October 30, 2013

Wine: Trust server’s passion for word-of-mouth wines

You don’t have to be an aficionado to know when you’re hearing enthusiasm.

By Joe Appel

(Continued from page 1)

Too often a wine buyer will put a wine on a list after tasting it once with a salesman. But no one could say what Edwards does about this Pecorino without having formed a relationship with it, having followed its story. As is evident from my anecdote about Piccolo, like Edwards I too am drawn to wines that develop and tell stories.

The next wine tells a story so crazily dissimilar from the preceding two, it’s as if it was written in a different language, in a literary genre not yet invented. The wine is the Sean Thackrey “Pleiades XXII” Old Vines Red ($31, SoPo), and it comes to us via Bryan Flewelling of Hugo’s.

Thackrey is an iconoclast with an avid following in California, despite no advertising and an unwillingness to follow wine-world groupthink. He doesn’t credit “terroir” with much influence, and considers place-designations such as AVA in California or AOC/AOP in France as fraudulent gimmickry.

Thackrey made his name with Syrah, but the “Pleiades” is a mixed-vintage hodgepodge of many different grapes sourced from various regions in California, any exact classification of which he refuses to acknowledge. Wine for Thackrey seems to be about what humans do with the situation they find themselves in, rather than a wholly humble deference to the non-human world. The cool thing for me, from a story-lover’s perspective, is how his refusal to provide factual information (place, grape, soil, climate, technique) refocuses the drinker’s attention on the story that only the wine itself can tell.

Flewelling: “Thackrey himself has said concerning his wines, ‘It’s like a chef’s special. You trust the chef so you’re prepared to order the dish of the day.’

“Trying to find out the particular cepage of each vintage (sic; the wine is more like an installment than a vintage)...is like trying to see stars on an overcast night ... might be Zinfandel, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Carignane, Malbec and Barbera. It is just as much a matter of what he wants to blend as what kind of fruit he can actually source that year. His red blend is at once spicy and peppery. Red and black fruit commingle in the glass and it is all held up by the backbone of tannins that the Malbec and Barbera lend. His wines, (hopefully) like our food, will continue to keep people guessing.”

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. His blog is soulofwine.com, and he can be reached at soulofwine.appel@gmail.com. Not all the wines mentioned in this column are necessarily sold at Rosemont, but distributor information listed in parentheses permits special orders through any Maine retailer.

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