The Wine Gospel According to Twelftree
The question posed in a recent Winemaker Roundtable on Stephen Tanzer’s Winophilia was a classic of Wine Theology (aka, Oenology): Should wine’s first duty be to pleasure the senses or to simulate the brain? Two Hands Proprietor and Managing Director Michael Twelftree was in the pulpit. Preach it, Michael!
To do both—and I will attempt to explain why every time I taste a wine I am looking at how many questions that wine asks of me. How many different elements can I notice on the bouquet? What is the texture of the wine like, what type of tannins are they—soft, silky, pronounced, drying, bitter, etc.? How do all the wine’ elements work together? Are they supportive or do they work against each other. And most importantly, how do all these elements evolve while the wine sits in the glass? Does the wine become more or less interesting?
Overriding all this is in what context is the wine being tasted. If I’m dropping the kids over at a friend’s place and I get offered a glass of wine, I don’t look too hard at the wine I am being offered in a casual and relaxed social setting. I am going to let the wine pleasure my senses and I am not going to look into it too much. If I am in a blind tasting of 40 barrels of Clare Valley shiraz looking to blend our Samantha’s Garden, I am going to go very much on first impressions and will not get too caught up in the individual character of each barrel. Once again this is very much a pleasure-the-senses tasting as in this environment I believe your first impressions are often the best.
On a Saturday evening when I head to the cellar to grab a 1996 Barolo or a 1999 Northern Rhone, I will open the wine slowly, decant the wine, get a nice stem, and taste the wine over the evening, including with my dinner. I will discuss the impression of the wine with whoever I am sharing it; this type of tasting for me is very much to stimulate my brain.