Thursday, November 6, 2008

On the Categories of Wine

When I purchase wine, I think in terms of three categories:

Category Three
This is the quintessential "everyday wine." It's well made, delicious, and brings delight to food. It is straightforward and cheerful, requiring no decanting or excessive contemplation. This is the wine that brings simple pleasure.

Typical cost: $10-$20. Examples: Rivetti Nebbiolo d'Alba, Fontanafredda Barbera d'Alba, Wynn's Coonawarra Shiraz

Category Two
This is a wine that is serious and worth getting excited over. It is for an exceptional dinner, and almost always drank with friends. It has a beautiful label and a beautiful story. It may very well be a single cru. It is complex, profound, and improves with age. In the glasses it evolves and has the capacity to carry several courses. Its last glass is the most savored.

Typical cost: $30-$60. Examples: Vietti Barolo Castiglione, single cru Barbaresco from Produttori del Barbaresco, Sella & Mosca Marchese Villamarina.

Category One
This is not so much a wine as an idea. This is a wine that has become an icon—with as much fame for its splendor as infamy for its scarcity. This is wine that has created its own identity, beyond varietal or origin. The mere thought of this wine brings pleasure, as does the process of procurement, transport, storage, and observation. The ownership of this wine brings pride and joy. The opening brings trepidation and exhilaration.

Only the most extravagant meal and discriminating friends are fit company for this wine. The first pour will form the climax of the evening; the room will fall silent as the liquid trickle into the glass. The expression of those who taste it will linger in the minds of all for years to come.

The wine itself renders language bankrupt of expression—no nouns or adjectives, similes or metaphors suffice to express its sheer magnitude. The typical parallels to food substances and worldly matter seem absurd and childish. The wine refuses to be understood, showing only a fraction of itself at any moment; as a whole it dwarfs our comprehension. In one word, it is, in the original Burkean sense—sublime.

Typical cost: $80 and upwards. Examples: Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva "Monfortino," Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella.

1 comment:

Lynn said...

I can't not for the love of my life, read your wine pieces. They are...no fun (runs)