. All the wrinkled noses don't help, no matter how disparaging the wine criticism. I alone can decide what and how I feel about wine. It is my experience, mine and mine alone. It belongs to me and now to me. And that is good!